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Frisco STYLE Magazine

Kickin' It in the Kitchen

Oct 01, 2022 ● By Ashli Urano

Erika Dabney was recently introduced as the executive chef at Toyota Stadium, home of Major League Soccer’s FC Dallas.

A Michigan native who resided for most of her life in New Jersey, Dabney arrived in Texas earlier this year. Her love of cooking began when she was a youngster. She cherishes memories of baking cakes and cookies alongside of her grandmother each summer. When they weren’t together, she used her grandmother’s cookbooks to continue learning about her newfound passion.

As years passed, a teenaged Dabney continued to excel in cooking. After she and her family attended Friday night high school football games, everyone knew a delicious dinner was in store for them when they returned home. Dabney especially enjoyed preparing food for family celebrations.

At 19, her life was forever changed when she took a dishwashing job at a restaurant where her sister worked as a bartender. “I started washing dishes because I needed a job, then soon hit it off with the chef,” she recalled. “He gave me such a hard time but ended up being great. … I realize now he was pushing me to go beyond staying in the dish pit.”

 Career Moves

Dabney ultimately became friends with the restaurant’s owner, under whose training she began running the kitchen just two years after being hired. Her confidence level skyrocketed, and she decided her goal was to learn all she could about the culinary world. 

Dabney eased into the industry doing temp work at Giants Stadium before taking on a full-time position with Legends Hospitality at Prudential Center, home of the NHL’s New Jersey Devils. Her career has flourished over the past eight years. 

With Legends Hospitality, she has been an executive chef at Ochsner Sports Performance Center in Metairie, Louisiana, where the NFL's New Orleans Saints and NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans practice. 

The more than two years she spent working with Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises in New York City proved memorable. “That experience really changed the hustle I had. It's a completely different pace than I was ever used to,” she explained. “The demand and food trends were extremely different. Working there really opened my eyes. It broadened what I could cook and also changed the way I thought about cooking in general."

Crafting Concessions

After Dabney stepped into her current role as executive chef at Toyota Stadium, she and her team developed an innovative new menu for FC Dallas fans to enjoy. 

In devising the menu for the team’s 27th season, her vision was to incorporate ingredients that epitomized what it means to be in Texas. 

Dabney created spicy chorizo nachos topped with pickled radish, tomato, onion, sour cream, cilantro and jalapeno queso. “There’s a cute story behind the chorizo nachos that is near and dear to my heart,” she said. 

“When I first met my husband, one of our first dates was him cooking for me. He made chorizo tacos, and they were so good. … With a little bit of Tex-Mex — along with a piece of my heart — I combined those things to create the chorizo nachos. It's something I think the fans really enjoy. It's a little lighter on the stomach, but still packs all the punches with flavor you're looking for in a concession item.” 

Another fan-favorite menu item was inspired by Dabney’s days in New Jersey visiting her sister in college. A food truck came around campus serving sandwiches with unconventional toppings. This experience brought what’s dubbed the Monster Burger to life. Resting on a toasted brioche roll, a beef patty is topped with crispy chicken tenders and smothered in honey mustard sauce. 

Additional noteworthy items on Toyota Stadium’s concessions menu include a Baked Bean and Brisket hot dog featuring an all-beef frank topped with house-smoked barbecue brisket and sweet baked beans. Meanwhile, Dabney’s Smoked Turkey Baked Potato is one fans won’t soon forget: The spud is filled with perfectly seasoned turkey, shredded cheddar cheese and sour cream and then topped with barbecue sauce and chopped green onions. 

On game day, Dabney has a team of up to 300 people working behind the scenes and throughout the stadium. The chef and her team do much more than create concessions at Toyota Stadium: They also execute high-level catering events with plated dinners served during concerts as well as high school and college football games that are hosted at the venue. 

Oftentimes, she said, she’ll “sit back and think, ‘Wow, I do a lot of stuff and work for a lot of people.’ It's amazing to get these opportunities. Everyone doesn't get them, so I feel very honored that I’m able to walk through the doors every day to give my best.” 

Ashli Urano is a freelance writer obsessed with competitive tennis, true crime and her Goldendoodle named Sadie Kireina.