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Food at the Democratic National Convention, By the Numbers

Here's what everyone (except the Bernie protesters) ate

All photos by Daniela Galarza

Last week the Democratic Party officially named Hillary Clinton its presidential nominee, and to celebrate there were thousands of balloonsfirecrackers, flags, posters, flyers, and cheers — and there was also an enormous quantity of food. Staffers, media, managers, agents, security, Secret Service, and all manner of politicos were locked into the several-acre convention perimeter for four days. So how, and what, does one feed a national party convention? Steam tables and beefsteaks might have fed politicians in other eras, but today political convention food looks more like dining out in any big city center, with stalls, stands, pop-up restaurants, bars, outdoor dining (weather permitting), and thousands of eaters and drinkers.

For every presidential election cycle for the past 12 years, CNN has hosted a full-service restaurant adjacent to both the Republican and Democratic conventions. It's not just a restaurant, though: The space offers guests unlimited food and drink, an atmosphere appropriate for meetings and private meals, and a place for CNN to broadcast live during the convention. CNN partners with Ryan Seacrest's Civic Entertainment Group, an event planning company that hires caterers, restaurateurs, and consultants to erect an operational restaurant that meets the stringent standards of both the Secret Service and the FDA for four days in two different locations. (Yes, the FDA is on site at each national political convention to ensure food safety for delegates, politicians, press, and attendees.)

In each convention city, Civic Entertainment takes over an existing restaurant space within or just outside the security perimeter of each convention. While Civic sets up the structure, obtains the permits to redecorate and reconfigure the space, and brings in operational staff and security, the company is an event company, not a caterer: This year, Civic partnered with Philadelphia-based Starr Catering to provide the food.

Starr's team, particularly CEO and co-founder Simon Powles and executive chef Ashley James, spent the better part of five months hiring, training, and doing background security checks on staff; developing a menu using approved vendors for ingredients; hiring food safety personnel and working with the aforementioned FDA on systemized stop gaps to prevent food borne illnesses. Then, two days before the actual convention, Powles and James' team worked through the night to receive food deliveries, begin prepping menu items, and troubleshoot any last-minute issues.

"The thing people don't think about is," James explained, "say, what happens when you run out of milk?" In a normal restaurant, a manager might send someone to the store to buy a few gallons of milk to get the restaurant through the next meal service. But with the Secret Service inspecting each and every delivery and an endless stream of cabs and Ubers swarming the receiving area of the convention perimeter, dashing out to buy milk and bringing it back to the kitchen is out of the question.

"We over-ordered just to be safe, and thankfully never ran low," James says. The Starr team set up delivery times with vendors so they arrived between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. — to avoid security check delays — and partnered with the existing restaurant's kitchen team to manage the point-of-sale ordering system, equipment limitations, and workflow. "It's like putting on a massive pop-up restaurant," Powles says, and in terms of the size and scope of this venture, it's one of the top 10 biggest projects Starr Catering has ever taken on.

At the DNC, the CNN Grill was open from 5 p.m. until 2 a.m. and offered two bars and a full-service menu including fried chicken and waffles, burgers, salmon, salads, chips, fresh soft pretzels, water ice, and other locally-inspired items. With support from Google, the Grill hosted several of its news and talk programs live throughout the day while food was not being served.

While other areas of the convention center contained pop-up kiosks selling local Philly favorites like Geno's cheesesteaks and water ice, the CNN Grill attracted celebrity guests and media like Stephen Colbert, Shailene Woodley, David Schwimmer, and Samantha Bee. Politicians and media hobnobbed at the bar and the all-you-can-eat private pop-up restaurant buzzed late into the night, every night. Here's a breakdown of what approximately 3,800 guests ate and drank at CNN Grill during the four-day convention in Philadelphia:

Angus beef burger: 991

Bacon: 85

Baked beans: 91

Beer: 3,300 Pints

Berry bowls: 66

Berry crisp: 64

Blackened salmon: 600

BLTA sandwich: 129

Brussels sprouts: 448

Cheesesteak breakfast sandwiches: 31

Cheesesteak eggrolls: 245

Chicken & waffles: 284

Chicken tinga sandwich: 187

Chive scrambled eggs: 288

Cobb salad: 359

Cocktails: 2,100

Cupcakes: 69

Deviled eggs: 501

Doughnuts: 554

Farro salad: 62

Fish taco: 311

French fries: 1228

French toast: 16

Green salad: 277

Hummus: 349

Ice cream: 628 scoops

Italian hoagie: 77

Kale Caesar salad: 402

Korean chicken wings: 646

Mac & cheese: 488

Melon caprese salad: 262

Milkshakes: 306

Oatmeal: 22

Portobello burger: 326

Sausage: 45

Scrapple: 9

Soft pretzels: 484

Tastykake shakes: 81

Water ice: 140

Wine: 2,100 glasses

Yogurt parfait: 36

All 2016 Presidential Election Coverage [E]