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Stefan Pappert: Bread and games

By: Reading Time: 4 Minutes

If you want to know how to make 90,000 people happy in the shortest amount of time, ask Stefan Pappert. After all, the 3 Lions’ lead chef works at Wembley National Stadium, Emirates Arsenal, Chelsea Stamford Bridge as well as Windsor, indulging spectators, VIP guests and players on many a match day. At the same time, and just the way they like it.

When the final of the European Championship kicks off at Wembley on July 11, Pappert will have made these 90,000 people happy every third day.

European Championship kicks off at Wembley Chef Stefan Pappert

Image: Stefan Pappert

Mr. Pappert, why is it that you cook for so many people?

I cooked for big events right from the start. First in Munich at the Tollwood Festival for 5,000 people, then at the Wirtshaus in der Au – that’s where I learned everything there is to know about traditional Bavarian cuisine. Then at Oktoberfest I added the basics that ensure I don’t break a sweat at Wembley today. I also really need the challenge. When I have accomplished something, I already have the next idea in mind and tackle something new.

How do you approach a match day at Wembley with 90,000 meals?

At Wembley, I have a core team of five people who can completely rely on each other. On a match day, there are 450 to 500 cooks in the various kitchens, plus around 1,000 servers. When it comes to food, a high standard of quality is important to me, which is why there are precise specifications. I have also optimized the kitchen processes so that we can reliably uphold these high standards.

How do you coordinate so many people?

WhatsApp is one of my most important tools for communication. I also send pictures showing how the individual meals should look. We prepare most of our food in combi steamers from RATIONAL, which are linked via ConnectedCooking, which is very helpful. This way, I can monitor the programs over an app and check the kitchen without having to run all over the place. It really saves a ton of time and energy.

But surely you won’t prepare 90,000 identical meals, will you?

First of all, you have to distinguish between the meals for the concessions, the boxes and the VIP guests. French fries, pasta, steak and burgers are popular. However, cooking in the VIP boxes is highly customized.

The cooking in your stadiums is quite exclusive, isn’t it? What is this like?

For English soccer fans, a game is an event, so dinner counts as much as the team winning or losing. As a result, it is not at all unusual to have a three-course meal before the game. Emirates Chelsea and Wembley are therefore usually open three hours before kickoff. After the game, cheese platters or mini-pies are available to keep fans hanging around for a longer, allowing them to leave the stadium in a more deliberate manner.

Food for soccer player european championship 2021 wembley

Image: Stefan Pappert

What’s it like in the boxes?

In the boxes we cook exclusively for VIP guests. This kind of group is made up of eight to ten people, and includes corporate customers, UEFA guests and sponsors. Each box has its own kitchen, which is supplied by the central kitchen. Pasta, steaks and the like are then freshly cooked on site. It just so happens that at the New Tottenham Stadium, for example, we have 180 RATIONAL combi steamers that we need to get the job done.

We’ve now learned quite a bit about food for spectators. But what about cooking for the athletes?

They’re all so professional, they don’t need to be told what to eat or what’s good for them. Athletes need proper food, which is well-prepared from the most ideal basic products. Here, too, I rely on kitchen equipment such as the combi steamers, which mean I can always create the same level of excellence. However, of course I know who likes to eat what or needs something specific in a particular situation. For example, if a player has been sitting on the bench, he doesn’t have the same energy needs as someone who has been on the field the entire time. In this case, he gets a sushi from me with various fillings, of course, like steamed salmon or chicken drumstick meat. What’s more, I know if there is anything they can’t or don’t eat, for example. If a certain coach comes, I know the pizza has to be vegan and gluten-free.

How do you know what your guests want?

I usually have known my guests for so long that they occasionally come into the kitchen and ask how I prepare something, or they eat kaiserschmarren right off the baking sheet. Then you know what the guests like or don’t like. Indeed, I don’t only cook for athletes, but also for celebrities, sheikhs and her Majesty the Queen. Actually, I cook for myself and the British monarch eats too, I always say.

 VIP Food for soccer player european championship 2021 wembley

Stefan Pappert knows his guests well | Image: Stefan Pappert

Do you ever have any unusual requests?

People love my German-Austrian cuisine, my personal style is still very Bavarian. Truly outlandish wishes are rare, they are more likely to be individual preferences. One person only likes their fish without the skin and lemon, while others want star-level French cuisine. Sometimes I come up with some nice little touches, for example, homemade elderberry juice. The 1,800 liters I made ran out almost immediately. Otherwise, we serve a lot of fried potatoes, schnitzel, Kärtner noodles, as well as Frankfurter Grüne Soße. Nobody knows that here.

With these amounts, what is your inventory management like?

You can compare this type of stadium to a small city. Wembley, for example, has five levels, and Level 5 can hold up to 25,000 spectators. In line with this, my storerooms, freezers and cold stores can store food for two million people. 40 tons of French fries, 50,000 liters of cheese sauce, four tons of hamburger meat, that’s what my orders look like. Thanks to having the right kitchen equipment, I can cook 1,800 sunny-side up eggs in three minutes.

Is any food ever left over in the end?

Not really, because everything is planned very precisely. I have a basic stock in the building two weeks before the start of the game and it is all completely used up in the end. Perishables like fish are always delivered fresh. However, the lockdown caught us completely off guard. Suddenly we had 500,000 meals in the fridge and no one was allowed in the stadium. With a few players, I then spontaneously set up the charity project “Warmer Winters” and we distributed the food to schools, children, families and the homeless.

How are you getting ready for the European Championship?

We don’t really have to get ready at all because, for one thing, the lockdown really wasn’t a break for me by any means. I continued to cook for the players and had my charity projects. On the other hand, spectators in England are already allowed back into the stadiums. I’m kind of practicing with 22,000 fans and slowly working my way up. By the time I cook at the finals on July 11, it’s sure to be as good as ever.

Mr. Pappert, many thanks for the interview.

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