ACF Chef Chris Scrivano’s culinary career has been full of pivots. Although he fell in love with working in kitchens as a teenager, after graduating from high school, he enrolled in a radiology program at his parents’ suggestion. He found himself bored with the program and quit to go into culinary education. Since then, Chef Scrivano, who currently is the culinary network senior manager at Chartwells, talks about his work serving fans at sporting arenas.
Q: How did you end up getting into sports foodservice?
A: I worked for Delaware North and was the executive chef for their corporate headquarters in Buffalo, New York. They have many different sectors — travel, leisure, airports, hotels and resorts and sports service. So for some reason being at the headquarters, I fell in under sports service. When they started catching on that I could do a lot more than feed the 500 people every day for lunch Monday through Friday, they said, “Okay, Chris, you’re going to start going to the night games at the Buffalo Sabres.” Literally I would just get off of work and take the train down to the Sabres’ Arena. I started working in the 200 club level and quickly grew into overseeing the 200 level and the 100 level for the senior executive chef there on game nights.
When the Buffalo Bills season started, I would still do my normal Monday through Friday at the corporate headquarters. Then I’d go to do the Sabres’ games in the evenings, and then I would go and support the Buffalo Bills football games. They had 81 suites there, but I was only responsible for the three mega suites, including the owner Jeremy Jacobs’ suite. I would oversee those three suites, and it got me into my private cheffing because Mr. and Mrs. Jacobs’ private chef had left and they needed somebody to help out. I stepped in and I was cooking for Mr. and Mrs. Jacobs.
Q: Are you a sports fan? Were you excited about being able to do this?
A: It was absolutely amazing. I’m a big hockey fan, a big football fan, and there’s something about feeding 20 to 40 to 50,000 people within a time period of three or four hours. It’s absolutely exhilarating. I love the logistics of how to get that amount of food out the door and done excellently. I wouldn’t say it’s perfect because there’s always room to grow, but it was absolutely amazing to see these kinds of operations and being a part of that.
And then in 2014 being selected to go to the Major League Baseball All-Star Game was one of the most amazing things in my career at the time that I was asked to do. There were only three of us in charge of feeding the media compound, so we would do 3,000 covers — breakfast, lunch, and dinner — with just the three of us. It was unbelievable the people I got to meet, the chefs I got to meet. That was my first time actually going out of a single unit and networking and meeting other chefs and collaborating.
Q: What would you say is the difference between a sports service environment and working in a restaurant?
I think the big difference really is in sports service, you’re not in one location all the time. Not all of your kitchens are built the exact same way. There’s a lot of logistics that go with proper planning based on your menuing, so you can actually keep the integrity of the food. As an example, you might be cooking in a commissary kitchen down on the first floor of the stadium or the arena, and then you’re going to have to transport all that food in hot boxes up through an elevator. You’re dealing with 15,000 or 20,000 people — just between security and other people working and using that same elevator — to get your food up to the service area. When you’re working in a restaurant, your kitchen’s right there, you put your food on a plate and it goes right out. So it’s a little bit more logistics that go behind sports service. I think the challenge really is trying to keep the integrity of the food, and still trying to give that same feel as if you’re in a restaurant — but sometimes you’ve got to make decisions based off of what you can serve and what you can’t serve.