Accomplishments from 2010 – Will Cunneen

February 9, 2011

I recently asked our company chefs to send in notes about their favorite or best accomplishment from 2010. Here is a note from Executive Chef Will Cunneen, PCII of  Red Bull Arena.

There were several achievements in 2010 that give me pride. I started out the year in January by accepting my first Executive Chef position and opening Red Bull Arena, a beautiful 25,000-seat soccer specific stadium and home to the New York Red Bulls in Harrison, NJ. The year ended with me receiving my ProChef II certification in December on my 29th birthday. Now, I am very proud of those accomplishments, which were probably two of the hardest things I’ve ever done. However, it’s what happened here at the stadium during the season that I can say gave me the most satisfaction.

We started our season as most stadiums do – hectic, going 100 mph and hiring most anyone that walked in the door. As the season progressed, associates started understanding their roles and developed their skills. I always believed the role of a manager is also that of a teacher and if your associates aren’t learning then they will get bored. If one of my crew members isn’t engage in what they’re doing, if they don’t know why they’re doing it or don’t care…then why stick around? Money? In a seasonal arena environment most of my kitchen staff works 15-20 hours every other week. Sure I can get a bunch of bodies to fill slots, but if you want quality personnel that you can count on month after month – you have to offer more than just a paycheck.

I believe I did that. I had several externs pass through my doors, several more that decided to attend culinary school this year after some encouragement and the experiences they had at Red Bull. There were even others who are industry veterans who have managed to shake off some of their old habits and embrace Delaware North’s commitment to quality. I believe the best way to judge a manager is by his or her staff – just as we are a reflection of our regional chefs and Chef Roland Henin. If one looks bad, we all look bad. If one looks good, we all look good. If through my actions, I have made Chef Kevin Doherty and Chef Henin see that I am “getting it” that’s my greatest accomplishment.

Good Enough To Steal

Here’s how you really know you’ve done a decent job with your staff. As the soccer season continued through August and into September, football season started for another new stadium up the street from Red Bull called New Meadowlands Stadium (Maybe you’ve heard of it?).

Anyway, when NMS opened, naturally we at Red Bull went up to assist. Now, I’m not saying we were small fish in a big pond, but you can fit three Red Bull Arenas in one New Meadowlands. Nevertheless, me and my small band of 20 or so cooks, preps and utility workers made our way over to NMS to lend assistance to various clubs, suite kitchens and concession areas. Our help was well received and we made ourselves useful. Little did I know how useful…


In the following weeks many of my employees (including myself) went back and forth between both stadiums and some started to be requested by name. By football’s midseason, several of my employees were working at NMS more than Red Bull. Don’t get me wrong, I encouraged any chance for my employees to work more and learn and grow within the company and was very proud that any associate I sent to assist represented my kitchen well.

Just like some secret recipe or a new trend, if other people want it —  you must be doing something right.