Award-winning culinary talent to star at Scotiabank Arena this season

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Scotiabank Arena is opening wide for full houses with the return of the NHL and NBA seasons, not to mention a stellar concert series. But let’s not forget it is also home to some of the finest culinary creations in the country.

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Just recently, the arena revealed a stellar lineup of food talent for the 2021-22 season that includes award-winning chefs, restaurateurs and food purveyors to keep fans satiated during games and events.

Of note is the arrival of seven locally owned stands brimming with global flavours that are the new options for fans attending events at the venue — including the return of the Raptors on Wednesday — so you know everyone is ready to score big time with this roster of mouth-watering talent.

Joining the list are Toronto-based restaurants Aloette (a concept eatery from the award-winning Alo Restaurant), Colibri, Cheese Boutique, Cherry Street BBQ and Leela’s, as well as MLSE-established Noodle Bao and Poutinerie.

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The excitement was palpable during a recent meet-and-eat, as were the selection of amazing dishes from some of the country’s most established talent, including Patrick Kriss, who brings his Michelin-star worthy meals to the table.

He was joined by Top Chef Canada and Top Chef Mexico competitor Elia Herrera, along with Canada’s only maitre fromager, Afrim Pristine of Cheese Boutique, and award-winning pit master Lawrence La Pianta of Cherry Street BBQ.

Also in the lineup is Annie and Asif Khan’s Leela’s. Their traditional spicy Trinidadian cuisine is one of the most sought-after in the city.

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“We’ve been planning this for months,” said Chris Zielinski, culinary director for MLSE. “We wanted to help provide an opportunity for local Toronto restaurateurs to share their creative dishes with the fans … it’s been a long haul, but the excitement for all of this is just building.”

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When asked how he felt about sports stadiums opening to full capacity while restaurants continue to struggle under pandemic rules, Zielinksi responded that “it’s important to see that we don’t make the rules, but understand the struggles of the industry,” and that by showcasing some of the city’s finest talents is a step forward.

New food choices will be available at Scotiabank Arena this season. VERONICA HENRI/TORONTO SUN
New food choices will be available at Scotiabank Arena this season. VERONICA HENRI/TORONTO SUN

The venue’s new food stands will be scattered throughout the arena and each will produce a variety of dishes.

Cheese Boutique, for example, is bringing its signature mac ’n’ cheese dish, while Alouette is offering poached shrimp rolls with buttery brioche as well as their famous lemon pie wedge, which Kriss was personally serving.

How has he and his team weathered the pandemic storm?

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“Weathered is a good word,” Kriss said. “We’ve made the best of it,” adding the analogy of bobbing with waves “describes how we’ve been getting through (all of) this.”

Meanwhile, pit master La Pianta, will be offering his famous smoked brisket sandwich, pulled pork sandwich and burnt ends chili cheese fries. And that’s just for starters.

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  2. The Ontario government is allowing 50 capacity at the Scotiabank Arena, meaning 10,000 fans can come cheer the Leafs in person. ERNEST DOROSZUK/TORONTO SUN FILES

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When asked how his company is surviving the pandemic, La Pianta said “we’ve evolved by changing the concept and our services, pivoting to takeout. I had my first sit-down customer last Saturday, and that was pretty emotional.”

What does he miss the most?

La Pianta paused for a moment to compose himself before answering, “to be honest, I just miss hugging people.”

rdemontis@postmedia.com

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