Hard Rock Stadium Executive Chef Dayanny De La Cruz is going all out for the Miami Open. So much of her year is spent preparing food on an afternoon-by-afternoon basis for events like NFL games or concerts. But the two-week tennis tournament, which begins Monday, offers plenty of canvas for culinary exploration.
“It’s extremely exciting,” De La Cruz said. “One of the things about the Miami Open is it’s a new view at this stadium. It’s a different beast, with different demographics, and it’s stretched out a lot.”
With a spread-out crowd and plenty of long days, De La Cruz said it was important to foster a neighborhood atmosphere of a culinary compound with plenty of options for the fans.
“You have to think more diverse meals,” she said. “You have to have variety. The fans are here for 12 hours. We’ve made it sort of interactive to keep it interesting.”
“Interesting” has never been a problem for De La Cruz, who has prioritized making the venue’s concessions program more diverse to coincide with the growing trends in venue concession options. For the Miami Open, De La Cruz spent two months working diligently to craft a new menu with items ranging from a watermelon and tomatillo salad to the mojo pork belly masitas to one of her favorites, the Cubano sausage. Then she brought in a bevy of Miami restaurants to complement it, including SuViche, Novecento, Casa Tua Cucina, Bourbon Steak by Michael Mina and Kiki on the River.
This year, the @MiamiOpen will be serving the "Mo Smash" cocktail.
Created in partnership with Hendricks Gin, the drink features soda water, 1 ounce of Hendricks, 1.5 ounces of Blood Orange Sour, and 1/2 an ounce of Blood Orange Liqueur. pic.twitter.com/cKhkVuHvlS
— Front Office Sports (@frntofficesport) March 17, 2019
From start to finish, the Hard Rock Stadium culinary crew worked on the tennis tournament plans alongside other everyday responsibilities, something De La Cruz characterized as a point of pride for how unusual it was.
“If you look at every other tennis property in the country, even the world, tennis facilities do the tournament and close,” she said. “I’ve very proud we continued with our catering and other events all while prepping for tennis.”
Food service company Centerplate also worked hand-in-hand with De La Cruz to ensure she has everything she needed and help bring a fresh new look to concessions to the Miami Open.
“Hard Rock Stadium is going to be a fantastic new home for the Miami Open, and we are thrilled to play our part,” Centerplate CEO Chris Verros said. “We have worked hard alongside our venue partners and IMG to create a memorable food and beverage experience – with an authentic South Florida feel – that will leave fans wanting to come back again and again.”
The food options at the Miami Open are meant to help entice tennis fans to return next year, but De La Cruz is confident the approach will also begin to make its way into other staple events at Hard Rock Stadium. She’s already treating this menu as something of a test kitchen for next year’s NFL season, as well as Super Bowl LIV in 2020.
Part of that was knowing when to stick to old favorites. Plenty of Miami Dolphins season ticket holders also optioned into a tennis ticket membership, so De La Cruz made sure some of the hits from the stadium’s food selection are still available, such as the hand-pulled, 24-hour-smoked Everglades BBQ line. And, of course, there’s always hot dogs, which at Hard Rock Stadium are all beef and served on fresh-baked buns delivered each morning.
“Times are changing and this generation coming to the stadium is seeking a higher value,” she said. “If we can offer the variety they want, you don’t have to spend the money elsewhere. We’re offering what you’re looking for outside inside.
“We still have all the standards, hot dogs and popcorn, but we’ve merged the best of both worlds.”