BIRMINGHAM, England — When the Jamaican team leaves the pre-Olympics training camp for the Athletes’ Village in London later this week, there is one person they wish will be making the trip with them to the British capital — chef Karl Thomas.
Thomas, who was hired by Grace Foods to accompany the team to Birmingham, has been a big hit among the athletes and Jamaican staff here, serving up savory delights, much to the enjoyment of those who have been fortunate to taste his hand.
Every one of the athletes have sung his praises and many were seen taking photographs with him at a welcome dinner put on by Jamaica National Building Society (JNBS) and the University of Birmingham at the Aston Web building on the sprawling college grounds.
Shericka Williams, a member of the Women’s 4x400m relay squad, even had some compliments for him, saying loud enough so Thomas could hear to another teammate, “Him look good today eeh.”
Thomas, who works at the University of Technology and is associated with Grace Foods in the New Products department, said he has been overwhelmed with the response and he will take away cherished memories from his stay.
“Everything has been wonderful, every night before I go to bed I have to be documenting the day’s happening because everything is so important, everything because every day has been so special,” said the man who has been providing the energy for the athletes as they prepare for the Olympics, starting this weekend in London.
Thomas, who arrived in Great Britain on July 10, a few days before the team, to set up his kitchen and equipment, told the Jamaica Observer: “The response has been overwhelming; everybody has been giving me good comments continuously every day, whether it is breakfast, lunch or dinner.”
However, there is one minor drawback, he joked.
“I am getting a bit worried (as) I don’t want to be blamed that I’m responsible for anyone putting on weight, but the response has been really, really positive and I’m just happy for the opportunity to be able to make this impact on the team getting ready for the Olympics,” he said.
He has also been getting media attention here in Birmingham and in the British press, but says not all the stores are factual.
For instance, there was a story that a member of the Jamaican delegation had asked for goat’s head but he was unable to find any. Thomas says that’s not true.
“We have mannish water on the menu here, but no one has ever specifically asked for it either,” he said, adding the UK slaughter laws would not allow for them to kill the animal like that anyway.
He said he has been able to get real goats meat here, seemingly surprised. “I got goat meat here; not just mutton, but goat meat,” he emphasised.
Come Thursday, the Jamaican team will head to London for the final preparations while Thomas heads back home to Jamaica a few days later satisfied he has done his part in helping the athletes do their best when the track and field competition starts on August 3.