There’s no way of knowing how Kurt Warner and Ben Roethlisberger will handle the pressure-cooker on Sunday. But one fellow guaranteed to heat things up at the Super Bowl is Ron Krivosik
He’s vice president of culinary for Chicago-based Levy Restaurants, the company responsible for feeding the throngs at Raymond James Stadium. That’s right, dinner for 80,000 guests–fans, players, media, the skybox elite, even Bruce Springsteen and the E-Streeters.
After seeing Krivosik in action a couple of Super Bowls ago for a story on Levy, I can attest that he’s one cool cucumber. He’s got more big-game experience than anyone on the Steelers or Cardinals. Kentucky Derbies, World Series, NBA and NHL All-Star Games–he’s done it all. Since 1982, Levy has grown from a family deli in Chicago into the premiere provider of restaurant-quality food at major sporting arenas (as well as the Grammys, Emmys, MTV Music Awards). Chefs like Krivosik get the chance to play a part in the Super Bowl of cooking. Literally.
For Levy, the event requires nearly a year’s worth of preparation. Shortly after the previous Super Bowl, Krivosik and his colleagues start a massive check-list known as The Grid, brainstorm for food that’s appropriate to the locale—things like lobster mac and cheese and alligator sausage this year—and conduct a series of tastings for league and stadium officials. In the weeks leading up to the game, as more than 55,000 hot dogs, 2,250 pounds of short ribs and 2,500 pounds of seafood begin arriving, Krivosik and his team of three dozen Levy chefs from around the country and 150 other employees begin prepping everything. Chopping fruits and vegetables. Mixing marinades and sauces. Checking and rechecking The Grid.
The chefs approach game day much like the players. They practice. They get jitters. One described cranking Eminem on the way to the stadium. In 2006, the night before the Super Bowl in Detroit, Krivosik gave a rousing pep talk. “Gentleman, this is what it’s all about,” he said, surveying the chefs huddled around him in uniform (tall chef hats and white coats). “Thirty or forty years from now, when you’re sitting with your grandkids on your knee, you can tell them what you did in Super Bowl Forty. This is our time to shine. Let’s roll!”
Like Warner or Roethlisberger, they improvise. Even as the crowd entered the stadium, a handful of chefs and executives were experimenting with different cheese to melt over fries, as a possible addition to the skyboxes. In all, they tasted more than 100 items, consuming 5,000 or so calories.
Oddly, the only missing ingredient is football. The Levy staff is too busy cooking, serving, replenishing, and cleaning to watch the game, or even keep up with the score. By halftime, though, the cooking is done. Krivosik and his teammates emerge from the kitchen, their faces red and sweaty, their white jackets stained in various colors. They peer onto the field, snap a few photos of each other, and look for the door.
When you feed the Super Bowl, this is how it ends. Early. You’re no rookie. You beat the traffic.