A very nice post from Chef Jeff Wheaton.
I left one of the most beautiful places on Earth for this? Are those really New Jersey plates on my truck? Am I really cooking for the arch-nemesis of “my team?” Silently repeat for six months.
In March 2010, I left Yosemite National Park in search of a challenge, a new adventure, a sure-fire rocket to propel me out of my comfort zone. I found just that and more in my new position as Sous Chef at the New Meadowlands Stadium.
Before my arrival, I knew very little about the state of New Jersey, aside from “The Jersey Shore,” and I knew even less about Sportservice. Fortunately, I was now working for a man who knows a whole lot about both: Chef Eric Borgia. While we didn’t know what to make of each other for quite some time (he actually asked my fellow chef and wife, Beth, if I was always so quiet. If he only knew then the silence would soon end and never return), I trusted his judgment and character from day one and have never wavered in this conviction.
He assembled a team of chefs whose diversity, talents, experiences and personal quirks could not be found outside of Hell’s Kitchen. While it took months of occasional squabbling, miles of late-night equipment relocation missions and countless humbling moments for all, I feel we emerged the strongest team to call the New Meadowlands home.
The amount of work, dedication, trial and error, and pure hustle it takes to open and successfully operate a stadium of this magnitude is something very few outside this corner of the industry can truly fathom. On numerous occasions guests have asked me what my “other job” is, having no idea I was working for the 14th day in a row with no rest on the horizon. However, as the season progressed, time off became a reality, aside for a blur of time and turkey that encompassed three games in one week in late November.
Another aspect of interest and the source of much speculation, confusion and humor has been my actual job description. With the help and understanding of my fellow sous chefs, and vast amounts of overtime for my staff of two cooks (the fastest, smartest, sneakiest and most loyal cooks in the building), I was able to oversee a diverse portfolio of the culinary operation. Throughout the season, I’ve been responsible for the food for the owners of both teams, oversaw all of the Food Network operations and ran the Great West Hall Club. Game days would involve endless calls and texts and over 14 miles of walking. I am proud of what my team (aka Team 1-2-3) has accomplished during this season and I feel all three of us learned countless culinary and life lessons.
Lastly, I would like to recognize all of the Delaware North chefs across the country who came to support us during the opening. They set aside their titles and did what ever task needed to be done, no matter how menial or tedious, to help us achieve success. While a massive company, Delaware North has a tightly knit group of some of the smartest (and funniest) chefs in the business, and I couldn’t imagine the opening without their help and insight.