Food Talk with Kris Wyatt, Head Chef at Fall Big Om Yoga Retreat
Kris, you have been to all of the retreats.
Yes I have. I’ve been to every one of them. This will be my sixth one.
The Fall Retreat will be your first time as the head chef.
If that’s what you want to call it.
What do you want to call it?
You know, I don’t know. Because I have this whole different way I want to approach the kitchen this time.
What’s your approach?
Well, I’m planning the menus. I’m doing all the big prep. But then, I want people to take part in the other preparation and serving. I don’t want it to be anonymous volunteers. I want to open up space and say, “I have a particular need for this, this, and this, and if you can do these things, I need you.”
What’s on the menu?
It’s going to be all vegan. For the most part, it’s going to be gluten-free. I will probably have one or two not gluten-free desserts. It’ll be vegetarian options. So for breakfast, I’m working with hot oats with all different toppings. Yogurt and kind of parfaits. Some homemade gluten-free granola. I want to do an assortment of breads and bagels and things for toast, and then scrambled eggs. And then like juice and fruit.
What about coffee?
Oh. Duh. There’ll be coffee going all the time. Coffee and tea.
So what about Saturday dinner?
The dinner will be three different areas, three different menus if you will. I am working on a curried lentil stew with Naan.
So what else?
A Mexican based vegan casserole with chips and avocado. That’s a good filling, vegan one-pot kind of meal. And then the other one I am going to go with brown beans, fried potatoes, and vegan cornbread.
How are you going to fry the potatoes?
I’ve got freaking grills in that kitchen. Like home fries.
Nice. This is a really large selection for dinner.
Yes, but it’s also low fat, easy to prep, vegan, and gluten-free.
And then what about desserts?
It’ll be reruns from the Summer Retreat of the vegan chocolate Texas sheet cakes and apple pies.
Your apple pie is delicious. It’s my favorite apple pie ever.
Now, the problem with that is that I don't want to do a gluten-free crust on my pie, so I will do something gluten free. I am looking at a gluten free cake that’s like a corn cake--a lemon poppy seed cake with a kind of corn flour.
And then Sunday morning is typically just left overs potluck. And coffee.
Coffee, coffee, coffee. There will be volunteers whose job is completely understood that that coffee pot stays full.
There’s a very large kitchen at the group camp, and there’s not any other access to a refrigerator except in the kitchen. Are you okay with people storing food that they bring in there?
There’s that big walk-in refrigerator, and I am totally fine with people storing food in there. So if they have it marked and what their stuff is, they can use that.
And I am assuming you will have cold water available for people.
Yes, we will have a big “Be Hydrated” jug of water.
What else is part of your approach to the kitchen?
So what I’m thinking is that when you go to a big event, you remember the food. And it
doesn’t have to be perfect food. But I want this to be something, even like the volunteers, make this pleasant for everyone who’s there. Because for a lot of people, this is their first exposure to anything ‘yogic’. They signed up and they say, “Hey I’m going to do this.”
And so I want Big Om to be known for thinking of every little detail. Not just, oh you know, it’s the weekend and there’s a lot of people here and we ran out of this one thing. Think ahead, and have somebody go by and pour the drinks and have somebody go by and say, “Let me tell you what this is.” So I want to have a menu up by the food so if someone is walking in late, they don’t have to go, “Oh, what’s with the blah, blah, blah. Is it vegan? Is it gluten-free? Does it have this in it?” I want everything written out so that when you walk in you know, this table has these things on it, this table has these things on it, and you know what you’re getting into.
A lot of that is just prep work on your end. Just planning for all of that.
Planning for all of it. Then having volunteers whose job it is to make sure that table stays immaculate. If someone spills something, go clean it up. Make sure that whole table stays clean.
So it’s creating an interactive experience a little bit.
It very much is. Because… I love the word that’s come up through some of the teacher stuff at my yoga studio, which is “ambassador”. To say, “I know what’s going on here, and I recognize that you are obviously clueless. Let me help you find what you need; how can I help you?”
And I wish early on at my first retreat someone would have said, “Hey, come on let’s go have some fun here.” And there was one girl; I can’t remember her name now, but she did, she said, “Hey, you’re gonna come do this and you’re gonna have a good time.” And if she never would have done that I probably never would have come back to a Big Om Yoga Retreat. Because she kind of forced me into what I paid money to do anyway.
But that’s what I want to do. I want the Fall Retreat to be amazing.
And it will be.
And it will be.
Kris Wyatt is the owner of Be Love Yoga Studio Bristow in Bristow, Oklahoma. Buy your tickets now for the Fall Big Om Yoga Retreat. To learn more about volunteerships available at Big Om Yoga Retreats, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.