As an organization that believes in the power of storytelling, the Kraken aspires to report about the journey of our hockey team’s inaugural season and much more. The “much more” is the Kraken’s desire to be in and of the community.
Fans can count on us to celebrate the region and its residents as we seek out unique tales showing why the Pacific Northwest is such an extraordinary place to live and root for our teams. We intend to keep telling these stories of community even as the team embarks on the 82-game National Hockey League regular season.
Hispanic Heritage Month 2021 started Sept. 15 and runs through Oct. 15 to inform and imbue the Latinx rich history and experience here in the United States. To mark how the Kraken and Climate Pledge Arena honor that cultural impact on our region, here’s an introduction to a young man and chef who regards his role at sous chef of concessions at Seattle’s brand-new arena as “an opportunity to express myself and bring everybody together.”
Watching late-night television is not the expected methodology for sparking a new career path. But for Delvonte Young, sous chef of concessions at the soon-to-be opened Climate Pledge Arena, he modestly begs to differ.
“I was watching ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ [hosted by Gordon Ramsay] at 3 a.m.,” said Young, laughing, during a short break on a busy work morning this week. “I realized I wasn’t happy, so I quit my job and found a job as a dishwasher.”
Young was working in Cleveland “as a lab tech looking into a microscope” at the time, leveraging a college degree in biology and chemistry.
The goal was not suds and sponges. Young, who goes by the nickname “Del,” was focused on working his way to the cooking station.
The recipe for success was a clear three-star move (Michelin and hockey references intended). He eventually worked his way into cook and chef roles with the Cleveland Browns (NFL), Cleveland Cavaliers (during the franchise’s NBA title season) and the Cleveland major league baseball team soon to be renamed the Guardians. His culinary resume also includes time with the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets, Cleveland’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Cleveland Zoo.
“Food brings everybody together,” said Young. “It doesn’t matter where you’re from. Just like sports. You share a common experience. It creates a positive environment. Food is a way for me express myself on a plate.”
Young’s heritage is Puerto Rican and Italian.
“I didn’t grow up with my dad,” said Young, “but my mom insisted I learn the Puerto Rican culture and its foods. She wanted to keep it in the family.”
“That’s not typical but my mom was focused on the Puerto Rican way of preparing and eating meals being part of my childhood,” said Young. “She wanted me to know enough to keep the food and my heritage in the family.”
During a video interview with Kraken TV analyst and former NHL player JT Brown that accompanies this story, Young chose to make two favorite dishes, carne asada and mofongo, he learned to as a child and still prepares for comfort food for himself and friends today.
Carne asada is a marinated flank steak dish likely more familiar to Kraken fans than mofongo, which is a Puerto Rican dish with fried plantains as its main ingredient. Once fried, the plantains are mashed with cilantro, jalapenos, a bit of salt, fresh lime juice and olive oil to become was Young calls a plantain “cake” mounded and rounded.
Mofongo is traditionally served with a variety of meats, chicken broth, vegetables or shrimp, Young’s selection for the video dish.
Young told Brown the mofongo mashing usually fell to him during his younger days. You have to think it sparked a lifelong affiliation to food and recipes. As sous chef (second-in-command) to Climate Pledge Arena executive chef Molly DeMers, Young is grateful the opportunity to move West and be part of the world’s first zero-carbon sports and entertainment arena.
“Our entire culinary staff is dedicated to sustainability,” said Young, noting 75 percent of all concession foods will be locally sourced within 300 miles of the arena. “It’s a way to give back to community and planet. It makes us strive to give back. We are all excited to brainstorm ideas on we can be even more eco-friendly.”
DeMers, an inspirational leader herself and first female executive chef to open a major sports entertainment arena, is keen on Young’s kitchen and people skills. One reporter’s observations of the staff at work and leisure validates a group developing its own brand of inclusive chemistry.
“Chef Del is a vital part of our leadership team,” said DeMers this week. “He brings tremendous passion, empathy and experience to his role. He is someone we are eager to watch grow as a young leader with endless amount of potential.”
With Hispanic Heritage Month spanning from mid-September to mid-October, symbolically ushering the Kraken’s regular season and opening home games later in the month, Young says his days are full and “hectic.” Yet he finds time to recall the comfort foods of his youth as the new arena is partnering with local food purveyors and businesses who will bring locally popular comfort foods to fans attending games, concerts and other entertainment events.
“We ate a lot of rice and beans and fresh fruit as kids,” said Young. “Fresh fruit is so important [to the cuisine]. We were all athletes in my family and we carried it over to fruit smoothies at breakfast with fresh mangoes and pineapples.”
Young played football and baseball (speedy enough to be a shortstop) and wrestled too. His hockey knowledge is late-blooming but now solid after his time with Columbus Blue Jackets.
“I didn’t know my blue lines from the red line,” said Young, laughing one more time before return to kitchen planning and meetings. “The icing rule took a while for me to understand. But I’ve got it down now.”