With U.S. Bank Stadium now 98 percent complete and putting in the finishes touches, food became the main serving Tuesday as Aramark unveiled several of the culinarians that will be part of the stadium offerings.
“Modern, memorable and Minnesota” is a buzz phrase that Carl Mittleman, president of Aramark Sports and Entertainment, trumpeted before introducing four of the restauranteurs making their way into the U.S. Bank Stadium space.
The “Minnesota” component was central in Tuesday’s unveilings, from Andrew Zimmern and Gavin Kaysen combining for a hoagie-themed booth to two of Zimmern’s AZ Canteens to Gene Winstead of Ike’s Food and Cocktails to Nick Rancone of Revival Restaurant.
“They’re going to indulge in some great Minnesota flavor,” said J.P. Paul, Minnesota Vikings vice president of corporate development and guest relations.
With Zimmern’s fame extending into the television world with “Bizarre World,” “Bizzare Foods America” and the new “Bizarre Foods: Delicious Destinations,” he was the most popular chef at the unveilings, but his partnership with Kaysen will provide some top-notch hoagies that were part of the samplings on Tuesday.
“Gavin and I have literally talked for years about bringing really great fine food to a stadium environment,” Zimmern said. “Just because you’re having a sandwich doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be made with world-class ingredients – the same ingredients that Gavin uses in his globally high-caliber restaurant. Just because you’re at a sporting event doesn’t mean you should have food that isn’t worthy of being served in another environment. I think for decades fans at stadiums put up with food that was less than (that).”
Their shared-venture booth at U.S. Bank Stadium will be the first of many they are planning at stadiums around the country. This one will focus on four different hoagies and bomboloni Italian donuts with orange maple sugar dipped in chocolate.
“We’re trying to capture the best six, eight, 10 bites for that guest when they eat that sandwich,” Kaysen said. “We want them to walk away and say, ‘I’m glad the Vikings won, but that porketta sandwich was really good. We’re going back for that too.”
Rancone of Revival called it an “honor” to be part of the stadium that he said will deliver the food with an edgy flare and use the newest technology to help accomplish that.
“Our goal was to create an experience that is unique to the NFL and Minnesota,” said Jamie Hodgson, general manager of Aramark’s M Hospitality. “… At the end, you get to experience some of the best food in the NFL.”
Hodgson said he doesn’t want to segregate suites and seats from all the food options.
Zimmern said the biggest challenge will come on Aug. 2, a day in advance of the first event at U.S. Bank Stadium, an International Champions Cup soccer match between AC Milan and Chelsea.
“We’re basically going to load in a couple days before and go live,” he said.
Winstead trumpeted the connection between his restaurant and the Vikings, sounding “Ikes and Vikes!” as he left the podium.
While things may seem hectic now, the restauranteurs will have plenty of time to break in the process before the stadium hosts the Super Bowl in 2018.
“The biggest food day in America is not Thanksgiving. More people eat in their homes on Super Bowl Sunday than any other day of the year,” Zimmern said. “More food is consumed per capita on Super Bowl Sunday than any other day of the year. Football, fans and food go together.”