Eating Well at Livestrong Park
First of all, to whom it may concern: Chef Wade Taylor, Executive Chef at Livestrong Park working for KC American Sportservice, is a genius. There, let me never be accused of burying my lead.
Okay, with that said, let me back up. I love Twitter. No seriously, one day I tried to say I was married to it on Facebook. Why do I love tweeting so much? Because I’m always finding myself talking to interesting people on it about food. Which is how, one day out of the blue, I asked @SportingKC about the concessions at Livestrong and if anyone had reported on what they were serving.
And that’s the story of how I got to tour Livestrong Park’s many multiple kitchens with Chef Wade as my personal guide.
It’s also how I got to taste some of his creations. Which is how I can say for sure he’s a genius.
The Setup at Livestrong
I’ll be the first to admit that when I first asked @SportingKC about the food at Livestrong, I was prepared to be underwhelmed. I assumed that unless I was in the owner’s box, I’d be treated to a fine assortment of hot dogs, nachos, and maybe, if I was lucky, a burger. Maybe.
Joke’s on me. Livestrong Park is perhaps the most fantastic cooking set up in which these feet have ever tread. Not only are there at least four kitchens (that I saw), the stadium has everything: fryers, ovens, pop corn poppers, smokers, sous vide machines, pizza ovens, a wine cellar with flour-to-ceiling bottles, and, more than likely, a partridge and a pear tree (though that wasn’t part of the tour.) It was basically a “Chef’s Disney Land” according to Chef Wade.
Dining at Livestrong
Of course, Chef Wade and his crew have to have a big capacity to make food because there are a lot of places in Livestrong to eat. In addition to the concession stands, there’s the Field Club (an area at field level serving all-you-can-eat fruit and cheese, charcuterie, meat at carving stations, seafood selections, veggies, barbecue and other various chef’s specialty items.)
Then there’s the Shield Club, a less formal dining area offering an a la carte menu across seven different pods that range from sushi inspired by the chefs from Nara, Minsky’s pizza, a sausage station, BBQ, dessert, and a burger/beer station that offers perhaps the best value at the club. For $10, you can get a bacon cheese burger topped with special potatoes and special sauce served with a side order of fries. From what I hear, before it’s all said and done, that’s a six inch tall (or more) burger with fries for less than what you’d pay at any gourmet burger place in the city.
Then there are the luxury boxes which have a common serving area that offers many of the same amenities as the Field Club, but serves everything as beautifully presented small plates. These plates include salad selections and the Food Network’s recipe for drunken pork. So good.
And, if you’re not tired of walking by now, there’s still the wine cellar and the pizza oven in the owner’s box, which is actually two stories and can seat a small army of hungry eaters.
In other words, lots of good stuff going on.
Events at Livestrong
Oh, and if that’s not enough, when there’s not a game on, there’s concerts and special events. For instance, this year Farm Aid’s at Livestrong, which will force Chef Wade and his team (in particular Chef Pascal) to build an organic, seasonal menu in keeping with Farm Aid’s traditions. (I’m trying to get an idea of what the menu will be there…stay tuned for more details.)
Also, when there’s not a game, you can have your event (company meeting, corporate outing, wedding, eat-a-thon) at Livestrong. The day I was there, the Mexican Chamber of Commerce and a Jewish business group were both holding functions. I point this out because Chef Wade was given the opportunity to prepare authentic dishes for both groups…at the same time. I didn’t get to try the food for the Mexican Chamber of Commerce, but I could smell it. And it smelled good.
I did get to some of the Jewish group’s (specially ordered kosher) menu: smoked fish (flown in special for the event) on sliced bread with apple cream cheese. It was so good. So good.
What Else Did I Eat?
Well after walking across the stadium, up it, down it, and shutting Chef Wade’s hand in the walk-in (oops), he was gracious enough to let me try a few items.
Of what I tried, three dishes really stood out. The first was the drunken pork mentioned above. It was deep, carmelized, warm, salty and just a little bit sweet. That pork was paired with the second of the memorable dishes: a spicy slaw with celery root. The slaw was cool, which went well with the pork, but had such an amazing flavor from the celery root. I never thought I’d like celery slaw but it was terrific and brought out the deeper notes in the pork.
Last was a cold white truffle polenta.
This polenta should have its own entry in the Encyclopedia of Awesome. Although, even as I type “cold white truffle polenta” I am a man of many emotions. One on hand, I still can’t get over: cold? polenta? No, that can’t be right. On the other hand, I remember how amazing it was. The cold of the polenta against a perfectly cooked rosemary chicken (and maybe some of the slaw and pork…) The differences in temperature making the dish come alive, while still delivering just the perfect earthy flavor of white truffle. I thought I had had good polenta. No polenta is as good as that polenta.
So in summary: I. WANT. MORE.
The Bad News
Sadly, the Shield Club, Field Club and (strangely enough) the Owner’s Box, aren’t open for everyone. You have to have a special ticket as part of your season ticket package (I checked) and they’re all sold out this year. But, there’s always next year. And it’s worth it for the food!
With that said, I’m going to do my best Tom Cruise/Ethan Hawke impression and see if I can’t Mission: Impossible my way into the Field Club. Maybe I can dangle from the ceiling, dropping down to steal a bite when no one is looking. Yeah, that will work.
Buy season tickets. It’s worth it to eat.
And thanks to Chef Wade for the tour. I wish him the best of luck and to all of you looking for a job…
HE’S HIRING!!! He needs to staff up, so maybe you, too, can play in a chef’s Disney Land.