By Joshua Carlson
The Super Bowl, one of the sports world’s biggest events, is upon us this weekend (Feb. 2). Most of the attention is on the players and who is going to win. One thing we tend to forget is how are the many athletes, coaching staff, fans, and various other employees putting on the event getting fed?
Grand Rapids Community College Alumna Executive Chef Dayanny De La Cruz will be the first Latina and female chef to lead the NFL culinary program. She will be overseeing 100 chefs coming from all over the nation, as well as 2,400 culinary staff members. On the menu will be 2,700 Maine lobster tails, 6,000 servings of short ribs, 10,000 hot dogs and her specialty, a Cubano sausage.
Growing up in Nagua, Dominican Republic, De La Cruz moved to Grand Rapids and attended GRCC in 2003 but had to take time off due to a family health issue and to care for her young children. She eventually returned to GRCC in 2005, while also working all night to make empanadas, and sell them at the farmers market for $1 each.
De La Cruz speaks highly of GRCC, while on the “My GRCC Story” podcast saying that it was a “safe haven” for her. She continues, “it was a place for me to grow, but at the same time kind of develop the best thing that I have today which is my career, and my love for food, and everything I learned through the process from my mentors.”
GRCC President Bill Pink said that he believes this to be the “perfect story” of how community colleges, GRCC in particular, are working towards preparing their students.
“It is so indicative of the quality of education that comes out of this institution,” Pink said, “that we have a graduate who is heading up an NFL stadium.”
During her time at GRCC she once again paved ways, graduating with honors, and was the first Latina and second woman to receive the Secchia Institute Directors Award. Chef Professor Bob Schultz who worked closely with Dayanny speaks highly of her.
“Chef Dayanny, Chef D as people call her, was a determined student with obvious goals in mind.” Schultz continues, “She overcame many obstacles in her education to become the chef she is today. She certainly proves with tenacity and hard work you can achieve many goals that others may see out of reach.”
After De La Cruz graduated, she later worked as executive chef at Doubletree Hotels in Chicago, and then became interested in the sports industry where she oversaw food prep for large events. That led to working in Miami for American Airlines Arena and the NBA’s Miami Heat. She is currently at Centerplate and has been providing dishes at Hard Rock Stadium since 2017.
De La Cruz has achieved many firsts in her accomplished career, and this certainly won’t be her last. De La Cruz says, “food comes from your soul.” She now embarks on the large event, where thousands will get to have a piece of her soul, and word is they will be good hands.