KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Royals are warming up -- in the kitchens.
The Royals (0-3) will host their home opener on Monday against Oakland, the first of 81 home dates at Kauffman Stadium scheduled for 2017. When the Royals hit the diamond, their fans will tear into new menu items, as well as new locations to dine, all designed by the Aramark food services staff.
The new items are a major step up for a ballpark that, in recent years, hosted a visiting team from the Jackson County Health Department.
"This is literally the coolest part of the stadium. It's a lot of fun over here," Royals Executive Chef James Mehne told reporters on Friday, while leading a tour around new stadium concessions.
The fruits of Mehne's labor are loaded with flavor. His job is to make your mouth water, a position he's enjoyed for four seasons.
"We've taken the fan favorites menu, and put a lot of love into them," Chef Mehne said.
Mehne, a native of New York City, says his culinary team spent the offseason studying research from fan surveys, and dreaming up new food items to offer.
"This is a huge new food destination. The word is out and people are very excited for it," Mehne said.
Take his word for it. The expanded menu at the redesigned Diamond Club includes amped-up takes on traditional favorites, such as jalapeno pepper jack pretzels, rotisserie chicken meals and ice cream that's frozen fresh as fans observe one of two new open kitchens. Food prep employees use liquid nitrogen to freeze the ice cream makings into a delicious treat.
"It's fun taking nationwide food, or global food, and tuning it to make it taste to the Kansas City region," Chef Mehne said.
The Diamond Club has a new look as well, featuring new wood grain facades and leather back chairs, meant to offer the high-dollar ticketholder a luxurious experience. Many of the new food offerings made available in the Diamond Club will also be available to the general public via concession areas with multiple points-of-sale.
"We're taking it to the next level," Royals Vice-President Toby Cook told FOX 4 News.
Cook, now in his 11th season with the team's publicity staff, admits an image problem surrounded stadium concessions. Beginning in 2014, dozens of food-related complaints were filed with the Jackson County Health Department, many of them complaining about improper storage of food and poorly cooked hotdogs.
"We worked tirelessly with Aramark from those reports on to try to do what we could to improve the quality of what we were offering here at the ballpark," Cook said. "But also to give fans a confidence that we were going to do this together to make things better than they'd ever been."
There's also a new look for the Royals Team Store, which is located behind home plate. The retail shop has a larger entrance, and more visuals commemorating the 2015 World Series Championship.
Monday's home opener is scheduled to begin at 3:15 p.m.