Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo, owners of Animal, Son of a Gun and the Jon and Vinny’s restaurants, are working on the food lineup for SoFi Stadium, the 3.1-million-square-foot, indoor-outdoor sports and entertainment complex in Inglewood that is home to the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers.
“Most stadiums, the approach is, ‘Hey, let’s go get Domino’s to pay us to put a concession stand in our stadium,‘” Shook said. “The approach here is ‘Hey, we are going to build one of the nicest kitchens we’ve been in, underground in the basement, and we’re going to produce all the food that goes to the concession stands.‘”
Shook and Dotolo are acting as culinary consultants to help with menu development and product sourcing at the stadium, which can seat 70,000 to 100,000 people, depending on the setup. They’re working with executive chef Robert Biebrich and vice president of culinary innovation Gretchen Beaumarchais of Legends, the hospitality company that will operate the stadium’s culinary program. Legends also handles the concessions at Angel Stadium and a number of other venues around the country.
The James Beard award-winning chefs are used to cooking for a crowd. Dotolo and Shook operate a successful catering and events company called Caramelized Productions, and they also partnered with Delta Air Lines in 2019 to create dishes for select Delta One flights.
While they wouldn’t discuss specific stadium menu items just yet, they did share that they worked with the Legends team to create four concepts for the 42 concession stands. The idea is to offer re-imagined versions of stadium classics. Hot dogs, cheeseburgers and chicken tenders were all mentioned during our conversation.
“There’s going to be hot dogs, because it’s a stadium,” Shook said. “We tasted probably 50 different hot dogs.”
Shook said they narrowed down the choices to the top 10 and then made some calls to ensure that producers could handle the volume needed for a stadium of this size. He and Dotolo then tested buns, toppings and all the other components of the menu items.
Scaling items made it almost impossible to use select producers. But some were able to make it work.
“We were able to bring in DiNapoli tomatoes, the ones we use at Jon and Vinny’s,” Dotolo said.
The concession stands will feature glass windows that offer a view into their kitchens. They are also strategically placed to offer views of the field and the videoboard, a screen with 70,000 square feet of digital LED that will show whatever event is happening at the time.
“For a chef, it’s easy to get weird and funky,” Shook said. “One of the things we really try to keep in mind is out of the fans that come there, not everyone is going to be a chef. What are the items they are going to be looking for?”
Dotolo and Shook said they spent months working on R&D for menu items.
“One of the items that we were super stickler on was the chicken finger,” Shook said.