Start with a handful of local chefs. Add in a special dish like The Meatballer — from Fabio Salerno chef and owner of Lago Italian Restaurant and Townhall in Ohio City. Mix it up with a dash of competition and, voila, you’ve got the Launch Test Kitchen in the Quicken Loans Arena.
“Try to be creative enough for people who come here still looking for their hot dogs and their popcorn and their normal arena food,” Salerno said.
“So we're like texting each other, you know like who's going to have the best dish," said Matthew Mytro, Head Chef at Flour in Moreland Hills.
Personal chef, April Thompson said it’s a big deal and, in the beginning, it was a little stressful too.
"It was scary exciting, and now it's just exciting. Like now you can't wait for the next game," she said.
Performing under pressure is something she and her old boss could relate to, as she was once Kyrie Irving’s personal chef. Thompson says she is now ready to rise to the occasion, and put out her best dish for the test kitchen, offering foodies one of her favorites, shrimp and grits.
“You are presenting a higher end dish, but I still wanted it to be something that was familiar and something that was comfortable," she said.
Here's how it works:
Aramark Corporation — a food service company — recruits local culinary wizards every couple of weeks to featured at The Q. Then, they must train the arena chefs on how to cook, prepare and dish out their own special creation.
“Kind of quality check them and show them any little things that they may not see in our recipes, then they take it from there," said Karen Small, head chef and owner of the Flying Fig in Ohio City.
The catch is arena foodies get to have their say, voting for favorites.
"That's why it's called a test kitchen…you don't want someone to get something if they're not enjoying it and then they're not a return customer," said Thompson.
And April made the cut, ranking with the other 5 MVPs chosen this season for their best dishes.
“This is probably one of the most fun assignments that I've ever done in my culinary career," she said.
This is the last time you'll see these 6 culinary masters here at the 6, next season it'll be new chefs as well as the current group returning with all new food.