Tuesday, August 28, 2012

At Cal Memorial Stadium, the Menu also Undergoes a Facelift

by Luke Tsai
Tue, Aug 28, 2012 at 1:41 PM

Maybe you’ve heard that Cal Memorial Stadium just finished a pretty big renovation project? Yes, after 21 months of construction work, the home to the Golden Bears will reopen this weekend with Saturday’s season opener against the University of Nevada.

Easily overlooked among news of some $321 million in pledged funds (and the memory of all those tree sitters) is another, perhaps less glamorous, change: The stadium’s concession stand menus have also been given a facelift, adding globally-inspired items like hummus, sushi rolls, chicken bao, and Sriracha-spiked buffalo chicken sandwiches to the usual array of burgers and hot dogs.

In May, Cal Dining — the operator of four UC Berkeley dining halls and a dozen different retail locations, making it the largest food provider on campus — was awarded a fifteen-year contract to oversee concessions and catering at all of the university’s athletic facilities. Shawn LaPean, the program’s executive director, said he hopes the new food options at Memorial Stadium will be as well received as the facility’s various other upgrades.

Cal Dinings Shawn LaPean
  • Molly McNamara/Cal Dining
  • Cal Dining's Shawn LaPean
LaPean explained that his overall approach was to keep all of the foods football fans expect to find when they attend a football game (the popcorn, french fries, burgers, hot dogs, and soda) and then to simply expand on that — adding more variety and a greater number of healthy options, made from local and sustainably sourced ingredients when possible.

For instance, he touted the Sabra hummus bowls, which — granted — are neither freshly prepared nor local, but are conveniently packaged for quick-service dining and make for a "healthier option than nachos with cheese sauce."

"I hope it becomes the Mediterranean nacho,” LaPean said.

He added that Cal Dining is uniquely attuned to what UC Berkeley students want to eat, given that the program serves 29,000 meals a day on campus. (I suppose another way to spin that would be that Cal home games will now be yet another place where students will have to eat dining hall food — which The Express actually reviewed! — but the point is well taken.)

Coming to a stadium near you.
  • Patrice Thomas/Cal Dining
  • Coming to a stadium near you.
Everything on the concessions menu will sell for between $3 and $10 (for sushi), with most items in the $4-$6 range. Although LaPean says he wishes the stadium could install tap water hydration stations, he was proud of the fact that a 20-ounce bottle of water will sell for $3 — less than a bottle of soda, at least (and a bit better than the Coliseum’s atrocious pricing).

Cal Dining will also be partnering with a couple of local food companies, including Top Dog and Bonehead’s Texas BBQ, both of which will have stands at the eastern end of the stadium. Peet’s will supply coffee and espresso drinks.

When asked what his favorite item on the new concessions menu is, LaPean demurred, saying, “My personal favorite is what the fans say is their favorite thing.”

Nevertheless, LaPean admitted that he aspires to develop a signature menu item — something along the lines of the $16 soft-shell crab sandwich at San Francisco’s AT&T Park, where the Golden Bears played last season. What that blockbuster item might be, however, is still a work in progress.

“We don’t want to put everything out there the first game,” he said.

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