Dayanny De La Cruz: The chef who spices up Miami’s sporting mega events

Miami is often referred to as the “Capital of Latin America”. Spanish is widely spoken and over 70% of residents in Miami-Dade County, where the city of Miami is located, identify themselves as “Hispanic” or “Latino”.

The person tasked with bringing the unique flavors of Miami’s rich and diverse Latino heritage to round five of the F1 season is Hard Rock Stadium Executive Chef Dayanny De La Cruz.

Even at five feet six, De La Cruz has a tall personality—it takes one to manage a team of 2,500 culinary staff, including 250 chefs for major events like the Super Bowl.

The 48-year-old developed her love of cooking on a chair in her grandmother’s house in the Dominican Republic.

“As a Latina, it’s all about the kitchen,” De La Cruz told CNN Sport during the 2022 Miami Open tennis tournament, which she hosted at Hard Rock Stadium. “All of our stories start around the kitchen, around the table.

“I remember wanting to learn how to make rice, so I asked my grandmother, ‘How can I learn it?’ I was so small, the stove was in my nose. So she picked me up and sat me in a chair and she taught me how to make rice. And I still cook my rice like this.”

In addition to major sporting events in Miami, De La Cruz has worked at the Kentucky Derby and the US Open.
De La Cruz moved to the United States in the early 2000s to attend culinary school. She quickly worked her way up the ranks in the industry, eventually becoming Executive Chef at Hard Rock Stadium, home of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins.

Her path has not always been a straight one. In 2011, De La Cruz was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, undergoing surgery and months of chemotherapy. Despite this health scare, the experience fueled her passion for her job.

“I’m here for a reason and…I’m following my purpose. It’s a very humbling experience, but I’m so thankful that I move forward with a sense of grace in whatever I do in life, so I’m just blessed,” she said.

If you get to cook for Beyonce.

“I love colors and flavors”

De La Cruz has grown into the executive chef for mega sporting events in Miami.

When the Miami Open moved from Key Biscayne to Hard Rock Stadium, the Dominican native added the prestigious tennis event to her list of athletic culinary honors, including the Kentucky Derby, the US Open and hosting the NBA’s Miami Heat.

When Super Bowl LIV came to Miami in 2020, De La Cruz became the first woman to host the NFL’s season-ending showdown.

De La Cruz oversaw thousands of kitchen workers and was responsible for feeding the players and staff of both teams, as well as planning what foods would be available at concessions, restaurants, clubs, suites and stadium vendors.

De La Cruz’s Super Bowl menu included local cuisine as well as dishes inspired by competing teams – the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs – like lobster tail and short ribs.

“The Super Bowl was an amazing experience, a very humbling experience,” said De La Cruz. “But it also strengthened me. We set the standards very high and I’m very proud to say that.

“At the same time, we broke the stigma that no woman has ever done a Super Bowl — that no woman has ever walked in these shoes.

“I’m very proud to have opened the door and I’m sure there will be many more like me,” added De La Cruz. “So for me, the Super Bowl was about breaking stigma and setting the bar very high. So good luck to all who come!”

Cheers to Miami!

In May, F1 returns to Florida for the first time since 1959 and comes to Miami for the first time ever.

The Grand Prix was originally scheduled to be held on a street circuit through downtown Miami, but due to construction in and around the port area, the race had to be relocated to Hard Rock Stadium, which will be located at the heart of the Miami International Autodrome.

With a planned capacity of 80,000 fans, this will not be an easy task for De La Cruz and her team.

As with any new sport, the 48-year-old chef strives to create a unique offering that does justice to the event’s distinctive clientele and ambience.

“When we move from sport to sport, we move our energy. [American] Football is usually one o’clock, it’s also a bit bulkier. When we switch to tennis, we switch to a softer sport, a bit more international, so we change our menus.

“We love staying local. We love supporting all of our farmers. But at the same time, I love colors and flavors, and it’s almost like you can taste it just by looking at it.

“We love what we do, whatever sport we do. Let’s see how Formula 1 will be.”

As they say in Miami: “Dale” – let’s go!

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