Food is good. Good food is better. For tired athletes looking to refuel after a tough workout, access to an affordable, healthy meal is vital. Thankfully for them, Fuel for Gold, a restaurant/kiosk located at the University of Calgary, offers just that.
The CSI Calgary undertook the opening of the kiosk in 2011 as a way to provide fresh, healthy, organic food to Canada’s top amateur athletes and the Calgary public. Additionally, the business serves to support CSI Calgary programs – all proceeds from Fuel for Gold go directly to support Canada’s athletes training in Calgary. The primary clientele are subsidized CSI Calgary athletes and Calgary Dinos, as well as University faculty and staff who are socially conscious and looking for a healthy option.
According to Kelly Anne Erdman, a CSI Calgary Performance Dietician, Fuel for Gold has been a welcome addition to the campus food scene. “What we’re finding is that faculty and students are jumping on board and are happy to have access to high quality food options. We also cater to unique nutritional requests offering vegan, gluten-free and dairy-free options,” she says.
Erdman works with Head Chef Fauzy Azouz to develop new recipes and menu items, and to maximize the potential of the tiny kitchen. With limited space and a healthy demand, it can be challenging to produce enough meals every day. “What Fauzy produces in that small kitchen everyday is amazing!” laughs Erdman.
In addition to the kiosk, Fuel for Gold also offers a catering service. Clients often include local sports teams and corporate clients looking for healthy catering options. Says Erdman, “We haven’t done a lot of marketing, we mostly go by word of mouth. The city hears about us, we get calls from corporate clients throughout Calgary and we do our best to fill every order. There are other options available but they come to us.”
Lesley Reddon, Manager of Female National Teams at Hockey Canada relies on Fuel for Gold catering services for team training camps. “Fuel for Gold provides good quality meals with a sound nutritional base, which is something that is important to incorporate into our camps from the perspective of both athletes and staff,” says Reddon.
It can be a challenge to churn out over 500 meals a day and fill catering orders but Azouz takes it all in stride. Despite the occasional stressful day, Azouz loves his job and clearly takes his customers’ needs and wants to heart.
He truly enjoys working with his staff and the CSI Calgary team, but the connection to his customers is particularly special. He says they come for food, but they also come for comfort. “It’s a service industry” he explains, “But it’s not just food, we joke and laugh and sometimes the athletes will come to the back and give us hugs. Over time you build that trust with the customers.” Adds Erdman, “There is a great bond between Azouz and the athletes. He knows them by name, he knows what they order. He really understands their needs.”
Not only does the Fuel for Gold team offer a healthy homemade meal, they also offer a little bit of home – a warm and welcoming place to share a meal, share a laugh or share a tough day. For Azouz and his customers it’s the little things that make a big difference. He says, “When you see the customers happy it’s all worth it.”
Last year Fuel for Gold served more than 36,000 meals to athletes. For more information go to fuelforgold.com.
Canadian Sport Institute Calgary: @csicalgary
Written by Kristina Groves: @kngrover
Photo by Dave Holland: @csicalgaryphoto