GRCC started her on career in sports, entertainment industry
Preparing food for tens of thousands of players and fans at Super Bowl LIV was a first for Dayanny De La Cruz.
As executive chef for Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium, De La Cruz supervised meals for February’s NFL championship between the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers. She guided 100 chefs and 2,400 culinary staff members in preparing a menu that included 2,700 Maine lobster tails, 6,000 servings of short ribs and 10,000 hot dogs.
But the Super Bowl experience was just the latest in a series of “firsts” in De La Cruz’s career.
“I’m the first Latina, the first female heading up a Super Bowl,” she said. “Besides that, I’m the first female to head an NFL stadium. The NFL has trusted me to give me an amazing stage, an amazing platform to make changes, to be able to touch the community.”
De La Cruz credits what she learned as a student at GRCC’s Secchia Institute for Culinary Education with giving her skills -- and confidence.
“This was my safe haven,” she said. “This was my place for me to grow, but at the same time, develop the best thing I have today, which is my career. And, also, the love that I have for food and everything I learned through the process from my mentors.”
De La Cruz, a native of the Dominican Republic, attended GRCC for a semester in 2003, then needed time to help her husband through a health issue and care for her young children.
Professors kept in touch, encouraging her to come back and complete her degree. When she returned in 2005, faculty understood the challenges she was facing. She used to support her family by working overnight making empanadas to sell at the farmers market for $1 each, starting at 6 a.m. before heading to class.
“They made me who I am today,” she said of the GRCC faculty. “They saw something in me I didn’t know I had. That’s something I can still be thankful for. I couldn’t have finished school without them – without each and every one of them. Each one of them played a special part in my life.”
De La Cruz graduated with honors: She was the first Latina and second woman to receive the Secchia Institute for Culinary Education’s Director’s Award.
She worked as executive chef at Doubletree Hotels in the Chicago area before becoming interested in the sports and entertainment industry, overseeing food preparation for large events. That led to working in Miami and American Airlines Arena and the Heat basketball team, which awarded her a championship ring.
De La Cruz has been with Centerplate, the company providing meals at Hard Rock Stadium, since 2017.
“I’m very driven,” she said. “For me, it’s about challenging myself on a daily basis. I call it the magic of game day. You realize that for all the things to work, all the things you planned for, for days and days come to fruition. You look down and say somehow, I touched each and every one of those 57,000 people sitting in those seats. It’s great.”