For the last few months, Golden 1 Center’s kitchen has served as not only a core part of arena operations but also as host of a defacto reality TV cooking show competition — and the stakes were high.

“It was hard because every contestant and participant in the program had great concepts,” said John Rinehart, president of business operations for the Sacramento Kings.

Rinehart was part of a judging panel for the inaugural Capitalize: Food competition, an entrepreneurship program highlighting local culinary creators, with the winner seeing their products featured at the downtown Sacramento arena during the NBA season.

“We had a lot of different concepts in the finals, which made it interesting to taste all those and figure out how they would be presented in an arena,” Rinehart said.

The competition was formed in conjunction with Legends, Golden 1 Center’s food provider, and kicked off in August. It came down to four finalists. The winner, announced Sept. 14, was a mother-daughter-led operation known as Sugar Coated Cupcakes.

“They have cupcakes, but they also have a fried chicken cupcake concept that’ll be served as well and it’ll be served in one of our concession stands as a specialty item on the menu, and then you’ll be able to get the cupcakes at various different places throughout the arena,” Rinehart said.

Also on the judging panel were Golden 1 Center general manager and senior vice president Alex Rodrigo; executive chef Brien Kuznicki; Legends on-site general manager Deidre Davis and local television news anchor Lisa Gonzales. Sugar Coated Cupcakes will be for sale at all events at the arena, including concerts.

The Capitalize: Technology contest started at Golden 1 Center in 2016, the year the arena opened, and has evolved over the past seven years to specifically highlight technological startups and award cash and in-kind prizes to the winners.

In 2024, the first Capitalize: Innovation contest will take place, which Rinehart says will be a broad category related to improving and adding to the overall event experience at the arena and surrounding Downtown Commons district. That means three Capitalize competitions will take place at the arena annually.

“Food is the language that everybody understands. It’s a good gathering point and a good place for an experience,” Rinehart said. “That’s why we thought having a standalone Capitalized food program would be pretty interesting.”