Talking Marlins Ballpark Food With The Chef Who Makes It, Part One
Gotta admit it -- this Everglades pulled pork sandwich looks mighty good.
I recently poked fun at a perceived lack of improvements in Centerplate's concession stand food at Sun Life Stadium. In spite of this, Sun Life's executive chef Orlando R. Morales was good natured enough to answer some questions regarding the culinary options at Florida Marlins home games.
Morales grew up on a ranch in Chihuahua, Mexico ("Ranchers know how to make the best food. The ingredients are all around you: herbs, tomatoes, corn, and wild game.") He enrolled in culinary school in Scottsdale, Arizona and in the 90s helped to open the catering and concessions for what was then the new Seattle Arena, home of the Supersonics. From there Orlando jumped to working with the Boston Culinary Group in opening BankAtlantic Center in Ft. Lauderdale, and moved to now-Sun Life Stadium nine years ago. Last year the Boston Culinary Group merged with Centerplate.
New Times: What are the three biggest selling foods at Marlins games?
Orlando R. Morales: With baseball games, the classics never go out of style. The three biggest sellers are the items people might traditionally associate with game-day: hot dogs, pizza, and chicken tenders (popcorn, too). We offer lengthy menus of unexpected items, but for most people it wouldn't be baseball without these three.
How many do you sell of each, on average, per game?
At a typical Marlins game, the concession stands sell about 1,800 hot dogs, 900 pizzas and over a thousand orders of chicken tenders, plus additional sales on the club level and from in-seat sales. We also go through over 2,800 units of draft beer (excluding club level and in-seat sales). Just for comparison, we sell almost 22,000 units of draft beer and 5,800 hot dogs during Dolphins games.
How many workers prepare the food?
In my kitchen, we have 25 prep cooks during the day and about 80 cooks on the line at night throughout the building. If we add the service staff, there are about five hundred for a busy Marlins game and about twelve hundred for a Dolphins Game operating food and beverage service at any given event.
And your role is...
To oversee all culinary production from the moment the ingredients
arrive at the door to the moment the guest receives their order. I
design all of the menus and am responsible for freshness, safety and
What's the biggest challenge?
Probably the staffing. It can be difficult to oversee a 100-plus member
culinary staff spread out in a 300,000 square foot venue, so having the
right people on your team is critical. Outside of staffing, the
culinary challenges give us the opportunity to flex creative muscles.
We are challenged to always keep the menu interesting and inspiring. We
create cravings, and with the Cuban and Creole influences in this
region, South Florida has such a rich food culture to draw from.
How are you drawing on them?
Our menu at Sun Life Stadium includes Everglades BBQ, where we smoke
our pork. We have the capacity to smoked about fourteen hundred pounds
of pork at one time, Empanadas, Cuban pressed sandwiches, black bean
dip in the luxury suites; the things we love to cook and love to eat
around here. We listen to the fans, our guests, and what they want,
which is how the arepas first arrived on the menu -- as well Maggies
Empanadas, Boars Head sandwiches, soft serve ice cream on fresh made
waffle cone, homemade potato chips dusted with parmesan cheese, fresh
dough pizza, meatball subs, cotton candy, frozen margaritas...
Are these Everglades pork nachos as good as they look? We'll find out in time.
What food didn't work?
A few years back I got really excited about a new kielbasa recipe on a
fresh hoagie roll and spicy brown mustard, and put it on the menu. But
kielbasa and South Florida were not a great fit, so we listened and
learned and now it is offered in limited locations.
Can a fan still buy Cracker Jacks at the ballpark? If not, should we ban the song "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" from being sung during the seventh innning stretch?
Fans can absolutely still buy Cracker Jacks at Marlins games. If they
couldn't, we would either have to ban the song or change the lyrics.
Maybe "buy me some peanuts and Cuban Wings." That wouldn't be bad.
Tomorrow: We ask the tough questions, like how come we got screwed
concerning new ballpark foods, and why can't they come up with better
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