Preakness culinary team looks to boost race weekend dining

A new culinary team overseeing Pimlico Race Course is working to elevate the dining experience for attendees to this year’s Preakness Stakes.

The food and beverage team will continue to highlight local flavors — crab cakes, black-eyed Susans and more — during the 142nd running of the Preakness, all while expanding its catering services to new areas of Pimlico.

“The focus this year is on elevating the experience, making sure the quality of everything we do is enhanced, it’s great, we take care of our customers,” said Tamir Shanel, executive vice president of food and beverage for the Stronach Group, which owns Pimlico. “And at the end of the day it’s about having a lot of fun.”

He said the food and beverage workers will “focus on execution, focus on organization … and focus on local.”

Design Cuisine will once again handle the catering for the race, and its services will be expanded to the Sky Suites at the track.

Trackside, the Turfside Terrace — the tent spanning the grandstand side of the infield — will offer a buffet serving a variety of seafood, mixed lettuce and baby kale salad, vegetable and multi-grain pilaf, jumbo-lump crab cakes, pollo Yucatan with achiote, roasted potatoes and roasted vegetables. Desserts and afternoon snacks (blackened chicken and burgers) will also be served.

Many of the same items will be offered at the Terrace Dining Room (sold out for Preakness day), Hall of Fame Room ($225) and Sports Palace ($350). Admission to InfieldFest is included with those tickets.

The infield will also be peppered with food and drink stations serving local eats.

“Most of the food in the infield is local vendors coming back in full force this year,” Shanel said.

Shanel also added a cafe in the center of the infield corporate village serving coffee and pastries.

Jockeys at the track will have some new options, as well. A South American group at the jockey club will receive a customized catering menu, including filet mignon, seafood paella, Argentinian chocotorta, salads, charcuterie, a seafood station, and Brazilian and Colombian coffee.

Though less obvious, some changes have been made behind the scenes to improve efficiency of service. Shanel is bringing in a larger team from the Stronach Group’s other tracks across the country to support the race.

“In my experience, what works best is you work with the customer and you go backwards into what we need to do to offer them a great experience,” Shanel said. “If we’re able to get to a customer quicker with a better product … we’ve done our job.”

This race weekend marks Shanel’s first time overseeing the food and drink offerings for Preakness; he joined the Stronach Group in August.

The Stronach Group also has new chefs overseeing the food at the track. Michael Norman joined the Maryland Jockey Club as the group’s executive chef earlier this year. And Wolfgang von Wieser became corporate executive chef for the Stronach Group last week.

smeehan@baltsun.com

twitter.com/sarahvmeehan

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