This circus travels on its stomach, but lightly

Heart shaped petal sits atop a dessert served at the restaurant for the cast and crew of Cirque Du Soleil's VOLTA, in Oaks, Pa., on Aug. 8, 2018.

Heart shaped petal sits atop a dessert served at the restaurant for the cast and crew of Cirque Du Soleil's VOLTA, in Oaks, Pa., on Aug. 8, 2018. (Bastiaan Slabbers for WHYY)

When the Cirque du Soleil show arrives in a new town, the first thing on site is a tiny container that carries some basic kitchen supplies.

A barbecue to prepare food for the build-up crew is the first of thousands of meals prepared by the troupe’s team of international chefs, explains kitchen manager Ariel Layug.

Kitchen Manager Ariel Layug prepares the menu of the day, at the kitchen of Cirque Du Soleil's VOLTA, in OAKS, PA, on August 8, 2018.
Kitchen manager Ariel Layug prepares the menu of the day, at the kitchen of Cirque Du Soleil’s VOLTA, in Oaks, Pennsylvania, on August 8, 2018. (Bastiaan Slabbers for WHYY)

Think about it. There are currently 19 Cirque Du Soleil shows being performed around the globe. Almost every day, a cast of performers and crew of behind-the-scenes staffers work hard to put up those shows, sometimes twice a day. And to make the magic happen, each one needs a healthy meal.

In the Philadelphia area, that boils down to 400 meals a day, prepared by the chefs in a kitchen made of five combined trailers, located on a parking lot behind the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks, Pennsylvania. The meals feed the cast and crew of Cirque Du Soleil’s VOLTA show.

When the audience arrives to see the show, they are welcomed by 25 flags above the entrance of the tent, representing the home countries of members of the group.

Under the white-and-gray-striped Grand Chapiteau, acrobats, clowns and musicians put up an action-sports-packed show. All that work burns a lot of calories.

The team of international chefs knows that Cirque’s acrobats and athletes want to watch what they eat, so options are available. Layug, of the Philippines, says it is common for those on tour to gain some weight in the first weeks, so the kitchen has a well-stocked salad bar, gluten-free offerings, and options such as lean chicken. The chefs work with locally sourced produce to keeps the mouths fed, the bellies happy and the performers’ coaches content.

The 41st production of the Montreal-based global circus troupe will give its last East Coast performance on Aug. 19. Then it will be all packed up — kitchen included — and move across the U.S. Next stop: Seattle.

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