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MLB Broadcaster-Turned-Chef Jen Royle Talks Passion and Career

Adam M. Young | November 20, 2017
Jen Royle talks stadium food.
What’s better than food and sports? Now just imagine if you could get paid to do a job that taps into those passions. For many, this is little more than a pipe dream. For Jen Royle, the chef and owner behind Dare to Taste, it’s her everyday reality.

Royle is an Emmy Award-winning sports reporter who worked for the YES Network for the MLB Yankees organization. She’s also written for MLB Advanced Media, Sports Nation and the Boston Herald. She reported on CBS Radio and had her own sports radio show on WEEI Sports Radio in Boston. While she loved getting into the sports arena and reporting on MLB and NFL events, she had another passion: food.

Royle has been cooking since childhood, running home to watch Julia Child reruns after school. While she had networked in the professional sports cycle and found great opportunities to feed one hunger, the other still lingered.

After the Yankees won the World Series in 2009, Jen accepted a job in Baltimore covering the Orioles and Ravens, a job that she loved. Living in Baltimore versus New York meant a bigger apartment and a bigger kitchen. Over dinner parties, playoff parties and continuing to cook in her free time, her desire to do something with her love of food got stronger. Different jobs arose and pulled her back to Boston, her hometown, where she could report on the teams she grew up around.

“I was lucky to be at the right place at the right time to meet the people to build my sports career,” Royle says. “Sometimes just being able to capitalize on an open door enables you to make a living out of something you love.”

In 2014, a unique opportunity came along that catapulted her into her second career. Her friends and family urged her to try out for a show called The Taste on ABC (essentially a cooking version of The Voice). After eight rounds of auditions, she was selected to fly to L.A. to be on the show. She made it all the way to the finale episode working with Chef Ludo Lefebvre. That’s when she knew it was time to switch careers. She went back to culinary school and got a job at Babbo working for Mario Batali before starting her own private chef company, Dare to Taste.

Popcorn and Peanuts and Cracker Jacks… or Something More?

Food is a growing area of interest for many people attending sporting events. While a hot dog is exactly the cuisine some people want at a game, there are many unique cuisines that are making their way into the stands.

“I think food and sports are two of the most popular subjects,” Royle says. “While you have likes and dislikes, you are able to bond with people over the enjoyment of both subjects. Even with the switch to working in the culinary arena, I still love to share my passion for sports with people online and in person. I’m one of those people who, when going out to watch a big game or hosting a Super Bowl party, I’m thinking about what I’m going to eat and prepare for days prior.”

“It’s amazing how much cuisine in the sports world has changed over the past 10-15 years,” she adds. “While I’m still that girl who likes a hot dog and yellow mustard or nachos or a burger, I love the fact that you could get sushi at a baseball game or sit down for a meal at a venue where they have field access to watch while you are eating. While food won’t bring in people who aren’t already a fan of the sport, it can enhance the experience for those already there.”

As a reporter, Royle didn’t have as much of an opportunity to personally taste the foods around today’s ballparks, but she says that she was always a fan of Citi Field’s Shake Shack.

“They make a killer burger,” Royle says. “I have a weakness for burgers. If I were to do food at a venue, I’d probably just have a huge make-your-own-burger bar. I love being able to put my own toppings on... I think that type option of at a sporting event would go over well, even though it’s a pretty simple offering.”

She says that celebrity chefs are also becoming a big draw for stadiums. “My mentor from The Taste, Ludo Lefebvre, has his famous Ludo Bird selling at the Staples Center,” she says. “Bringing in these individuals to design new food options will be something we continue to see moving forward.”

Stadium Food Worth Seeking Out

Royle offers her thoughts on some of the most unique offerings available at sports venues today:

Dodger Stadium’s Tuna Poke Bowl (Ahi tuna over sushi rice topped with edamame, cucumber, shredded carrots, wakame, sesame seeds, toragoshi, and ponzu sauce) — “Those Californians… sigh.”

Fenway Park’s Lobster Poutine Steak (Steak fries covered in fresh lobster meat, cheese curds, bisque, and chives) — “Didn’t know Boston was this fancy!”

M&T Bank Stadium’s Burger Benedict (Ground bacon burger topped with a fried egg, ham, tomato, jack cheese and hollandaise spread, on a toasted English muffin) — “Interesting. But seems a little heavy. I don’t want to be drinking beer and eating whipped egg yolks.” Guaranteed Rate Field’s Choco Kebab (Chocolate sliced off a rotating cylinder and stuffed in a pancake) — “I love Chicago. I personally hate chocolate.”

Citi Field’s Loaded Bayside Fries (Fries topped with Cherrystones clam strips and clam chowder fondue) — GET IN MY BELLY!!”

Minute Maid Park’s Chicken and Waffle Cone (Fried chicken, mashed potatoes in a waffle cone topped with honey mustard) — “LOVE THIS. Chicken and waffles are actually on my menu.”

Safeco Field’s Toasted Grasshoppers (20-25 Grasshoppers, fried and dusted in a chili-lime salt) — “While popular, I find it very unappetizing. Safeco is beautiful though.”

Paul Brown Stadium’s Cincinnati Chili Yummy. Even better on a hot dog!”

Coors Field’s Colorado Queso Steak (Waffle fries with green chile and carnitas) — Yes. Just yes.”

Lambeau Field’s Cheese Curds (Parmesan-breaded cheese curds) — “When in Rome!”
What do you think? We’d love to hear your thoughts about what stadium foods you love. Do you have questions for Royle about her experience? You can follow her here.
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