I’m really into food. Most especially, food that is both delicious and healthy. I derive great joy from preparing a meal for friends, knowing it is healthier and (quite possibly) more delicious than anything we’d find at a restaurant.
I make my living in food, but it is not the same food that I want to be making in my home kitchens. My restaurants are in seasonal theme parks, and while I wish it were different, the majority of visitors to outdoor events and amusement parks want to buy the food that they associate with these events. I slip healthier items in here and there, but the truth of the matter is that I pay my mortgages with French Fries, Funnel Cakes, and Scotch Eggs.
There are some regional differences in festival foods. We spend summers in New York, and are involved in a couple of well-juried food courts at The Clearwater Festival and The Fingerlakes Grassroots Festival of Music and Dance. The food courts at these shows are curated to give the best possible mix, while eliminating product overlap. Consequently, there are some very creative menus to be found. We spend our fall season at the largest Renaissance Festival in America, the Texas Renaissance Festival. We have 4 shops there. Mine is the bakery and breakfast shop, and my husband has 3 fruit and chocolate shops. TRF is another venue that is rich with food selections. I’m pretty sure there are over 600 different food items to be enjoyed there, and that doesn’t take into account the ever-changing bakery case selections at my shop.
While my own food preferences do not supply me with inspiration for the next great festival food, they do inspire me to sneak healthier items in where I can. During festivals, the crews work long hours in less-than-ideal climates. Healthy food has a solid smaller audience amongst festival workers. I also garner personal satisfaction from the idea that I am caring for my community members by providing these options.
My kitchen crew at the bakery is made up of about 20 souls, most of whom travel as I do. Some of us have dietary restrictions, some of us do not, but we are definitely not automatically tuned to the desires of the local palate. In fact, often sometimes we can be a little too “Dean and Deluca” for the Houston festival audience. Take the Cinnamon Roll Situation this past fall. I knew I wanted to serve a hand-rolled cinnamon roll. I thought my audience would rather have something we made from scratch than something made in a factory and frozen/warmed/served. Wrong! Folks wanted something they recognized, and these folks were not happy when they had to choose from 25 other fresh baked items on days we didn’t have the cinnamon rolls. It took almost half of the show for us to figure out how to make enough money on cinnamon rolls to have them be an everyday item instead of a special. (Hint: size matters)
It’s not always easy to get into the minds of the audience; especially when the thing that they want is so drastically different from the things that I want. But it is a creative challenge … and I do love a creative challenge. One that pays the bills ?… even better.