During a normal National Hockey League (NHL) season, the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex is a busy, bustling place where the league’s Pittsburgh Penguins congregate, practice and train. Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic put a temporary stop to the 2019-2020 NHL season this past spring. When players around the league were allowed to re-enter their respective practice facilities on June 8 to begin Phase 2 of the league’s Return to Play plan, one of the many changes in protocol was that any meals provided to the players had to be individually packaged in to-go containers for out-of-facility consumption.
All of this was a challenge for Executive Chef Geoff Straub, his sous chefs, Bob Schiffhauer and Chris Culp and Director of Dining Amanda Figurski of management company Parkhurst Dining, the division of Eat ‘n Park Hospitality Group that operates the onsite dining service for the Penguins players and staff at the Lemieux Center. They put together a plan that respected the COVID-imposed restrictions while keeping players fed with nutritious meals both during the lockout and after play resumed.
We spoke with Chef Straub about the challenges he and his team faced and what they did to overcome it.