At Pinstripe Alley, we love to talk about baseball and food. You see it in our articles and comments. And believe me, many conversations in our Slack channel end up as food discussions. That’s why, when presented with the chance to interview Yankee Stadium’s Senior Executive Chef Matt Gibson, I leaped at the opportunity. He was kind enough to take a few minutes out of his busy day to answer our questions.
Tell me about the road you took to being named Senior Executive Chef for Yankee Stadium?
[Laughs] That’s a long and winding road. Ultimately, this job fell into my lap. I had traveled through Europe and Asia. I’m originally from California and moved to New York to cook. After working in a couple hotels and a couple other restaurants in the city, I had the opportunity to be the number two for the Yankees. Over the years, I have taken over as the Senior Executive Chef. So, it’s a dream come true that I didn’t know I aspired to be. And that’s where I’m at now; I’ve been there since 2010.
You never know how those things work out, right?
No, it’s true! I never thought I’d be working at a stadium. I always thought at this point in my life I would own my own restaurant, but at a certain point it’s much easier to play with people’s money than your own. And you know, being associated with such a world class venue and team is a great honor for myself and we’re constantly pushing the boundaries of the food being available in the stadiums.
Speaking of that, did you ever expect ballparks to become a vehicle for finer cuisine?
Well, no. I think over the years – you look at the ways airports have changed their look at food, stadiums did it too. I think when the new Yankee Stadium was built, our mission was to ultimately push the envelope as much as we can.
You know, we have fans that come in and it’s not a baseball game without a hot dog and a beer. And we have that available for every fan that walks into the building! But nowadays, you almost see fans walking into the stadium and maybe not necessarily watching the game as much, and they’re just going around and trying new things. The Yankees were really cognizant of this and over the years they made some great renovations to appeal to that, these kind of social gathering areas that everybody can enjoy and walk around the stadium and try the creations we make for them.
Let’s talk about some of these new things you alluded to. What’s new on the menu at Yankee Stadium in 2018, and how have they been received?
First, let’s talk about King’s Hawaiian. I’m very familiar with their products coming from California. My parents would buy their bread, and you know this was a treat for us to enjoy at the house. So when the Yankee partnership team floated this up to me to see if we would be interested, I was all ears. Definitely jumped in on it and the creative juices were flowing.
For us as chefs, it’s a great product to use. It’s all natural; it’s great; it toasts up great; it’s a great product and we have a lot of fun with the menu creations with that.
But as it pertains to the stadium in general, take the partnership side. We have great partnerships with Bareburger, Mighty Quinn’s, Jersey Mike’s Subs, Lobel’s, which is an iconic meat, butcher shop – that we actually have a butcher shop inside of the stadium.
But then, a lot of the stuff we just wanted to do ourselves and keep them internal. We’re doing some great milkshakes — you know kind of these over the top trendy milkshakes. We’ve got kind of some spins on American comfort food fused with some Asian flare in our Asian stand. We’re doing some bacon cheeseburger crispy dumpling, General Tso’s chicken sandwiches, kind of handheld food for the fans. Two years ago we debuted the new slider concept kind of like the White Manna style of doing things from New Jersey, where we cook it in front of the guests.
You know, not reinventing the wheel, keeping in mind our fans needsto be able to move around with this product and it needs to be produced at a fast pace. As chefs, it definitely tests us to figure out what kind of concepts – we come up with a ton of different types of concepts -- and we just need to figure out how to bring it to the masses. Every year we roll out 7 to 10 new menu items and new concepts. We have the flexibility to adapt throughout the season and make changes at the end of the year.
You mentioned some of the Asian cuisine and the Stadium. At the MLB Food Fest in April, Yankee Stadium brought the Adobo Baos. Why was this the dish to highlight?
[Sighs] The MLB Food Fest. We debuted the bao stand two years ago, and we’ve had some great success with it. April, our sous chef, she really focuses in on concessions. The adobo is a family recipe of hers. She’s Filipino and it’s just something not everyone knows about, but once you taste it it’s something very familiar. So, we decided to push that with the MLB Food Fest.
The only negative thing with that is we ultimately tried to produce it ourselves and we had to let them produce it. Unfortunately, we felt the offering was a little different than what we like to offer at the stadium. So, anyone that was at the MLB Food Fest, we strongly suggest when you’re at Yankee Stadium let us know and we’ll take care of you. But our rendition is done very nicely, I have to say.
We have a series called Pinstripe Alley vs. Yankee Stadium Food. It’s sort of like Man vs. Food. We try a menu item and then write about the experience. This season we’ve done the Adobo Bao and the Tater Kegs. What do you recommend we try next?
Oooh, the Tater Kegs, those are good. Good call on that one. I think next, jeez, I would say anything from King’s Hawaiian, obviously. I think that product is definitely a great rendition. The bacon cheeseburger crispy dumplings. We’re also doing the taquitos as well; it’s very portable and actually gluten free which is helpful for us as well. You definitely have options out there. Anything from Bareburger or Mighty Quinn’s, the offerings are very high. [EDITOR’S NOTE: We tried the Dirty Fries at Mighty Quinn’s last summer and they were delicious.]
What would you like people to know about the food experience when they visit Yankee Stadium?
Ultimately, come hungry. We have a great product on the field and great products in the stands. Don’t be afraid to move around! The way that the stadium is built it’s conducive for the fans to walk around and enjoy offerings throughout the stadium. Just because your seat location is in one walk – walk around. It’s fun! Walk around and see these ballparks these days because ballparks are changing the ways they’re doing things and ultimately, it’s very fan forward.