Eating Around the Globe with Ringling's Chef Michael Vaughn

This is the second part of our chat with Michael Vaughn, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Blue Unit chef. If you missed part one, well, we'll just have to throw you to the lions.

What's your biggest challenge?

Keeping a large variety. I don't use a cycle menu. That gets very boring.

How do you get your inspiration then?

We ask for ideas.

Any special considerations you have to keep in mind?

Like the Brazilian chicken stroganoff, it's a healthier version [than traditional beef]. That dish came to us from a performer from Brazil. We twisted it up a little bit.

I read somewhere that you also have guest chefs.

Like our Miami bus driver. She's Colombian. She made carne asada, lechon (roasted pork), both served with rice and black beans. I wanted pink beans, she wanted black. Rice had to be white. We went back and forth. She won.

So how many people did she cook for?

Three hundred.

You have a monster supply of candy in your kitchen. Is it tough to stay away from all that?

I lost over 170 pounds. My biggest problem is cheesecakes and eating at the wrong time--being raised in Louisiana, all the rices and gravy at 10 o'clock at night...

Who else helps you cook?

I have two sous chefs. Mark is my right hand. Vera, is my left hand, basically. Vera's from Bulgaria. Gary is my international chef. He has been all over the world. He's English. My staff is just as diverse as the cast and crew.

Where's Mark from?

He's Mexican.

How many people would you say you feed on average day?

It's like your office. Some people go out to lunch, some bring their own lunch. But I've got to be prepared to feed everybody.

When the train is moving it's not as busy. [Editor's note: Since the crew considers their cars "houses," it's considered improper to walk through.]

On every three-show day, I'm feeding no less than 350. That's over 1,200 meals that day.

Monday you'll learn how to brew up a batch of his spicy chicken and sausage gumbo. Check back!Follow Short Order on Facebook and Twitter @Short_Order.

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Riki Altman