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Taste of the NFL: Where chefs and NFL communities win

The San Francisco 49ers held a winning card at the charity event.
Waterbar Dungeness crab fried rice with uni mayo

Enough already with analysis of the Super Bowl. Patrick Mahomes is the NFL MVP, and baseball fans are already speculating on spring training.

But let’s not forget about good football food. Here’s a taste of San Francisco worth drooling over: Dungeness crab fried rice topped with uni mayo. This is the dish Executive Chef Parke Ulrich of Waterbar served at the Taste of the NFL event held the night before the big game. For over 25 years, this charity event showcases elevated food by chefs from the 32 NFL cities to support national food banks.

Ulrich showcased the incredible seafood of the Bay Area and Waterbar. Along with stunning floor-to-ceiling views of the San Francisco bay and bridge, the Embarcadero restaurant also hosts a tall fish tank and oyster bar.

When he first participated in Taste of the NFL last year, the 49ers season ended at 4 wins and 12 losses. Ulrich was oblivious to the hoopla and prime position the game cities received at the event. This year his 49ers table and that of his friend Chef Michael Smith of several restaurants in Kansas City were located at the entrance where 1,000 attendees gathered to feast and mingle with former NFL players.  

Ulrich was optimistic his home team would win. Offensive lineman Joe Staley is a Waterbar regular and Super Bowl winning quarterback Steve Young has hosted events at the restaurant. Though the 49ers floundered in the fourth quarter on game day, the Taste of the NFL event proved to be a special, heartwarming time for Ulrich.

 It was a long day, said the chef, with hours of prep with the Dungeness crab and uni flown in from San Francisco. Joined by his Chef-de-Cuisine Justin Baade and General Manager Peter Sittnick, Ulrich set up the crab fried rice in rows of Chinese takeout containers. With over 25 wineries participating in Taste of the NFL, Ulrich and his team poured Matua Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand with the savory seafood dish.

“I was humbled to be with great chefs from around the country, spending a day on a great mission to support the food banks,” said Ulrich. Many of the chefs selected by their local NFL teams have national recognition such as James Beard award winner Allen Susser representing the Miami Dolphins, James Beard winner Chef Michael Smith for the Kansas City Chiefs, Chef Robert Del Grande for the Houston Texans, and Food Network’s “Melting Pot” series star Chef Tanya Holland for the Oakland Raiders. 

With the prize locations at the entrance to the event held in Diplomat Beach Resort near Miami, Ulrich got a chance to catch up with his friend Michael Smith, owner of Michael Smith, Farina and other Kansas City restaurants.

Though they only met at last year’s event, they have culinary heritage in common. Smith took over An American Place in Kansas City when Chef Bradley relocated to San Francisco. In the Bay Area Bradley hired Ulrich at Lark Creek Inn. Ulrich now is partner-executive chef at Waterbar and the owner of Mersea across from Waterbar on Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay.

Ulrich reported that Michael Smith served Moroccan Lamb Harissa with couscous. Attendees weren’t quite sure of the Kansas City connection, but the dish was tasty nevertheless. 

In the group photo, Ulrich is cheering the charity cause along with the other 31 chefs and volunteers. He stood next to the other Bay Area chef invited to the event, Tanya Holland, chef-owner of Brown Sugar Kitchen in Oakland representing the Raiders. 

Holland prepared Brown Sugar Bourbon glazed Verlasso salmon with pineapple salsa. The modern soul food recipe reflects the strong interest in Oakland for southern and Caribbean food. The wine paired with the salmon was Intercept pinot noir from Monterey County, Calif. The vintner behind the Intercept project is former Raider Charles Woodson. Holland was pleased that Woodson participated in the event and poured the wine alongside the chef. Next year, the Raiders move to Las Vegas which may result in a new flavor profile to Taste of the NFL.

With the event’s Kick Hunger Challenge, the only NFL sanctioned online auction, over $26 million dollars has been donated to food banks to prepare over 220 million meals distributed nationwide. The 49ers contributed to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties. In addition, Waterbar presents their Oyster Giveback Campaign through March, donating five cents for every oyster sold. Given the popularity of Waterbar’s seafood bar on the Embarcadero, the nickels make a difference for the food banks.

With the hometown team in the Super Bowl, Ulrich was thrilled to participate in this year’s Taste of the NFL, hang out with chef friends and soak up the Super Bowl atmosphere. Even if the hometown team lost. After all, he could return to the calming views of the San Francisco Bay after a colossal Super Bowl loss. 

Taste of the NFL


Michael Smith restaurants
Brown Sugar Kitchen
Kick Hunger Challenge

Deborah Grossman is a patient fan of the San Francisco 49ers

Image Credits:

Chef Parke Ulrich-Chef Michael Smith flanked by former players: Credit-Marel Hinners BCPR
Dungeness crab fried rice wth uni mayo: Credit-Waterbar

Taste of the NFL chefs and volunteers: Credit-Marel Hinners BCPR
Chef Parke Ulrich-Chef Michael Smith flanked by former NFL players: Credit-Marel Hinners BCPR
Waterbar private dining room: Credit-Waterbar

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