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Inside Hard Rock Stadium’s Biggest Food Operation Ever — And What It Takes To Pull it Off

“It’s a true team effort to remove something of this scale off”

AUTO: MAY 07 F1 Miami Grand Prix Photo by David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Formula 1 Miami Grand Prix returns to the Hard Rock Stadium today, May 5, to May 7, following a successful inaugural event last year that attracted nearly 243,000 spectators and generated $350 million for the local economy. This year, it’s even bigger, with the grandstand capacity expanding to 56,000 to accommodate additional spectators.

Jonathan Cowan, the executive chef at Hard Rock Stadium, is well-versed in managing large-scale food operations for events such as National Football League (NFL) and collegiate football games, the Miami Open, and last year’s Formula 1, which was the most attended event in the stadium’s history. He explains, “We’ll have about 300 Sodexo Live! team members on the culinary side, including 50 lead culinarians from our other venues across the U.S., flown in to support our many outposts. “It’s a true team effort to remove something of this scale off.”

A total of 65 restaurants will participate, with 14 locally based, minority-owned restaurants supported by the team at Sodexo Live!, the event’s food and beverage partner. Popular establishments such as Troy’s Barbeque, Food Junkies on Wheels, Soulfly Chicken, and Reggae Beets are among the participants.

Upscale dishes will be available in premium-ticket spaces, with Cowan expecting to serve nearly 1,000 lobsters and 7,000 Cuban sandwiches over the three-day event. James Beard-nominated chef Brad Kilgore and chef Lorena Garcia from CHICA will also create dishes for the event.

Cowan acknowledges the logistical challenges of such a large operation, especially considering the expansive track and campus. “The track and track crossings get shut down too, so logistically getting deliveries in and out of the different kitchen areas can be quite the challenge,” he says.

However, the chef is confident that changes implemented after last year’s event will improve food operations this time around. Cowan explains, “We are delivering our produce and ingredients directly to their specific kitchen or outpost on the campus to minimize the movement of product.”

As for his personal favorite culinary offering, Cowan is excited about the menu at the Beach Club. “Some dishes there are our watermelon and tomatillo salad (arugula, goat cheese, mint, blood orange dressing), yellowfin tuna poke (ginger-soy glaze, Ninja radish, spicy mayonnaise, crispy wonton), and steamed buns (Korean barbecue shitake, pickled vegetables, spicy mayonnaise, and lotus chips). The number of daybeds and cabanas at the Club has also increased this year, making that area an even more enjoyable experience for attendees.”