Just 35 Chefs Feed all 100,000 Fans at Michigan Stadium on Any Given Saturday
Michigan Stadium - the Big House - in Ann Arbor is a college football mecca and the largest sporting venue in America. Would you believe that just 35 chefs are responsible for feeding the entire 100,000 fans that show up on game day?
35 chefs...along with an army of runners and (surprisingly mostly volunteer) servers.
It's a fact as Business Insider discovered when they took a look inside the culinary logistical enterprise that is foodservice at Michigan Stadium.
The fascinating 13-minute documentary video reveals some startling insights.
What seemed most striking is how slow and laborious the moving of food from kitchens to concession stands and luxury suites can be. Because of the age of the stadium and lack of renovation, there is just one concourse and one elevator that is needed to move everything. Staff says it can sometimes take up to an hour to catch the lone freight elevator.
Ironically though the stadium is known as the "Big House" and it has expanded over the years, that expansion has been to seating and suites rather than to the guts of the stadium where the work happens.
Food workers also get their steps in. Those who are responsible for running food and beverages say they can walk up to 6 miles around the stadium each Saturday.
Food Prep and Guard Dogs at Michigan Stadium
Much of the prep is done in the days leading up to gameday then put in cold storage to be ready for Saturday. In fact, the chefs generally wrap up all their food prep by 6PM on Friday for whatever they can make ahead.
The next most fascinating is that on game day the first crew gets in at 1AM. However, they're not alone. They need to be very vocal about their presence. The reason being the stadium is continually swept throughout the night by bomb dogs. The culinary workers enter calling out "Chef coming in! Chef coming in!" as they don't want to "enter a dark and empty kitchen and startle a bomb dog."
Culinary Gameday at Michigan Stadium
By 3AM food prep that can't be done ahead is started. Eggs are getting scrambled and chicken tenders are being fried.
Buddy's, the iconic Detroit-style pizza brand, is on hand. They prepare approximately 4,000 pizzas in 4 hours leading up to the game. The pizzas are crafted offsite but are cooked, cut and boxed at the stadium.
All told, the stadium does about $1 million dollars in revenue each game or to paraphrase the head chef, "we are a restaurant that is only open a few Saturdays. We have to make our entire annual profit on those days."
Postgame Aftermath at Michigan Stadium
When the game is done the obvious work of cleanup gets underway. There's a seemingly endless amount of pots and pans as well as reusable plates, glasses, and silverware from the suites as opposed to the disposable service from concession stands.
Perhaps equally important is the food waste. Chefs review what got eaten and what didn't. They use that info to better plan for future games to eliminate as much waste (cash in the trash) as possible.
However, all food that can be reused is donated to food banks and kitchens across the region.
Check out the video and you likely won't ever take for granted the concession lines you stand in at Michigan Stadium again.