Chris Giacalone oversees a team of around 1,100 to serve a sold-out basketball arena
Have you ever seen 1,500 servings of popcorn, 1,200 hotdogs, 1,100 chicken tenders, and countless burgers, tacos, and sandwiches prepared all at once? That’s what goes on in the kitchens during a typical game day at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY. And it all happens because of Chris Giacalone, Vice President of Hospitality and Strategy. On this episode of Clocking In, we follow him to see what it takes to feed 18,000 people a day.
Giacalone’s day starts at 9 a.m. when he takes calls to prepare for the day’s event or game. On this particular day, he’s getting ready to shift from a week of concerts to an NBA game, which to him means going from high bar sales to high food sales.
At the arena, he goes to check in on the several private clubs, which include the 40/40 Club, the Qatar Airways club, and Crown Club, and are all overseen by executive chef Livio Velardo. In his kitchen, Velardo prepares dishes like spicy rigatoni, dry-aged tomahawk steaks, the Barclays Burger, and more.
Around 5:30 p.m. Giacalone oversees the output of food from the kitchen to the suites, to ensure that the food is hot and ready by the time the guests arrive.
“Suites seem very uncomplicated to the naked eye,” he remarks. “Depending on the amount of suites that are booked that night, or if some party suites get expanded to host bigger groups, effectively what you’re doing is serving 86 separate parties.”
Meanwhile, the clubs are readying food for their guests, so that it’s ready to be set up about 20 to 30 minutes before arena doors open.
“On a typical game night amongst all of our departments, we’re serving 18,000 people in about two and a half or three hours,” says Giacalone.
The department with the most variables and challenges is concessions, which includes big chains like Fuku and local Brooklyn businesses like Nene’s Taqueria and Pasta Louise. Things peak for concessions at halftime, when they experience the biggest rush with only 15 minutes to get food right, and get customers back in their seats to enjoy the game.
When the game is over and the crowds leave by 11 p.m., Giacalone reflects on his day.
“It really does become a moment where you take pause and say ‘Wow, how did we just serve thousands of anything?’” says Giacalone. “I think you have to be wired a certain way, I think you need to have a little bit of a screw loose to be quite honest with you because it’s so hard.”
Check out the full video to see what else it takes to feed 18,000 people at the Barclays Center.