For the chefs who serve food to the roughly 700,000 fans at the U.S. Open, the challenge of satisfying massive hordes each year while also adapting their menu to changing trends can be tricky.
Tony Mantuano, owner of New York’s Spiaggia, starts planning for the two-week-long event up to nine months in advance. This year he was focused on sourcing his food locally.
But not many farms in the Tri-State area can produce enough to meet the demands of a U.S. Open crowd.
“You have to have a great battle plan and you have to find the right source,” Mantuano said at a tasting at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Thursday. “A farmer just showed me a whole field of arugula that she’s growing just for us. She’s like, ‘There’s your field. That’s your arugula.’”
Mantuano’s offerings at this year’s U.S. Open include a salumi antipasto, wine and food pairings and his signature Flaming Ouzo Shrimp.
David Burke, whose eponymous restaurants are scattered around New York City, is going for a different culinary trend this year: he added a gluten-free Portobello burger to his Champions Bar & Grill menu.
“Believe it or not, I think it’s going to be pretty popular,” Burke said.
Burke, who is a cheftestant on the current season of the television show Top Chef Masters, said getting a U.S. Open kitchen running is comparable to one of the show’s most popular challenges
“Restaurant Wars is pretty hard,” he said, when asked to compare the tennis opening to television task of opening a restaurant in 24 hours.
In addition to the Portobello burger, Burke is serving up a dry-aged bone-in ribeye, a “NY Minute” steak salad and his signature cheesecake lollipops.
While the ability to adapt to customer demand can be important to the success of a restaurant, there’s one U.S. Open chef who said he saw no need to change his menu from previous years: Masaharu Morimoto.
The “Iron Chef” said sushi has a way of agreeing with nearly every trend.
“People know it’s healthy. They know it’s fresh,” he said. He added that he focuses on making sure customers get the same quality at the U.S. Open that they would get at his other eateries.
“I bring high level sous chefs from my restaurants,” Morimoto said.
But what about when customers don’t want sushi or arugula, and don’t care about gluten content? After all, this is a sporting event.
That’s where Elizabeth Karmel’s Hill Country barbecue comes in.
Her smoked brisket, ‘Texas Tenders” (basically enormous chicken tenders) and pies should have no problem finding their way down diners gullets.
“You’re on vacation when you come to a sporting event, even tennis,” Karmel said. “Carrots sticks are just not going to make it.”