MONCTON – You will indeed be able to get a hot dog and fries at Avenir Centre, says Executive Chef Drew Hall. But you can also get the “Torchbearer” – a poutine topped with home-pickled jalapeno and chicken.
“The idea is people come in with a pre-conceived notion that they’re walking to an arena that’s just french fries and hot dogs. But we want to make sure the minute they come in that we’re so much more than that,” he said.
SMG-operated buildings generally have an executive chef and a team behind that prepares and cooks everything in-house, Hall said. Avenir Centre would be the same, with Hall injecting a bit of his Louisiana-Cajun cultural background into a menu that’s designed to reflect Moncton’s flavours.
“When I came on board I didn’t want to localize the menu too much to where I’m from but also remind people of who I am, what I can do. But there’s definitely some flavours,” the Le Cordon Bleu culinary school alumni said. “My approach to food is just about taking the food of people’s youth – comfort foods, and turning it into something that shines and shimmers.”
Visitors can still expect the usual arena cuisine – hot dogs, popcorn, pizza, nachos, beer and cotton candy. But they’ll all be made in-house by SMG’s team. Some things like bacon, barbecue sauces, sauerkraut and kimchi are made from scratch, while the meats are smoked in-house.
There will be a total of nine concession stands, including a Tim Hortons, a Goji’s, and beverage stands that include craft beers. The food stands will sell burgers, pizzas, a wide selection of poutines, pretzels, paninis, and vegetarian options. The menu might change as Hall and his team gets a better understanding of what works and what doesn’t.
The Show Kitchen, where consumers can see the food being cooked, will serve dishes like Philly Cheesesteak, Sausage and Peppers and the Torchbearer. Huddle was among members of the media invited to sample some of those menu items:
But some food items, like bread, potatoes, beer, wines and other beverages, are provided by partners like local bakeries, local breweries, and brands like Pepsi, Cavendish, Moosehead, Sysco, Bacardi, and Constellation Wines.
From Avenir Centre’s modern commercial kitchen, Hall and his team of 12, including a pastry chef, will also serve the performers, media and scouts that come to the building. They will also cook for the VIP suites, as well as banquets and other events held in the building. The premium items served to them will be an expanded version of the concession foods.
“We wanted to make sure that we weren’t shortchanging the concessions based on what we do in the premium world,” Hall said. “It’s kind of similar food, it’s just done a different way and presented differently. What they’re ordering up there, if they’re ordering for eight people at a time from dishes like entrees, they can order full steak dinners up there.”
Prices for the concessions are not completely set yet, but Food and Beverage Director Chris McEachern said it will be similar to arenas of a similar size.
“We’re very aware that not everyone has a lot of disposable income. So we’re trying to gear our menu so there are options for everyone,” he said.
“If you’re going to compare our pricing to a community hockey rink, we’re obviously going to be more. But I’d like to think that our food is of a much higher quality. Even some of the food coming out of our concessions I think you could safely serve in a lot of restaurants in town. So in some ways, that’s a more fair price comparison,” he added.
Avenir Centre opened its doors to the public for the first time last weekend. SMG Marketing Director Bonnie Porter said around 15,000 people came to see the building. Country star Keith Urban is set to perform on Wednesday night.
“[The weekend] was the first kick of the can for a lot of the frontline staff and they did great, and now they know what to expect,” she said. “There’s some little tweaking going on behind the scenes getting ready for Wednesday but we expect to have a very successful night for Keith Urban.”