Meet the San Diego Company That's Catering the Tokyo Olympics

Sorrento Mesa-based Behind the Scenes Catering and Events feeds about a thousand people a day, from worldwide media to the Olympic athletes

NBC Universal, Inc.

Catering to Olympic appetites isn't easy, but Sorrento Mesa-based Behind the Scenes Catering and Events has been doing it for the last two decades.

Owner John Crisafulli is the U.S. Olympic Caterer, responsible for feeding about a thousand people a day in Tokyo -- everyone from USOC executives to NBC broadcasters.

"Talent, athletes that come in for interviews, cameramen, engineers, executives," he said. "Steven Luke has to come in and eat sometimes."

It's always an Olympic-sized task, but the pandemic presented a whole new series of challenges for Crisafulli and his team.

"When the pandemic hit, I was here in Tokyo – I think it was March 15th – and it was my last trip before we kind of got here and got started. We had already had containers land here, we already started building our kitchens here, so we were in operations mode. And then, next thing you know, it’s, 'ah, wait, hold. We’re gonna postpone," Crisafulli said.

He said he basically had to unwind everything, shipping containers back to the U.S. and renegotiating contracts with the 200 locals he had already hired.

At the same time, Crisafulli was trying to keep his business afloat here in San Diego, as local events were canceled or postponed.

"It was stressful," he said. "While all the large events kind of went away or got postponed, got pushed, we focused on what we could do for the local community. So, we started feeding first responders and people in the labs, the medical hospitals, the banks that were still open."

Behind the Scenes also worked with the County of San Diego's Great Plates program, preparing and delivering three meals a day to homebound seniors.

The food in Kappabashi Street’s window displays looks real, but it’s not. It’s all plastic replicas of food, ready to be displayed in restaurant windows across Tokyo

"That kept everybody employed, kept our staff going," Crisafulli said.

With many events returning, business here in San Diego has been picking up -- just in time for Crisafulli to get ready for the Winter Games.

"We’re gonna go right into Beijing for 2022, so there’s not a lot of breathing room," he said.

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