It's "Foodfest" at the NBA All-Star Game

Published: Feb 13, 2014 16:45pm EST
By Jeff Kryglik, Sports Writer for Konsume Sports

Please Note: This article was updated Feb 13, 2014 @ 04:45pm EST


New Orleans, Louisiana is one of the most attractive cities to visit in the United States of America for several reasons, but sporting events are something the "Big Easy" does well.

Even though the lights went out inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome during Super Bowl XLVII between the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers, the game and event itself turned out to be one of the more exciting fan experiences in recent memory.

The NBA is now making it's way down south for it's biggest display of the league's best players with its all-star weekend festivities. 

Sure, LeBron James, Kevin Durant and all of the usual suspects will be there. There will be a dunk contest, skills competition... the whole nine.

But the fan experience is crucial to the success of the event as without the fans there are no sports.

And with the event taking place in New Orleans, the cuisine characteristic of the area takes center stage. 

With roughly 50,000 fans, likely more, expected to witness the events of All-Star Weekend, there are a lot of mouths to feed and a lot of heads required to make sure the preparation is done with perfection. 

Centerplate, Inc. is the food vending corporation responsible for all things food this weekend. The entire operation is overseen by Chef Lenny Martinsen as his experience with the Bayou culture and culinary scene is second to none. 

"The fans and NBA call it 'Fanfest', but we like to call it 'Foodfest' with all of the work that goes into the event," Martinsen said. "There is so much preparation that goes into the event; we never stop preparing and serving food to the fans from Thursday to Sunday."

Over roughly 1,000 pounds of chicken is prepped, cooked and served all throughout the weekend and the preparations began Wednesday evening into the early morning Thursday. The same can be said for the seafood mac-and-cheese -- think macaroni-and-cheese, but with shrimp, crawfish, scallops and crab meat -- the pork belly sandwich and the ready-to-eat chicken or steak tacos and burritos. Preparations can take 12 or more hours depending on the item and Martinsen divvies up responsibilities as he has to be able to trust those on his team. Everyone participating partakes in some aspect of preparation, cooking and serving the dishes at some point or another, but being a multi-tasker is the key to success in generating positive reviews at a highly-anticipated sporting event.

Martinsen and his staff of roughly 100 culinary professionals -- 800-1,000 co-workers is a guess as to how many make the weekend function smoothly -- have to focus on not only providing great food, but also make sure that they personalize the event for the fans and give them something to remember.

"How many people can say they have had crab cake sliders in their lifetime," Martinsen told "Our patrons will be able to." 

As unique and delicious as crab cake sliders sound, Centerplate has a lot on their plates -- pun intended -- when it comes to handling the high volume and variety of customers. 

"The toughest part of the weekend is working the club level and preparing the food a la carte," Martinsen said. "You don't want to make a mistake, but you also want the fans to enjoy themselves in addition to the food."

Martinsen was responsible for handling the food preparations of last year's Super Bowl in New Orleans and it is understandable why he was asked to handle this event.

"When it comes down to it, it's all about the event," Martinsen explained. "If we can give the fans something to remember with our cuisine, great! All of the recipes are a combination of the Cajun cuisine, a little bit from my team and I like to add a personal touch as well. But it's always a group effort with Centerplate and that's what Centerplate does. It's the best at catering to all types of people and food-lovers."

For all of those lucky enough to experience the NBA All-Star Game and its festivities, there certainly won't be a shortage on great Bayou cuisine that will want patrons to return back to the French Quarter. 


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