The leader of the guys in chef’s whites, Tim Dionisio, proved he was clearly smart and he was saying all the right things. He pointedly spoke about his “commitment to Ohio” and “local ingredients” and “compostable” materials and “zero waste.” As his speech alighted on a wealth of other zeitgeisty dining topics — like providing food truck fare and gluten-free and vegan items — he was careful to emphasize that his cooking approach would concentrate on “scratch made” freshness and it would be “creative, creative, creative.” Edamame hummus, an in-house smoked pork carnitas torta and all-Ohio-meat hot dogs topped with a blue cheese slaw were cited.
That I was in Ohio Stadium and learning about its new lineup of concessions is probably almost as surprising to you as it was to me. See, going back to my grade school days, I’ve attended more than a hundred Buckeye football games, and I’ve eagerly anticipated every single one — including cupcake slaughters played in horrible weather. As for looking forward to eating in the Horseshoe? Yeah, not so much. Based on what I recently saw, heard and tasted though, that could be changing.
Dionisio, executive chef for OSU athletics, went on to explain — and to allow media freeloaders to sample — how the university’s new partnership with Levy Restaurants (big-time major league sports caterers who’ve provided food for the Super Bowl, U.S. Open, World Series and Kentucky Derby) is bringing palate surprises to hungry Buckeye fans this season. Among the gigantic buffet of excelling-in-its-genre fare I tried that day, the huge carnitas torta (with pickled onions and black beans) along with smoked brisket potato skins (more smoky meat than crispy spuds), loaded nachos (with homemade cheese sauce, chili and salsa) plus the messy Buckeye O’wich Smasher (a molten chocolate and peanut butter panini) delivered take-notice, restaurant-style flavors. Look for them in special stands scattered throughout the stadium.
Obviously catering for more than 100,000 people is a Herculean chore, so I’d be shocked if what I tried that afternoon under the close supervision of actual chefs will eat as “restaurant-y” during game-day situations. But man, these ambitious new OSU provisions are an impressive step in the right direction.