Six Celebrity Stadium Chefs

Forget concession stands. These culinary trailblazers are upping their gourmet games at stadiums across America.

Six Celebrity Stadium Chefs

Houston chef Chris Shepherd offers Houston Texans fans delicious cheddar cheese dogs at NRG Stadium.

“The Fat Doug”

Chef: Michael Symon

Team: Cleveland Browns

Stadium: FirstEnergy STADIUM 

When the Cleveland Browns and concession partner Aramark wanted to amp up their stadium food, they turned to the city’s most popular chef: Michael Symon, a regular on the Food Network and co-host of The Chew on ABC. Symon’s as much a part of Cleveland lore as “The Drive,” and now he’s serving his take on classic Americana to Browns fans while cheering on the team he’s loved since childhood. “The dirty-water dog is a thing of the past,” Symon says. In its place, the stadium outpost of his restaurant B Spot offers everything from bacon cheeseburgers to -chocolate espresso milk shakes. The “Fat Doug” is Symon’s signature sandwich and lives up to its name by topping a burger with a mound of pastrami, coleslaw, mustard and Swiss cheese for a sandwich hybrid that’s half-diner/half-deli. To wash it down, check out one of B Spot’s -liquor-optional “Bad A** Shakes,” like the Vanilla Bean Apple Pie & Bacon that comes spiked with a little Jim Beam bourbon to help keep you warm on those frigid Cleveland Sundays


 “44 Farms Jalapeño Cheddar Dog”

Chef: Chris Shepherd

Team: Houston Texans

Stadium: NRG Stadium

Chris Shepherd destroys appetites like J.J. Watt destroys quarterbacks. Named Best Chef in the Southwest in 2014 by the prestigious James Beard Foundation, Shepherd has made quite a name for himself in Houston with his American Creole food made with global flavors and local ingredients. Like most of the state of Texas, Shepherd loves football, and two years ago, he was able to combine his love of both food and the gridiron when he opened mini versions of his restaurants Underbelly and Hay Merchant inside NRG Stadium. He’s offered some of the most innovative stadium food around (peanut-butter-and-jelly-glazed wings and Korean braised beef with Coca-Cola-pickled onions and kimchi salsa), and this season he’s keeping that tradition alive. Shepherd is selling his signature 44 Farms Jalapeño Cheddar Dog with bacon jam and a Tater Tots casserole at the Underbelly kiosks on the club level and, new for 2015, fans all over the stadium can partake in a Greek-inspired spiced-meatball shawarma with creamy Tzatziki sauce at his Hay Merchant outpost.


 

“Crunchy MahiMahi fish tacos”

Chef: Michael Mina

Team: San Francisco 49ers

Stadium: Levi’s Stadium

Michael Mina’s Tailgate may be the most gourmet tailgate the world has ever seen. Bay Area favorite Mina has been a Niners season-ticket holder for more than 20 years and started the tailgate in the parking lot of Candlestick Park. When the team moved into its new digs at Levi’s Stadium, Mina was tasked with turning his personal tailgate into a professional endeavor. For $5,000 a season, 49ers season-ticket holders get access to an all-you-can-eat-and-drink extravaganza with more than 50 dishes, a Bloody Mary bar, raw seafood stations and the largest indoor rotisserie in America (23 feet long!). Every game becomes a celebrity-chef twofer as Mina pairs up with guest-chef friends like José Andrés, Emeril Lagasse and Mario Batali to create dishes that honor the home state of the visiting team. This season, that means a 10-foot-tall cheese fountain in honor of the Green Bay Packers and crunchy mahimahi fish tacos with shredded radish pico de gallo when the San Diego Chargers visit to close the preseason. “It’s pretty fun,” says Mina. “Actually, it’s quite insane.” 


“The #1 with Great Chicago Fries”

Chef: Michael Kornick

Team: Chicago Bears

Stadium: Soldier Field

Grass-fed beef and craft beer at a football game? That fantasy has turned into a reality at Soldier Field thanks to Michael Kornick, owner and chef of seven different restaurant concepts in the Chicagoland area. While he’s been called a culinary master for his work behind the stoves at fine-dining restaurant MK, his more casual DMK Burger Bar has been winning over the taste buds of Bears fans thanks to a menu full of creative burgers topped with high-end ingredients. Kornick’s “Great Chicago Fries” are made with hand-cut russet potatoes and come in three styles: Parmesan and truffle cream; sea salt and black pepper with housemade ketchup; and Wisconsin cheddar and scallions. The full DMK Burger Bar menu has been pared down to four favorites at Soldier Field, and you can’t go wrong with the #1, a grass-fed patty with aged cheddar, smoked bacon, balsamic-tinged charred red onions and Kansas City-style BBQ sauce from Rufus Teague.


“Vegetarian Sandwich”

Chef: Michelle Bernstein

Team: Miami Dolphins

Stadium: Sun Life Stadium

As far as superstar Miami chef Michelle Bernstein is concerned, kale and quinoa belong at football games just as much as cold beer. James Beard Award-winner Bernstein has been one of the hottest chefs in South Florida for years, and last season marked the first time she was able to bring the healthy, chef-driven quality of her casual Design District café Crumb on Parchment to Dolphins fans at the newly renovated Sun Life Stadium. Bernstein was thrilled with the results: “The freshness and quality of the light offerings were tasty and consistent and a surprise to all of the people who already know us and frequent Crumb.” Those light offerings may be a major departure from typical stadium food, but fans following their own South Beach diet are more than happy to see options like the Vegetarian Sandwich (sprouts, carrots, pickled radish, avocado
and cheddar on seeded multigrain bread) or the Kale and Quinoa Salad that skews somewhat Thai with green mango, chayote, roasted peanuts and finely chopped kale in a chili-lime vinaigrette


“Margherita Taglio”

Chef: Marc Vetri

Team: Philadelphia Eagles

Stadium: Lincoln Financial Field

Eagles fans are notoriously tough to please, so Chef Marc Vetri had his work cut out for him when opening the very first NFL version of his ultrapopular Pizzeria Vetri on the club level of Lincoln Financial Field. Instead of tried-and-true Philly favorites like soft pretzels and cheesesteaks, Vetri serves authentic Italian pies out of an open-fire brick oven. “Nice ingredients make for a nice pizza,” says the award-winning chef. We’re talking fresh herbs and scratch-made sauce for the level of quality at Pizzeria Vetri’s original location in Philadelphia’s Spring Garden neighborhood. Vetri’s favorite is his Salsiccia Taglio, a cracker-thin crust covered with in-house marinara, fresh mozzarella, aged parmesan cheese, slices of roasted fennel bulbs, homemade sweet fennel sausage and extra-virgin olive oil. If you’re less of a carnivore, the traditional Margherita Taglio might be more your speed, with fresh basil instead of sausage.