Saints’ ‘sous chef’ started out washing dishes

SOECharlesHallmansquareThe new St. Paul Saints ballpark, not unlike other ballparks these days, offers more than popcorn, peanuts and Cracker Jack, baseball’s regular food troika.

When fans come to opening night this Thursday, they can eat fancy dishes, drink gourmet coffee, and select from a list of beverages and other drinks. They can top it off with locally made and sourced “healthy” condiments — honey mustard, sweet pepper relish and seasonal ketchup grown by local farmers, including the Hmong American Farmers Association.

DeMarco Cavil
DeMarco Cavil

“I feel we are diverse,” notes Justin Grandstaff, the food and beverage director for Professional Sports Catering that runs concessions for 22 minor-league baseball stadiums, including the Saints’ new Lowertown ballpark in downtown St. Paul. “We offer a variety of foods to match every culture and every person who comes in. We want to make everybody happy at the ballpark.”

And behind the scenes, there is a Black chef. “I’ve been a chef for the last 12 years,” proclaims DeMarco Cavil, the Saints’ sous chef.

According to Wikipedia, a sous chef is the second-in-command of a kitchen at a restaurant, hotel or cruise ship. They plan meals, including how the food is presented on the plate, and supervise the staff. This person usually is someone with years of training who “work their way up.”

“I started from the bottom as a dishwasher at 16 years old,” explains Cavil, a St. Paul native who grew up just minutes away from the new Saints park. Six months [later] they asked me if I knew how to cook, and I said yes. They put me on the line, and I have been doing it ever since.” After seven years working at the Minnesota Wild’s arena and other sporting events at local golf courses and ski lodges, Cavil said, “I jumped on this opportunity” to be the second man in the kitchen this season.

“This is my first real sous chef account,” continues Cavil, who oversees a 15-20-person cooking staff and assists the executive chef in menu planning. His main area will be serving the patrons in the stadium club suites. During last week’s food tasting session, Cavil manned the burger station, where he presented four hamburgers, including the new four-patties Home Run Burger. I tried the simple one-patty version with regular ketchup and mustard.

“The men in my family are chefs,” admits Cavil. “Growing up, they made it seem OK to do it. My father and my uncles” were his role models. “There aren’t too many sous chefs who are African American. To rise up [to] where I have is great.”

Besides his food-preparing duties, a sous chef at a sports event has its perks. “One of my past experiences was [that] I got to meet Muhammad Ali, Magic Johnson and Adrian Peterson at the same time,” recalls Cavil. “Magic Johnson and Adrian Peterson were awarding Muhammad Ali with a humanitarian award, and we were doing the banquet. I got to meet all three of them at the same time. I think that is awesome.”

Cavil also hopes to catch a Saints game or two this season. “I’m going to love it,” he concludes.

Ballpark, team praised

Former Twins player and coach Al Newman on the new ballpark: “This ballpark is very impressive. It’s probably the best minor-league complex with all the amenities. It is a thing of beauty.”

Fans will love it, too. “This is a quality team they put together. They could have a championship season,” he surmises.

 

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com.

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