Apr 1, 2009

Festival of Chefs 2009: MLSE

Planning the next venue to experience Robert Bartley and the ACC restaurants required a little more effort than just reserving a table...you need to reserve a seat too.
(Warning: the following entry is laden with puns that I simply could not 'pass' up)

Bartley
is executive chef and director of culinary for all of the MLSE, he’s a ring master of a sporting (food) empire. He orchestrates all food and beverage needs for three award-winning restaurants, more than 50 concession stands at the Air Canada Centre and BMO Field, plus a catering business. In addition to
being in charge of feeding the millions of fans attending Raptor, Rock, Leaf and TFC games, he’s also in charge of feeding the athletes and ensuring they have win-worthy pre-post game meals. And as if that wasn’t enough, Bartley was also brought on board to develop the menus for two new restaurants that will be built in Maple Leaf Square, a new $500 million sports and entertainment development which is being built beside the ACC and is scheduled to open in 2010.

Afrim and Bartley

Bartley developed a relationship with the CheeseB when he was at his previous post as executive chef at the Four Seasons Hotels. Thinking of stadium-style food your mind may think the refined CheeseB is 'offside', (where’s the ref!), but that’s not the case and they find ways to 'team' up...which I soon discovered. Bartley maintains his relationship by collaborating with CheeseB on special functions within and outside of the ACC.


Raw honeycomb with a friend -- a very large wedge of delicious Piave

Big Cheese attended one such function with Afrim; a celebration for the region of Veneto.
This one was part homage to Italian Raptors, part fan appreciation. Basketball players and special guests circulated the practice court while tasting cheese and raw honeycomb (which O-reagano blogged about earlier this week).


A shot of the scrumptious selection of CheeseB on the practice court at ACC

People mixed and mingled while 'slam dunking' delicious cheeses in honey at the cheese station among a circuit of tables around the room of other food 'roster'. (Ok that pun deserves a penalty.)

Mind the 'dribble' on the court!

The cheese portion of the evening took place pre-game. That same night, after the Raptors took to the main arena and the fans settled into their seats to relax and cheer on, Bartley bustles to oversee the kitchens at the Platinum Club, the Air Canada Club and the Hot Stove Club.

The Platinum Club

Before people stampede to the Platinum Club at half time for steak and other main course food items, they’ve reserved their table and placed their orders beforehand and will be expecting their meal to come swiftly as they sit (therefore minimizing the risk of missing even a minute of the game). For regulars who are already 'in step' to the setup you'll notice that drinks are on hand, ready to go as well. ALL of those meals must be prepped and ready to go essentially at the same time! Phew, I'm exhausted just thinking about it...I'm thinking Bartley runs around more than the players on court. And that's only ONE of THREE restaurants.

View from the Air Canada Club while the Rock get rocking.

Because the venue is so vast, Breemer and Big Cheese checked out the Air Canada Club during a Toronto Rock game. We were able to watch our lacrosse team kick Rochester’s butt (and when I say kick butt, if you haven't experienced a Lacrosse game, they really do kick literal butt), 'butt' we were out of harms’ way perched from the nice view at the restaurant. The menu at the Air Canada Club offered more pub grub servings than the refined menu at the Platinum Club.

Mmmm, foooood!

We ordered up a feast of fish and chips, parmesan fries, calamari, shepherds pie and a burger all with a little gourmet touch. The slender fried onion rings topping the burger was a great 'score'!

Now that's what we call a burger!

Sampling the 'winning' selection at the ACC has wet Breemer’s appetite for the variety of food she’s drooling to dig into when she goes to BMO Field for the TFC home opener tomorrow (April 4). I’ll be reporting back on that early next week to accompany this post, so stay tuned!

UPDATE!!!

It was not a stellar start to the TFC home season on Sat (April 4) with wicked winds, sloppy playing, even worse umpiring (who are ya?) and the end of the team’s undefeated streak. But that didn’t deter fans from coming out in full force to BMO Field (after all, this is our house!). At half-time Breemer scurried as fast as she could to get in line to taste some of the new food offerings at the field. Unfortunately, she didn’t run fast enough as most items were all sold out by the time she got to the front of the long (LONG) lines. However, that must be a good sign of yummy food. The meat pies seemed to fly off the shelves and the last chicken curry roll was long gone by the time she reached the cashier. But, luckily the hot dog hit the spot and the BBQ pork wrap (with pickles!) was an interesting new option. But this was just the first of many home games and many chances to try the new treats Robert Bartley helped concoct. So, altogether now, to the tune of "Jesus Christ Superstar": T-O-R, O-N-T, OOOOOO TFC!!!

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