The Dodgers season isn't just over for the players, but for all the staff and employees that it takes to uphold a professional sports franchise. One of those people is Chef Joseph Martin, a lifelong Dodger fan who also happens to be the Executive Chef at Dodger Stadium. We asked him a few questions about the loss, his job and whether or not to expect more picante dogs.
Squid Ink: You're the Executive Chef at Dodger Stadium. What exactly does that job entail?
Joseph Martin: It's really a little bit of everything. Feeding nearly 56,000 people, and keeping 56,000 food critics happy, takes a lot of planning and preparation. Overall my job is to ensure that all of the food at Dodger Stadium meets our high expectations. During games, I am constantly checking to make sure the hot dogs are hot and the rib eyes are cooked perfectly. I manage a pretty large culinary team and handle all of the ordering of product and then prepare production schedules, managing food cost and labor cost. I also develop all of the menus for concessions and premium areas.
SI: Any thoughts on the elimination?
JM: I feel the same as every Dodgers fan. Disappointed. After a long and pretty successful season you hate to see it come to an end like that. We were really hoping they could bring the series back home to L.A. I am looking forward to next year already though.
SI: How much food was prepped or purchased in anticipation of a return to Dodger Stadium? What happens to all that food?
JM: Good question. Thankfully we had the ability to hold our food purchase for a potential Game 6 until we knew the outcome of Game 5. If the Dodgers had won Wednesday night, we would have placed a huge order for food, deliveries would have started rolling in and the prep would have begun immediately. It would have been a fast and furious two days for our culinary team to get ready for Friday. Unfortunately we are starting our off-season today.
SI: What's the difference between being the executive chef during the regular season, versus the playoffs?
JM: The big difference is the intensity level. There's definitely excitement in the air as soon you get to the ballpark. Our whole Levy Restaurants culinary team gets excited and there's more of a buzz. Our menus also tend to have a little more flair and we come up with some fun playoff-themed items. There are also some extra events, including VIP parties that we might not have during the regular season, so it's definitely a busy time, but a lot of fun, especially when the team is winning.
SI: What are some of the main changes that you brought to the food at Dodger Stadium since taking over?
JM: This is my third season at the ballpark and I've been fortunate to be able to implement some really cool new changes. I helped develop the three Healthy Plate carts that offer fresh salads, sushi, fruit and sandwiches. I'm really proud of the variety of options that we offer fans. I also implemented a switch to grilling the majority of our hot dogs at the stadium versus steaming them. I think the Dodger Dog is best served grilled, but we are happy to provide both options. I also helped develop the new Brooklyn Dodger Pizza we have in concessions this year. We wanted to pay homage to the team's New York roots with a great pizza and we are really happy with it.
We also introduced fish tacos to the menu, and that was a push to incorporate great local flavors and a dish that's associated with our area. Since I joined the Dodger Stadium team, we have added our Farm to Fork chef table in the Stadium Club. We have some great dishes that use local and often organic ingredients to deliver really fresh and seasonal flavors. There's nothing better than the aroma of food cooked on an open grill. So we were really happy to introduce two new grill stands in each outfield corner this season. We are cooking dishes to order and definitely enticing fans with the aroma as they walk the concourse.
SI: You're a local guy, and a huge Dodger fan, right? Was it ever your intent to use your culinary skills to work for the Dodgers, or was that a total coincidence?
JM: I am definitely a huge Dodger fan. I was born in L.A. and raised in Pasadena. I grew up watching the Dodgers and probably went to 20-30 games a year as a kid. My favorite memories are the nachos and Dodger Dogs, of course. Ever since I entered the culinary field, being the chef at Dodger Stadium has been my dream job. It was the first place I applied when I graduated culinary school, but I didn't get hired. Instead I went to work for Ritz Carlton, then came back to California to work for Levy Restaurants after several years. I worked at the STAPLES Center for Levy, which is a great venue, but always hoped that I might end up at Dodger Stadium. Everyone knew I was a huge Dodgers fan. When they started discussing the possibility of me going over there to be the executive chef, it was so exciting. And when they offered me the opportunity, I didn't even hesitate to ask about pay or anything, I just said yes, absolutely. How many people can honestly say they have their dream job?
SI: Do you actually get to watch the games? In a way, isn't it sort of torturous to be a huge Dodger fan, but be absolutely guaranteed to be at work whenever they have a game?
JM: I do try to watch an inning a game. Usually after I've made the rounds and assured that all of the food is coming out great and the fans are happy, I will get down to the Dugout Club to watch. It's a great vantage point, even if it's only an inning. I honestly don't mind that I'm working all of the games. I feel so lucky to have this opportunity to do what I love at a place that is so special to me. How many people can say they get to come to work here every day, it's really pretty cool.
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SI: How big is your staff? How does that break down?
JM: We have approximately 65-70 on our culinary team that includes prep and line cooks and we have around 100 for the playoffs. Add in the purchasing department and my team is around 80 people. We also have around 700-800 concessions team members that work game days. There are more than 1,200 total Levy Restaurants team members working together to ensure fans have a great food experience at Dodger Stadium.
SI: This question comes from a friend of mine who's a hardcore Dodger fan: Why is it so hard to find picante dogs at Dodger Stadium? Can't they just be available everywhere?
JM: We love hearing fan feedback like this. We are constantly changing up our menus and trying new items and locations for them. This last season we worked in the Louisiana Hot and it was well received, but don't worry, we will definitely look at making the picante dog available in more locations.