This sounds like a nice enough guy, but
it really doesn't say anything, I thought. This is why I was a
bit nervous when I approached Car 180, the Pie Car, at 10 am. I
arrived 1/2 hour early and walked 3/4 of the 35 coaches, taking down
the car numbers for use in this report. I decided that I wouldn't
have time to finish the consist list, so I headed back to the middle of
the train, to car 180. It was very warm for 10 am in Los Angeles,
so the air conditioning units under each car were humming and the
generator cars were identifiable by the diesel exhaust coming from the
top and the muted sound of the engines inside.
I was surprised at how long the 35 coaches of the Blue Unit
were. I had only seen the circus train in Anaheim where it
had to be spotted in two sections, rather than this location where it
can all stay in one long line. The car at the end where I
arrived, is one of the two generator cars, with side air intake vents.
As I was writing down the consist numbers, my cell phone rang and it
was Jill, Queza if B.S. Public Relations, who had set up the interviews
for me. She wondered if I'd found the train. I told her I
was headed her way along the train and my GPS had directed me to the
intersection with no problems.
I followed her into car 180. It was very exciting because in my
previous three reports on the Circus Train, I had never been invited
inside the Pie Car! In previous years I had been in the
Trainmasters Office, Generator Car and in the workshop car, but never
the mysterious Pie Car! I had read about it and knew it was where
train residents take their meals, and is the only public car on the
train, but I hadn't been inside, much less met or interviewed the Food
Once in the Pie Car, Jill introduced me to
Michael. My uneasiness, created by the brief bio. of Michael on
the Ringling web page, was immediately waylaid when I shook his hand
and noticed his broad smile. Michael was very congenial and
informative and quick to laugh. The interview was more a
conversation with a new friend as he told me about how he got started
in his job with the Circus.
In addition to the Pie Car on the
train, there is the Pie Car Jr. which is at each venue to provide food
for the staff and performers on two- and three-show days when they do
not have time to return to the train for meals. In fact, more
food is served from Pie Car Jr. than from the Pie car! This is
true, in part, because train residents have cooking facilities in their
residential units, and they do some cooking themselves. They have
hotplates and microwaves.
The hours of operation in the Pie Car are:
Breakfast starts at 7 a.m. and the car closes at 1 pm. The train
crew is always at the train for breakfast, lunch, and breaks.
Evening meal is 6 pm to 7 pm when the crew and train residents have the
The Pie Car closes at 9:30 pm, or one hour after the last bus arrived
back at the train from the venue. This means, in some cases, that
the Pie Car is not closed until 11:30 or 12:30 at night.
If there is an early bus to the venue, the Pie Car opens one hour
before the first bus leaves, usually 6 a.m. Of course there is at
least an hour of preparation time before the Pie Car opens.
Michael and I discussed the many hours involved in keeping the car open.
On days when they are moving to a new city, the Pie Car is open 24 hrs.
a day. For instance, on Sunday, when they move from Los Angeles
to Anaheim, the Pie Car will not close until one hour after the train
is spotted in the next city, Anaheim.
I asked Michael how he got started with
the Circus. He said he has been with them for 13 years. He
was born in Los Angeles, but was raised in Louisiana since he was 11
years old. When the circus was in Baton Rouge, a friend contacted him saying they
needed help on the Circus Train while it was in town. He
had, as many of us have, heard just rumors about working for the
Circus. And he was surprised that you get a regular pay check
(not dependent on how much cotton candy you sell) and that you had
insurance! He began the job in Baton Rouge, and when they were
ready to move, they asked him to stay on. He agreed to go with
the Circus to New Orleans, Houston, and Dallas-Ft. Worth. The
rest is history, all most. He took 2 years off from the Circus
and worked for UniCal offshore. He found this work boring,
compared to working for the Circus, so he returned.
He related that there is a school teacher that travels with the Circus,
and a Nursery School. Mail for the staff and performers is mailed
to the main office, and Fed Exed to the train twice a week.
The challenges of the job involve feeding the performers from many
nations, and the requests he gets from the train residents.
Pleasures of the job included the times when they have a Guest Chef who
cooks special means, such as Chinese food enjoyed and appreciated
by the Chinese performers. The School Teacher, who is from India,
has cooked some special barbeque chicken.
Food is supplied to the train by Sysco and US Food Services, with some
items coming Sam's Club and Cosco.
Michael has a crew of 5 employees and he is short handed at the
time. He has managed Food Service operations for the Red Unit,
Blue Unit, and Barnum's Kaleidoscope. Each of these operations is
responsible for feeding over three hundred people each day. Each
unit is equipped with two Food Service facilities. One is a train
dining car and the other is a mobile food service trailer that is set
up on the grounds in each venue. The units tour throughout the
United States, Canada, and Mexico non-stop, year-round.
Michael has been responsible for coordinating food service for special
corporate functions such at Black Tie Receptions, Opening Night Galas,
and Unit Holiday Parties.
As I left after Michael's interview,
he handed me a copy of the job description of both the Food Service
Manager and the Director of Food Services. He mentioned that the
Director of Food Services position has been eliminated and included in
the Food Service Manager's job.
- Redesigned and renovated the train dining cars for both circus
- Redesigned and renovated the mobile food service units for both
- Produced Employee Policy Manuals
- Balance staffing structure
- Trained as Unit Service Manager through Serve Safe and other NRA
Food Service Manager
Responsible for direct operations and activities of food service
facilities of the Blue Unit. This includes:
Director of Food Services
- Enforce the professional stantards of conduct, appearance and
workmanship that were expected of all Food Service personnel.
- Conduct job specific training including feedback from employees
regarding that training.
- Perform regular administrative duties inherent to the Food
- Place orders for food, beverages and supplies with vendors.
- Monitor all deliveries for timeliness and assured rotation of all
- Maintain food quality through proper storage, preparation and
established a variety of recipes for the unit.
to Food Service Manager's job)
- Maintain management oversight of health, safety and sanitation
practices of all Food Service areas on the Train's and at the
Venues. Ensure all necessary adjustments to meet local
jurisdictional policies and procedures for each municipality on the
- Interview, hire, and train employees.
- Plan, assign, and direct work.
- Appraise performance; rewarding and disciplining employees;
addressing complaints and resolfing problems.
(If you are interested in a job with the Circus, check http://www.feldentertainment.com/careers.htm