By David Nelson / Photo by Kristina Yamamoto
Will Todd keeps a lot of balls in the air. At this moment, he's answering questions about his career while simultaneously juggling masses of pork bellies on a 750-pound smoker table-a chore he could have passed to any of his 350 cooks. But he's having fun, like when he created Petco Park's new signature salsa.
"Another cool thing I started doing this season is asking the groundskeeper to plant vegetables by the bullpen," says Todd, 37, Petco's executive chef. "He's growing 17 varieties of heirloom peppers, hot and sweet, and four kinds of tomatoes. I'm making a salsa called Bullpen Hot Sauce, and it's available all over the park."
Some home cooks are intimidated by cooking dinner for eight, but feeding tens of thousands at Padres games is no biggie to Todd. From hot dogs and pizza to barbecued meats and lavish catered buffets, the man is in charge. And while he doesn't flip burgers at the stadium's new Hodad's or prepare filets at Anthony's Fish Grotto, he does oversee this and all other franchise eateries.
At age 14, the then chef-to-be washed dishes in St. Mary's, Montana, then cooked, then "felt my passion" and headed to the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. Hired by Delaware North Companies Sports Service (which operates Petco's food service), he got his start at the company's operation in Glacier National Park, just miles from his hometown. Now, Todd supervises 350 cooks, divided among the ritzy Sony Home Plate Club, seven restaurants, concession stands, the press box, swanky private sky boxes and catered events.
"I like the ever-changing challenges of the job, managing so many personalities, dealing with food from very upscale down to hot dogs," he says. "And all the things I love about my job are the same things I don't love about it."
One duty Todd loves is supervising enormous catered events, like a meal for 8,000 coming up in a few days. The event will occupy both the field and the Park at the Park.
"I'm pretty focused on this right now. It's pretty big and should be pretty impressive," he says, summarizing an affair that will include Cirque de Soleil performers, a Ferris wheel and specialties including ahi street tacos, beef sliders, house-made tamales and barbecued pork buns filled with the sweet soy-brined pork bellies he himself will prepare.
When he eats at Petco, Todd favors Pretzel Reubens-pastrami piled atop pretzel-dough hoagie rolls. And on Friday night games, he enjoys the pork tacos he serves at the Park at the Park...with plenty of his Bullpen Hot Sauce.
Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack? Not on Will Todd's watch.