April 04, 2007


Had the chance last week to go over to the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg to meet some of the chefs in the hospitality area where the teams wine and dine their VIPs, sponsors and team members.


Team Penske, which supports Indy Racing League drivers Sam Hornish Jr. and Helio Castroneves, have the most elaborate setup at the tracks they go to: Three tractor-trailers full of cooking equipment, kitchens and supplies - including an air-conditioned tent.


Inside are comforts that are foreign to most sports operations. Two big, flat-screen high definition TVs, a salad bar, seating for up to 100, a full buffet and even a self-serve wine chiller.


Jim Sleep is the head chef for Team Penske. He and two other chefs pump out up to 1,200 meals per race weekend. To save room on storage, they buy their fresh ingredients when they get to the track on the Monday before a big race.


Space is at a premium. Even the spice rack is in a hideaway shelf.


Marinated pork loin for 50, anyone?


I didn't really get jealous until I saw the Green Egg smoker he had behind the main trailer.

Man, the damnage I could do with that thing.

Sleep says he makes ribs and chicken on it. Loves it.

If it ever goes missing, he'll be able to find it in my garage.


Because the meals are meant to impress as much as they are to nourish, he has to keep everything flavorful. This tray of Chile-Glazed Sweet Potatoes with Cinnamon and Orange was out-of-control good.


Help yourself to a water.

Oh, look. There's a race on.


While it looks elaborate, the thing many people forget is that if they didn't have this setup, the crew would have to leave the track to go eat. That takes time away from the car. That means less success on the race track.

So when Indy 500 winner Sam Hornish Jr. sidles up the salad bar, he's not only enjoying the food, he's being efficient.

For more photos, check out the Snap gallery by TBO.com's Jim Collins by clicking here.

An aside: I had some of the best cornbread I've ever eaten at the Team Penske tent. Here's the recipe:

1 cup yellow cornmeal
2 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup melted lard, butter or oil
4 ounces diced jalapenos
1/2 cup chopped bacon
1/2 cup shredded chedder cheese
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup honey

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine the cornmeal, eggs, salt, baking soda, milk, lard, chilies, and half the cheese in a mixing bowl.

Beat well.Then add the cooked bacon.

Meanwhile put the butter in a 1 1/2 quart casserole. Place in the oven until the butter melts, but is not brown. Immediately pour in the cornbread mixture Sprinkle the top with the remaining cheese and
bake 40 min or longer. Coat the top with honey while it cools.

Posted by Jeff at April 4, 2007 07:31 AM | TrackBack
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