Think you had trouble planning your last dinner party? Try feeding 15,000 hungry hockey fans — more than 40 times a year.
That’s the challenge faced by Red River College grad Tod Trudeau pretty much every time he shows up for work. As executive sous chef for Centerplate — an event hospitality company that provides hospitality services to over 250 sports stadiums, entertainment venues, and convention centres across North America — Trudeau is no stranger to the concept of feeding a crowd.
And since the return of the Winnipeg Jets, there have been more mouths to feed than ever.
“The building is full of guests every single night,” says Trudeau, who graduated from RRC’s Chef Training program in 1998. “We don’t ever have to worry about how many people are coming; we want to provide each guest with an exceptional and memorable experience.”
A St. Vital native, Trudeau has been cooking since he was 14, and honed his skills working in the kitchens of a series of smaller restaurants as a teen. He enrolled at RRC because he wanted to learn how to “do things properly,” and says the smaller class size and stringent standards gave him a definite edge once he entered the workforce.
“It benefited me hugely, just working with real chefs and other students who were really eager to learn,” says Trudeau. “It was a great atmosphere for learning — everyone was always pushing everyone else to do better, and do more.”
After graduating, Trudeau spent five years at the Sheraton Downtown — first as banquet chef, then as restaurant chef — before being hired as a sous chef with Centerplate, which at the time had just taken over the contract at the soon-to-be-shuttered Winnipeg Arena.
These days, the company handles all hospitality requirements at the MTS Centre, servicing not just the concourse kiosks and 250-seat restaurant at ice level, but also catering for the private suites, press boxes and backstage dressing rooms.
And as a member of Centerplate’s Culinary Support Team, Trudeau has had the opportunity to work at a number of special events throughout North America, including a recent charity gala at the Ricoh Coliseum in Toronto (featuring guest of honour Sting), last year’s Grey Cup game in Vancouver, and the 2012 Super Bowl in Indianapolis, where he joined 30 other chefs and 30 front-of-house managers sent to support the team at Lucas Oil Stadium.
“It was incredible, the lengths they go to in turning everything up a notch,” he says of the Super Bowl experience. “But the real fun part of going is working with chefs from all over the country, and learning new styles and techniques. We really wanted to provide fans a unique experience by showcasing local Indiana flavours.”
Of course, there’s plenty of opportunity for fun here in Winnipeg, especially now that the MTS Centre is home to NHL hockey. Trudeau says last year’s season marked one of the high points of his career, and he and his team are already gearing up for the return of the Jets in September.
“The highlight of last year was easily the opening game against Montreal,” says Trudeau. “We provided hospitality to the Prime Minister, the Premier, Gary Bettman and Mark Chipman. And just before the game— the fans and the energy in the building, it was just crazy.”
Click here to learn more about Culinary training at Red River College.