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  • José Luis Villegas /

    Betty Ceja cuts a slice of cake last month at an Elk Grove McDonald's celebration for Karim Parra, right, who was selected to represent the chain in London. José Luis Villegas jvillegas@

  • José Luis Villegas /

    José Luis Villegas Elk Grove co-workers at McDonald's gather at a ceremony for Karim Parra, one of four Western U.S. employees who went to London to serve Olympians and others at a huge Golden Arches site.

Cathie Anderson: Olympics gold includes Golden Arches

Published: Thursday, Aug. 2, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2012 - 8:53 am

The largest McDonald's in the world, inside London's Olympic Park, gives new meaning to the word "super-sized," with seating for 1,500 and predictions that it could serve 50,000 Big Macs before the Games end Aug. 12.

One of the 500 employees working there was Elk Grove resident Karim Parra. A supervisor at six area McDonald's outlets, Parra is one of four U.S. employees whose passion for the brand and service won a busman's holiday, officials said.

Parra returned to California on Wednesday, but during a telephone interview Tuesday, he talked of using London's Underground to visit Big Ben and other sites with his wife, Olga Gonzales.

He also got unexpected memories under the Golden Arches. On his first day of work, for instance, he was at the McDonald's restaurant catering to Olympians and spotted Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt (reportedly a fan of Chicken McNuggets) strolling through the door.

"All the managers are calm, collected, but the athletes all get out of their chairs and just rush him," Parra said. "They didn't let him order. Everybody wanted to take a picture with him."

A meal-less Bolt had to, well, bolt.

McDonald's built four temporary restaurants in Olympic Park, sparking criticism from those who cite the rise of fast food as a culprit in the obesity epidemic.

"The motto of the Olympic Games is 'faster, higher, stronger,' " said Roshan Muhammed Salih, reporting for Iran's Press TV. "But judging by the amount of fast-food outlets in London's Olympic Park, sports fans are in danger of becoming 'fatter, fatter, fatter.' "

Power to the farmer

Well past the stone fruit, figs and summer squash, somewhere near the heirloom tomatoes, farmer Thad Barsotti begins to sound like the hippie that for the last 30 years he says he's been coming to grips with being.

Mind you, he's 32, a tender age for someone who owns an organic farm in the Capay Valley with 450 acres under management. He has the legacy, though, of his father, Martin Barnes, who helped to found the Davis Farmers Market, and his mother, Kathleen Barsotti, who, after a divorce, took on running Capay Organic alone until she died in 2000.

That legacy and a passion for organic practices drive him and brothers Freeman Barsotti and Noah Barnes, who now run Capay Organic, to advocate alternative distribution that puts farmers directly in contact with grocers and consumers.

Capay Organic sells produce at farmers markets and in grocery stores. Its Farm Fresh To You unit delivers produce directly to homes or offices.

"What ends up happening is if I'm a middleman, I'm going to create a label, Thad's Produce or Thad's Farm, even though I'm not a farmer," Barsotti explained.

Although consumers think organic produce came from "Thad's Farm," he said, it's supplied by a number of farmers and rewards most those who spend the least to get produce to market. This could undermine organic farming practices, he explained.

"The challenge is that the marketer doesn't have the control over really being able to genuinely represent the product, and that's what you get with large distribution models," Barsotti said.

He's scheduled to discuss organic farming at 11:30 a.m. on Aug. 11 at one of the farm's regular public events. And, don't be fooled by Barsotti's buttoned-down shirt and neatly cropped hair. This hippie was born on the farm.

Enter your ZIP code here to find events presented by Capay Organic's Farm Fresh To You unit.

One outrageous list

Editors at The Daily Meal website celebrated National French Fry Week in July with a list of America's Most Outrageous French Fries, and the urban fries at Sacramento's Jack's Urban Eats made the cut.

A customer informed Trevor Sanders, a partner in Jack's Roseville restaurants, that the fries had been selected.

See the Most Outrageous Fries in America here, including Jack's urban fries.

Why does Sanders think Jack's made the list?

"You have something crunchy and crispy with that blue cheese and chili oil," he said, "… By the time you put it all together, I mean, it's just delicious."

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