As the 2014 Olympic Winter Games wrap up, one San Diego-based caterer is also closing up shop in Sochi and gearing up to make his way back home.
John Crisafulli, owner of the Sorrento Mesa company, Behind the Scenes Catering, was hired as the U.S. Olympic Caterer for the 2014 Sochi Games.
His duties included the Olympic-sized challenge of feeding 5,000 people for 60 days in Sochi, Russia – everyone from U.S. Olympic Committee executives to NBC broadcasters.
Though the Sochi Games only go on for a few weeks, Crisafulli has been in Sochi for the past three months preparing for the event.
He’s been living in a one-bedroom apartment next to Olympic Park since November.
Over the past few months, small items inside his apartment – including a poker set and letters from his twin daughters – have served as comforting reminders of home.
As much as he’s ready to return to San Diego, his kids are even more excited.
“They have a countdown clock on their iPads and they call me every night and remind me, ‘12 days left, Daddy, 12,’” he said.
Prior to setting up a temporary home in Sochi, Crisafulli had traveled to Russia seven times in preparation for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games.
Over the course of various months, he has seen the snowy mountain city transform right before his eyes.
“These roads I’m driving on now were literally not even here six weeks ago. They were paved about a week before the Opening Ceremony so when we would drive through here it was mud and rocks and dirt and construction,” he recalled. “They kept saying it’ll be ready and they were right, it was ready.”
Of course, between checking out Sochi Crisafulli has been hard at work.
His staff of nearly 300 comes from around the world. A handful of those staffers, including Teresa Diaz, are from San Diego.
The Olympic-sized gig has come with its share of logistical challenges, including getting 41 giant shipping containers through customs. That task, Crisafulli said, made setting up 11 different kitchens in Sochi seem easy.
“They’re eating us out of house and home,” said Crisafulli, referring to his hungry patrons.
This is Crisafulli’s eighth consecutive time working for the Olympics.
Unlike previous games – including the time he was hired to cater at the 2012 London Games – the Sochi bubble doesn’t provide many outside dining options.
“This time, if we have 1,800 people on the docket, then 1,800 plus are coming in every meal. There’s just nowhere else to go,” he explained.
While Crisafulli is ready to head home, there is one thing he is dreading: telling his wife about an April trip to Rio de Janeiro, his first of many in preparation to work at the 2016 Olympic Summer Games.