It takes a marathon effort for chef Ken Migneault and his team to get ready for marathon weekend in St. George, Utah. To feed the 2,000 people expected at the pre-race dinner, they will cook an impressive 250 pounds of pasta and 45 gallons of marinara sauce. They will also have 3,000 breadsticks and nearly 100 pounds of lettuce ready for the hungry runners and their families.
“We’ve never run out of food,” says Migneault, the executive chef of Heritage Catering, which has prepared the pasta dinner every year since 2009.
This year’s St. George Marathon will take place on Oct. 7.
In addition to leading pasta preparations, Migneault is in charge of special banquets for international runners, a group from Japan and 10-time St. George Marathon finishers. In total, Migneault and his dedicated crew will work almost around the clock to make meals for 3,000 people that weekend.
Migneault, 44, recently chatted with Competitor Running about his favorite dishes and what he does when he’s not in the kitchen.
Warning: Salivating content ahead!
On pleasing the international crowd
“The international lunch is always fun. We try to put our best foot forward,” Migneault says. “It’s a little more intricate and a little more foodie, more decorative. A little more time and effort gets put into that.”
Sometimes he adds a zest of the Southwest to the menu with a spicy dish like achiote chicken.
“One of the reasons they pick the marathon in Saint George is they want to experience the West,” he says.
This year, he plans to serve his ever-popular butternut squash soup.
“In Saint George, it’s been over 100 degrees every day (in the summer). We look forward to fall,” he says. “As soon as I start seeing the apples and squash at the produce stands, I jump on it.”
Migneault will also whip up a tasty dinner for a group of 30 Japanese runners, who usually want to avoid fish during their visit to the U.S. “They request red meat and steaks,” he says.
On connecting with runners
When he’s not toiling over hot pots and pans, Migneault will take time to chat with runners, particularly at the dinner for the 10-time St. George Marathon finishers. Runners get invited to the “club” if they complete the marathon 10 times, but don’t need to have run the race in consecutive years. This year he expects about 900 runners at the dinner.
“The 10-year is my favorite—it grows every year,” he says. “They are fun to talk to. It’s just really cool to hear some stories. My job is a little bit of everything. I get to spend a little bit of time in the hall as they talk, and I am checking the buffets to make sure they are full.”
On satisfying everyone’s sweet tooth
For the grand finale of food, Migneault makes his signature carrot cake.
“Dessert wise, we have a carrot cake that people just absolutely love,” he says. “It’s not your everyday carrot cake.”
He adds coconut and pineapple to his recipe and covers the cake with a buttermilk glaze when it’s done. Safe to say the cake doesn’t last very long?
On life outside the kitchen
When he’s not cooking for big crowds, Migneault enjoys exploring the spectacular Utah landscape with his kids.
“I love canyoneering, mountain biking and hiking,” he says, adding that running a marathon is on his bucket list. “Saint George is a giant playground when it comes to the outdoors. We have some amazing places here.”