I was part of a small group of Orlando food writers who had the privilege of touring the Ringling circus train’s Pie Car this week. The Pie Car is the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus’s dining car and kitchen, and it is managed by 23 year old Chef Matt Loory, who grew up in Central Florida’s Longwood community. The Pie Car on the train and the Pie Car Jr., which serves meals at the arenas, prepares a combined total of 1,000-1,500 meals each week. Whenever the train is moving, the Pie Car is open 24/7, so that the circus crew can fuel up any time they need to. I’ve seen some small galley kitchens, but the Pie Car kitchen puts them to shame- the cooking space is very narrow, and I was impressed at what Matt was able to create in such a small, moving space.
Matt graduated with honors from Orlando’s Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Academy in 2012, and hopped directly onto the circus train to begin his new job. He’s been living and working full-time on the circus train for one year, and said that the biggest surprise to him has been the family atmosphere. With 300 performers and crew from 17 different countries, unity could be a challenge. But Matt said the multi-generational quality of the circus, with several performing families having been a part of the circus for over seven generations, makes the people very welcoming. He’s enjoyed the challenge of feeding this diverse crew with dietary needs that include vegans, halal and kosher observers, high-protein diets, and little kids, who can be the pickiest eaters of all!
First, Matt served us his Huevos Loco-Motion. He came up with this recipe while the circus was in Mexico, where he visited local markets to source ingredients and get ideas. The finely chopped pico de gallo salsa was made with apple cider vinegar, giving it a tang that contrasted nicely with the creamy slices of fresh mozzarella. This recipe is a favorite of the circus family, and Matt often makes it for special occasions.
Matt’s twist on fried shrimp, Popcorn Shrimp with Chipotle Mayo, was coated in spices instead of batter or breading. The coating was crisp with a perfect amount of heat, and the creamy house-made citrus chipotle mayo balanced the spices without negating them.
Matt finished the meal with a surprise, serving us his secret-recipe Pineapple Upside-Down cake. I’m a huge fan of this cake since it’s my father’s favorite and my mother and I would make it for birthdays and special occasions. But I’ve never had it like this! We all milked him for details, but he wouldn’t reveal how he made the topping so gooey and perfectly caramelized while keeping the cake moist with a crunchy exterior. I guess a circus-master has to keep some secrets to himself- we’ll just have to wait ‘til he publishes a cookbook!
The Circus Family:
Each car of the circus is the private home for one of the families who live all year round on the train. Matt told us that several of the performers are married to each other, and they live with their children on the Ringling train. The train even has a school, and the teachers take the children out to explore historical and cultural sites in each city they visit. Chef Matt features different countries’ cuisines each week, and has started a program with the school for the children to also learn about each country and create artwork for each national theme. Life on the circus train must be so exciting for these families!
Make Your Plans:
‘Legends’ is The 144th edition of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus Experience unimaginable family fun, as amazing performers from around the globe perform awe-inspiring feats of daring, spectacles of strength and thrills of wonder to summon the mythical and the mysterious: a Unicorn, a Pegasus and a Woolly Mammoth!
Join us for an unforgettable family night of legendary proportions! Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Presents LEGENDS!
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Friday, 11:30 a.m., 3:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, 1 and 5 p.m. Sunday (Jan. 9-12)
Where: Amway Center, 400 W. Church St., Orlando
Call: 800-745-3000 (Ticketmaster)
RECIPES BY MATT LOORY, PIE CAR MANAGER FOR THE BLUE UNIT, RINGLING BROS. AND BARNUM & BAILEY®
1 flour tortilla
Assorted bell peppers
Chorizo (Thin Sliced)
Cheese (Monterrey/Cheddar Blend – Grated, or Slices of Fresh Mozzarella or Queso Fresco)
Pico de Gallo:
Bell Peppers, Onions, Tomatoes (Diced)
Apple Cider Vinegar
Combine all Ingredients
1. Peppers, Onions, & Chorizo on the grill- until vegetables are softened
2. Place combination on top of tortilla
3. Cook egg to Over Medium
4. Place on top of veg/chorizo mixture
5. Add cheese until melted
6. Plate and garnish with Pico di Gallo & Cilantro
Popcorn Shrimp with Chipotle Mayo
15-20 Large Shrimp
Secret Recipe of spices containing but not limited to: Brown Sugar, Cumin, Garlic Powder,
Onion Powder, Cayenne Pepper, & Old Bay
Chipotle Peppers canned
1. Coat shrimp thoroughly with Corn Starch- Deep Fry at 325
2. Toss in seasoning blend
1. Blend chipotle peppers with orange juice thoroughly
2. Add mayo & apple juice, blend together.
Garnish shrimp with chipotle mayo or serve on the side for a wonderful dipping sauce.
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