Scott Fuernstein is a chef with a game plan.
As the executive chef for V/Gladieux Enterprises at Toledo's Fifth Third Field, Mr. Fuernstein works on each and every game day to keep the baseball fans just about as happy with his food as the Toledo Mud Hens hope to do by winning the game.
As at other major American ballparks, Fifth Third Field food concessions offer more than the typical hamburgers and hot dogs. In addition, with the expertise of an executive chef and his staff, there's everything from custom catering to premium ballpark food with plenty of choices in the 32 suites.
Whether they are preparing an exotic and elaborate antipasto platter, grilled chicken, or the gourmet Black Angus hot dogs, spicy wings, and fruit and cheese trays, foods that are fun for the guests are served with fanfare.
“A lot of orders are not typical,” says the chef, who is a Michigan native. “The antipasto platter has Italian cold cuts such as spicy capicolla, Genoa salami, and mortadella, Italian cheeses, marinated artichokes, mushrooms, kalamata olives, dijon sauces, and baguettes. We also have [gourmet] hot dogs, the trademark ball park food.”
“We can even do a hot food plate such as a carving station in a suite. We might serve roasted sirloin with redskinpotatoes and fresh vegetables. With a chef in a suite, we will carve the meat for 18 guests.”
On a typical game day, Mr. Fuernstein arrives about 8:30 a.m. at the fully equipped stainless-steel kitchen behind the concessions on the main level of the stadium. He's got food orders for 32 suites to prepare (“We focus on each one individually,” he says), three to nine picnics in the picnic terraces (the Roost, the third-base Coop, and Homerun Terrace in center field) and special parties in the Roost at the adjacent 406 Building.
In the course of a day, the chef serves between 1,000 and 2,000 people, thanks to three to four deliveries daily of fresh, frozen, and canned cases of ingredients plus fresh breads, produce, and meats. Hundreds of those premium Black Angus hot dogs and hamburgers stream out of his kitchen, in addition to a complete repertoire of culinary possibilities.
He has a staff of eight cooks in addition to 20 waitstaff and four captains at the suite level. Although concessions are not his responsibility, on a day like last Tuesday's School Day for kids, his kitchen was assisting concessions with preparing the 7,000 hot dogs needed.
“We pull all our resources together on a day like today,” said Craig Nelson, general manager for V/Gladieux at Fifth Third Field.
However, when the game is at 7 p.m., “We do prep for the game the day of, so everything is nice and fresh. We do the cold food products first. By 2 or 2:30 p.m., we start the hot food,” says Mr. Fuernstein.
Hot food includes grilled chicken, brats and sausages, and other entree items. He also enjoys introducing new dishes such as the Netto (Nest) Pasta with Herb Encrusted Grilled Chicken, Shiitake and Porchini Mushrooms, Roasted Vegetables and Sweet Peppers topped with Parmigiano-Reggiano curls, basil infused olive oil served with Grilled Tuscan Bread.
Served on a platter with the vegetables fanned around the chicken and pasta, this dish is delicious. You can make it at home via the chef's three-part recipe.
For traditional dinner entrees, he can prepare grilled fillet with gorgonzola whipped new potatoes, asparagus tied with strips of roasted red peppers, and a red pepper coulis drizzled around the plate.
The picnics begin service at 5 p.m. The suites are served about 6 to 6:30 p.m. “We have last-minute orders from the suites,” says the chef who keeps his cell phone on and at his side. “Then the rest of the evening is easy and we're not under the gun.”
The new Fifth Third Field is becoming a popular location for community parties. Two weeks ago, the Toledo Opera held “Blame It on the Champagne,” a fund-raiser and grazing event. The menu included the very popular spinach and artichoke dip, tomato basil bruschetta, and a beef tenderloin roulade plus a full dessert table with mini French pastries.
However, Mr. Fuernstein's culinary responsibilities do not end with Fifth Third Field.
He continues as executive chef for V/Gladieux at the University of Toledo, responsible for catering. He did the catering at the Mayor's Inauguration party this winter as well as the Art on the Mall preview party each summer. The latter provided the menu that he is most proud of.
“Last year's theme was based on art using different artists. The waitstaff wore berets. It was a fun thing for us to break out of the norm,” says the chef, who prepared grilled artisan chicken marinated in different herbs. The chicken with smoked gouda cheese, spinach, and red pepper was rolled in puff pastry, baked and then sliced and served at a carving station.
Between all of his professional duties, the chef says, “I squeeze in my private life here and there. You keep weird hours.”
“For myself, I barbecue ribs or grill steak. Cooking for others, I like to do something where I can display my creativity.”
“My mother is an excellent cook,” says the Toledo resident. “Her background is southern cuisine. That's reflected in my cooking when it comes time to do down home cuisine. I take traditional jambalaya and corn cakes and present it in a new fashion.”
At this point in a chef's career, “inspiration needs to come from within yourself,” he says. Initially, though, it was his Macomb Community College (Mich.) culinary instructor Chef Jeff Wolf who guided him on his career path.
Following his culinary training, he worked the Detroit area country-club circuit, including a stint at the Birmingham Athletic Club where he met Rick Whitehead, now executive chef for Gladieux Catering. Five years ago Mr. Fuernstein made the move to Toledo and the Gladieux position at UT.
Little did he know then that today he would be dishing up his specialties amid cries of “Play ball!”