Game Day Gourmet

Executive Chef Bill Miller in the Acela Club in Newarks Prudential Center

Chef Miller offers his signature shark "slap" sandwich

From Susan: Early last Sunday morning, most likely before any of the New Jersey Devils and their fans were out of bed, chef Bill Miller was lighting a fire in a tall metal box on wheels in the parking lot of Newark’s Prudential Center. The box, a converted piece of kitchen equipment generally used for keeping prepared food warm, is Miller’s “Macgyver-d” smoker – hickory chips are burned slowly on the bottom to smoke trays of meat stacked above. On Sunday, the meat was duck breast; Miller has also smoked pork loin, beef brisket – even lobster and alligator – to feature on his game day menus at the Center’s primary restaurant, the Acela Club.

Chef Bill Miller smokes duck breast in his parking lot smoker

As the executive chef for the Devils’ home arena (also home for Seton Hall Basketball, the New York Liberty and at least for now, the Nets), Miller is responsible for the food served at the Acela Club, the premium-seat clubs —  Fire, and Belvedere Vodka Ice — and the suites, as well as the concession stands. It’s a huge job that the laid-back Miller, who has held the job since August, 2009, appears to handle with ease. He’s also one of the growing number of culinarily inclined chefs at arena and stadiums where the trend is to step out of the burgers, hot dogs and pizza box to offer creative, high-end-restaurant-quality food and dining experiences. Miller also sources ingredients locally, turning to Newark food businesses for products like chorizo, as often as he can.

Guests hit the buffets at the Belvedere Vodka Ice Club.

Cocktails at the Ice Club are served on a very "cool" ice bar

We were invited for a look behind the scenes last Sunday as Miller and his crew prepared for the Devils season swansong against the Boston Bruins. We drove down to Newark in the morning to check out the smoking operation and take a tour of the kitchen, where we met Miller’s ebullient sous-chef, Rebecca Lopez, and other kitchen staff – all of whom seemed to be excited about the food they were turning out.

Sous chef Rebecca Lopez sears skirt steaks

Kitchen staff get prepped for game day

Miller explained that Lopez creates her own menus for the Fire and Ice Clubs; we watched her grilling skirt steaks and putting together pans full of decadent, homestyle “New England chicken and biscuits.”  The clubs, which include food and drink in the premium seat price, feature lavish spreads – Sunday’s offered sangria-marinated pork loin, Cajun-style “dirty rice” (“with the chicken livers,” explained Miller), quesadillas made-to-order and a sushi bar, among a host of other choices, including traditional, concession-stand fare.

Sushi chef Eric Chan

The chef clearly has fun with the Acela Club buffet menu, which changes every event day. Sunday’s featured the smoked duck breast served over noodle chow-chow, Ethiopian-spiced lamb chops, roast quail with apple and pinkelwurst stuffing, Chilean sea bass with citrus herb butter, tasso polenta cakes and for dessert, warm chocolate souffles with ice cream. He’ll usually offer a special sandwich, like Sunday’s spicy shark “slap” sandwich, veal and wild mushroom meatloaf sliders or soft shell crab BLTs. There’s an ala carte menu, too, and if you want a pizza made to order or top-quality burger while you watch the game, they’re available. But as Miller says: “The adventurous eaters here do the best as far as getting the value.”

From the Acela Club buffet: lamb chops, smoked duck breast, fresh vegetables

"Smoked at The Rock" duck breast with noodle chow-chow

Quail stuffed with apples and pinkelwurst

A beautiful BLT salad from the Acela Club ala carte menu

He seems to have nearly as many fans as the hockey players, judging by the compliments and friendly greetings he gets as he works the room, making sure his customers are happy and responding to requests. We’re hardly sports fans, but there was something exhilarating about being in the arena as it filled with fans, the music ramped up and the game began. And we’ll go back, maybe for a game or a concert, but definitely for the food.

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2 thoughts on “Game Day Gourmet

  1. Great article, the food looks and really is delicious!

    Please give me a call at 973-757-6421 if you are interested in hearing more about Premium Seating at the Prudential Center.

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