On Tuesday the Vikings, MSFA, SMG and Aramark unveiled an extraordinary partnership with Minnesota's top culinarians and restaurateurs to bring their talent and expertise to U.S. Bank Stadium.
MINNEAPOLIS — Vikings fans will have the chance to enjoy the **defensive creativity** of Head Coach Mike Zimmer and the culinary creations of Andrew Zimmern and other top-notch chefs when U.S. Bank Stadium opens in 2016.
Zimmern, a three-time James Beard Award-winning television personality, author, chef and teacher, was part of a signature roster of culinary talent. The acclaimed group is aiming to transform the edible offerings during Vikings games and other events at the state-of-the-art venue to take fan experiences' to unforeseen levels, bite-by-bite.
"We are thrilled to partner with these notable and respected Minnesota restaurants and chefs to bring local flavor and variety into U.S. Bank Stadium," Vikings Owner/President Mark Wilf said. "The dining experience is a crucial component of our commitment to providing a memorable game day, and these prominent culinary partners, along with Aramark's robust menu and the innovative ways in which we serve our fans, will significantly enhance the hospitality experience during Vikings games."
Zimmern has made the Twin Cities his home since 1992. He will have two outposts of Andrew Zimmern's Canteen — AZC Rotisserie and AZC Hoagies — inside the stadium.
"We have two units in the building, one that's going to be a rotisserie, whole animal barbecue offering," Zimmern explained of the outpost that will feature beef, goat, pork, lamb and poultry sold by the half-pound or chopped/pulled for sandwiches.
AZC Hoagies is the first of its kind from a partnership with longtime friend and colleague Gavin Kaysen, the owner of Spoon & Stable and fellow James Beard Award winner. It will offer four types of Italian sandwiches: sausage, beef, pork and meatball, as well as bomboloni (Italian donuts).
"We think we're going to recalibrate the way people enjoy the Italian sandwich concept in Minnesota and hopefully throughout all the Aramark stadiums in the country, so we're thrilled to be here," Zimmern said.
The roster was unveiled by the Vikings, Aramark, the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority and SMG on Tuesday at the U.S. Bank Stadium Preview Center.
Aramark serves more than six million fans annually and is the food and beverage provider at 17 NFL venues. The company launched M Hospitality to guide the creation of the dining program and inclusion of local restauranteurs and chefs at U.S. Bank Stadium.
The guiding principle from M Hospitality is to deliver dining experiences that are "Modern, Memorable and Minnesotan."
Another directive in determining chefs and selections was that quality would not be sacrificed by producing mass quantities, an important reassurance for Zimmern, Kaysen, Gene Winstead and Nick Rancone. Winstead owns Ike's Food & Cocktails and is mayor of Bloomington. Rancone is co-owner of Revival Restaurant.
"Spoon & Stable is a smaller restaurant," Kaysen said. "It's four walls, and everything in our world is controlled, so to be able to challenge ourselves and figure out how to extend our hospitality, our food, our love for everything we do every single day and to be able to deliver to thousands and thousands of people every week is incredibly exciting for us."
AZC Hoagies sampled the Italian porchetta sandwich, slicing segments of an 8-foot submarine for a strong contingent of multimedia journalists.
Ike's Food & Cocktails sampled a sliced tenderloin sandwich with horseradish aioli and fried onions, with the meat carved by Ike's Executive Chef Andrew Shrader.
"When you get a good fresh sandwich of any type in a large stadium, you remember that," Winstead said. "So often, it's pre-prepared, on a shelf for a while before it gets served. That's what we're going to stay away from. We will only have freshly prepared things going forward. There's a challenge to that, but that's what we're going to insist upon."
Revival Restaurant sampled a petit fried chicken sandwich and chicharrón, with Chef Thomas Boemer's roots in the Carolinas guiding the recipe for the chicken.
Rancone explained that he and Boemer first asked, "Do we have to compromise what we do or the quality level to be able to do this?" Aramark immediately answered, "We don't want you to do this if you can't do it exactly the way you do this on any other basis."
"The detail going into this project is so amazing," Rancone said. "First and foremost we want to offer a great fan experience, and we know that our chicken is going to be perfect for people at the stadium."
M Hospitality General Manager Jamie Hodgson said part of the experience will include "different and unique vessels" for the food, distinctive uniforms for employees and innovative ways of ordering and collecting food.
Some stadiums limit the placement of certain foods to clubs or suites, but U.S. Bank Stadium will make a commitment to make available the culinary partner offerings throughout the venue.
Zimmern said he's excited about the natural intersection of football, fans and food that will go together like "Modern, Memorable and Minnesotan."
"I think what we have been given is a great gift," Zimmern said. "Everyone, when I say
one of the first things you think of is food. The biggest food day of the year in America is not Thanksgiving. It's Super Bowl Sunday."
Winstead said he believes the culinary scene in the Twin Cities is "as fine as it gets anywhere in the world."
"It's so great to see that culinary scene being layered in now into the finest stadium anywhere in the world," Winstead said. "We've got something to showcase here."