Keeping the beast roaring as an army feeds on pies
During the 1990s, before Sevens dressing ups became de rigeur, Martin Hollis used to fly from the UK to plant himself in the South Stand with his shirt off, booming out his ubiquitous ditty across the stadium, 'Who ate all the pies?'
It looked as though Hollis had eaten more than his fair share, and with his Buddha-like physique, he put the 'puff' into 'pastry'.
A lot of pies have been consumed since then. Hollis was last spotted working in sports travel in Dubai, occasionally heading to the Sevens with tour groups... 30 kilos lighter and wearing his shirt.
These days, the quality and quantity of pies have improved and increased. Last year, for the first time, we installed a huge (4.8m x 2.4m) cool room in the stadium to make it easier for Holiday Inn, the tournament's official caterers, to get their pies around the stadium quickly,' says Steve Hancox from Lowe Refrigeration. 'We back a shipping container in and load up the cool room and heat the pies afterwards in our warmer carts. We also installed modular cold rooms in the Sevens Village [across from the stadium].'
Shifting pies is no small feat when you consider the Holiday Inn Golden Mile in Kowloon's pie order is over 21,000 for the event. The hotel purchases its pies from Steve Berry at International Fine Food. 'The ones we supply are from New Zealand,' says Berry.
There are other pie sources, too. Mes Amis Catering Group sells thousands in the shape of rugby balls. And Wagyu and Oolaa restaurant chain provides the savoury treats to the Sevens Village. 'Our pies are Australian - real pies, not those English things you get at Twickenham,' says Wagyu and Oolaa boss Wayne Parfitt, an Australian.
While pies are a big part of the culinary delights available they're just a slice of the story. Holiday Inn, the event's official caterers for the past 18 years, has been keeping the crowd well fed since around the time Jonah Lomu made his debut.
'Food ordering is a big part of the planning process, and there is a significant increase in food consumption by participants each year,' explains Andreas Hoehne, executive chef from the Holiday Inn Golden Mile. 'We start planning for next year's Sevens the moment we finish this year's tournament.'
Over 1,200 staff from the Holiday Inn will be scrumming down for the action this year.
Menus are as diverse as the 24 teams that enter the tournament and span Chinese, Indian and Western cuisines.
The food served is also eaten by the players.
'The meals of the rugby players are formulated carefully after consultation with the coaches, as well as with the approval of the HKRFU,' says Hoehne.
'Preferred choices include turkey, chicken breasts and grilled or steamed vegetables.
'Whatever they choose to eat, no one will go hungry, because every day a small army of hotel staff, contractors and suppliers, pay homage to Napoleon's adage, 'an army marches on its stomach',' says Hoehne.
And feed it they do, keeping the beast roaring out over So Kon Po for three days.