Blue Jackets looking to make hockey an upscale affair

BY foxsports • September 27, 2013

If you’re looking for a high-end dining experience, look no further than Nationwide Arena. At least that’s what the Columbus Blue Jackets and their team of chefs are hoping you’ll do.
Last week, suite holders and other premium guests were invited to taste the latest innovations in dining options that are available during hockey games at the Columbus arena, and it’s not just pizza and hot dogs.
“Our goal is for our fans to come and enjoy first class entertainment in a first class setting,” said Marcus Lyons, Director of Premium Seating and Service for the Blue Jackets. 
The Jackets’ team is aiming to provide a way for hockey fans and their contacts to have an enjoyable night without having to move from restaurant to arena. 
“We’re changing the paradigm of coming to a hockey game,” Lyons said.
Chef Ed Kowalski from Delaware North Companies provided the majority of the items for the night’s menu. New features this year included “personal plates” which offered fresh single-serving options of delicacies like buffalo macaroni and cheese, seven layer dips, salads, shrimp cocktail and more.
“We wanted to take traditional arena fare and kick it up a notch,” Kowalski said. “You want to give people a premium experience while ensuring they get the bang for their buck from food that is easy to handle – there is a hockey game to watch.”
Kowalski is constantly challenging himself and his team to bring new flavors and menu items to all dining avenues throughout the arena. While he honors the tradition of arena fare such as hot dogs and fries, he’s expanding his signature flavors at a variety of venues.  Well known for his passion for fiery foods, Kowalski’s ghost pepper dishes can be found on all levels of Nationwide.
“The ghost pepper is currently the second hottest pepper in the world. I spent the better part of three years perfecting the sauce and we’re now introducing it throughout the arena on chicken wings and on stinger dogs,” Kowalski said. “When someone tells me how much they’ve enjoyed one of our ghost pepper dishes it’s a big deal.”
The chef is also known for his affection for bacon and showed it off in his featured menu item the ‘bacon bomb’ – a unique creation made of seasoned Italian sausage, bacon, cheese and barbeque sauce wrapped in a basket weave of bacon. 
Kowalski comes by his cooking expertise honestly. He first started working in a kitchen alongside his grandmother hoping he’d get a few extra tastes of dishes, but he quickly found that he loved the communication within the kitchen and the passion and love that went into every dish that was prepared. Thirty years later, Kowalski is still cooking and sees that same commitment coming from his current team – most of who have worked together for over five years.
“We’re getting into the swing of things, and getting food ready to serve a sold-out arena of hockey fans,” said Kowalski. “We’ve been testing dishes and gathering reactions to be able to provide food items that allow our fans to experience something different.”
Overall, the Jackets and Nationwide chefs are hopeful that people will consider the Arena a destination rather than just part of an evening in the Arena District. The goal is to provide the ultimate in hospitality for hosting events for everyone from the most casual hockey fan to the die-hard.
“The hockey game is tremendous entertainment, but we can put people in the right atmosphere to be a step above the normal game experience,” Lyons said.
At Nationwide Arena, the chefs are pushing the envelope of what dining at a hockey game means and they hope you will join them.
The Columbus Blue Jackets home opener against the Calgary Flames is Oct. 4. For more information or to buy tickets, visit

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