FOOD QB: Dayanny De la Cruz will preside over F&B at the Super Bowl. (Matthew Noel / Centerplate)

Centerplate’s Dayanny De la Cruz has been preparing for this moment since she was 6

The Kansas City Chiefs are going to the Super Bowl for the third time this year; it will be the seventh appearance for the San Francisco 49ers. Beating them both is concessionaire Centerplate, which will be providing food and beverage at the biggest game of the year for the 15th time.

Besides the new creations being cooked up for this year’s game, there’s something else new on the menu, according to Centerplate officials: the first female Super Bowl head chef.

Super Bowl LIV will take place Feb. 2 at Hard Rock Stadium near Miami. Centerplate, owned since 2017 by Sodexo, has been providing hospitality services at the venue, the home of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins, since 2001 and signed a 10-year extension in 2018, which will take the contract through 2031.

Preparing for a Super Bowl is no small feat, but executive chef Dayanny De la Cruz, born in the Dominican Republic, is making it look easy. She has been at the stadium for the last three seasons and knew when she took the job that Super Bowl LIV was going to be played at the venue.

“It’s one of things that attracted me to the building,” said De la Cruz, who didn’t really get the gravity of the situation until she told her family that she would be overseeing the food experience for the game. “When I said it to my mother, suddenly reality hit.”

Being the first female chef at a Super Bowl is a great honor, she said. 

“I come from a family of strong women,” De la Cruz said. “My grandmother started me in the kitchen, cooking rice and beans, when I was 6.  She could make soup out of nothing. That’s part of who I am today and what got me ready to tackle a Super Bowl.”

The chef has been poring over Super Bowl creations and other details for about six months. 

“It’s like catering a big wedding,” she said. “It’s trial and error, tastings and feedback.”

There will be 55 concession outlets, 167 suites and seven all-inclusive clubs at Hard Rock Stadium for the Super Bowl. Three additional mobile kitchens will join the seven existing kitchens to prepare all the food. Twenty-five additional chefs are flying in from Centerplate locations as far away as Vancouver and Denver, and they have 650-plus years of culinary experience and have worked more than 35 Super Bowls among them. It will take a 50% increase in staff to get the job done. The additional workers will come from an agency that the stadium has worked with for many years.

Nathalie Bellon-Szabo, CEO of Sodexo Sports & Leisure Worldwide, said it was a source of pride for the company to be at the center of the Super Bowl.

“It is an honor for us to host big events, and the Super Bowl is one of the biggest,” Bellon-Szabo said. “And as soon as that is done, we move on to other world-class events like the French Open and the Tokyo Olympics.”

On the menu at Hard Rock Stadium will be foods that reflect Miami’s diversity. “We’re a melting pot here,” De la Cruz said. “Every street has a different flavor and nationality and culture, and we’re going to bring the city into the stadium and show it off.” 

Offerings that will reflect that diversity include pork chops with fresh homemade ginger sauce, Cubano sausages, fresh watermelon salads, empanadas, lobster tails, barbecued pulled pork, tuna tartare, lamb skewers and Argentine asado. 

An emphasis on healthy food is a priority for De la Cruz, and she’s put the first meatless Impossible Burger to be offered at a Super Bowl into the mix this year. Prominent local restaurateurs will also have a presence.

“The culinary scene in Miami is unbelievable and we’re really going to be taking advantage of that,” said Steve Pangburn, CEO of Sodexo Sports & Leisure North America. “The fans are going to get a unique experience.”

Some items, such as macarons from French bakery Lenôtre, gourmet chocolate bon bons made by hand by Centerplate’s pastry team in Denver, and seafood paella from Wanda Metropolitano in Madrid, will be brought in on game day.

There will be no rest after the Super Bowl. The Miami Open tennis tournament at the stadium is right around the corner in March.

The reality now firmly in front of her, De la Cruz isn’t stirred. 

“This will be a world-class experience, and we’re thrilled to have the eyes of the world on us,” she said. 

“We’re looking forward to having everybody into our house. Bring it on.”