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Greetings from the kitchen

Salad with marinated strips of beef, wrap with homemade guacamole or tofu with Chinese cabbage, ginger and coconut milk: With dishes like these, Marek Machulec is bringing new flavours to Koelnmesse's lunch menu. Since May 2018, the 52-year-old has been heading the company restaurant run by Eurest and is really coming into his own in his new job. And it's a tough one: After all, he is is responsible for everything from menu planning and catering at all events to organizing the personnel in his nine-person team as well as complaints management. On top of that, he also cooks himself, in order to avoid neglecting the passion that he discovered at the age of ten. Marek Machulec's working day begins at 6:00 a.m. He starts by discussing the day ahead with his team over a coffee. What is there to do today? Who will assume which tasks at the cooker and at the food counter? And then the most stressful time of day for the restaurant boss and his team begins. "Everything has to be ready by half past eleven, when lunchtime begins. 98 percent of our food is freshly cooked." Only a few foods arrive as so-called convenience products. Otherwise, Koelnmesse is supplied with fresh products. Quickly washing, peeling, slicing, stirring the delicious ingredients − the processes are well established, yet sometimes unexpected things happen. For example, when a supplier arrives late. "This happened just the other day. I didn't get the potato-pumpkin vegetables to the distribution point until the last minute, and it was a close call," reports Machulec. The restaurant team doesn't get bored while food is being served, either. About 400 guests have to be fed within one and a half hours. "That's a real challenge and we have to be fast," the manager explains. A special challenge here is the daily special dish such as grilled food, pizza or something from the wok. Everything that is freshly prepared "live" means a somewhat longer waiting time. "We make sure to prepare part of the dish in the morning, because those who only have a half hour break are sensitive to the waiting time. Usually, however, most of the visitors are understanding," says Machulec.

Although the rush of guests is over by 2:00 p.m., Marek Machulec's working day is far from over. His administrative tasks now await him. "I usually retreat to the office to put together the menu plan for the following week, make calculations, place orders, and answer e-mails," says the 52-year-old, listing his tasks. But he also uses this time to take care of his employees' concerns. "Managing all these different tasks is probably the biggest challenge, but I really enjoy my work." Marek Machulec emphasizes above all the open atmosphere at Koelnmesse: "My colleagues welcomed me right from the start. I'm sure this has a lot to do with the mentality of the people of Cologne." Cologne's openness also extends to culinary delights. Although Marek Machulec says that he hasn't been in the company long enough to determine what the ultimate favorite dish of the employees is, he notes: "We have many conscious eaters who appreciate vegetarian food and enjoy unusual dishes such as Indian dal." He himself has a penchant for Asian and Mediterranean cuisine and makes sure to create varied menus with fresh products. This goes down well with the canteen visitors.

The average monthly consumption in Koelnmesse's canteen is 250 kilograms of lettuce, 300 kilograms of meat and 500 kilograms of side dishes. Around 7,300 guests visit the canteen per month.