This just might be music to foodies’ ears.
Live Nation, owner of Aaron’s Amphitheatre at Lakewood, the Tabernacle and other concert venues across the country, has hired Georgia chef Hugh Acheson to help overhaul its concessions, which will include serving only local produce and humanely-raised meats.
Starting this week, all produce served at its 38 amphitheaters around the country will come from about a 100-mile radius of each venue, Live Nation said. Additionally, all meats — some 285,000 burgers, 260,000 hot dogs and 280,000 chicken tender meals per year — will carry either Certified Humane, Global Animal Partnership or Animal Welfare Approved certification.
“Right now, my involvement is to come up with some vegetarian options for all the venues and to assist in sourcing for local fruits and vegetables to be used at the venues,” Acheson told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “They are serious about the mandate and are really pushing. Already they are getting all meats from humanely, ethically raised producers. The vegetable program is in the works already with the goal of having the vegetables from producers local to each venue.”
The change will cost Live Nation about an extra $1 million a year, but concertgoers won’t see that reflected in food or ticket prices, said CEO Michael Rapino. He believes the goodwill generated by serving better food and supporting local farms will be compensation enough.
“As we dug into it, what came second to us was that what’s important isn’t just what’s on the menu, but the supply chain behind it,” Rapino said. “And if it’s going to be local and we’re going to look at the supply chain, let’s make sure we’re doing the right thing and make sure the animals are treated well before they get to market.”
“That’s good for business in the long run, and good for the environment and the animals in the short run,” he said.
Acheson, an outspoken proponent of local and sustainable agriculture, is best known for appearances on Bravo’s “Top Chef” and “Top Chef Masters.” He says he is fascinated by the challenge of providing ethically sourced food on such a large scale.
The overhaul was triggered when Live Nation officials decided to offer a vegetarian option at their amphitheaters.
Acheson said, “The vegetarian option that I am thinking of is a rice and beans variative with crisp tofu, feta, tomatoes, cucumbers and arugula. It’s a little different than your typical concert food but it’s what I like to eat.”
Live Nation also owns The Tabernacle, but it has limited food options, such as nachos, chicken tenders and pizza.
“As for the Tabernacle, I am sure it will be included at some point,” Acheson said. “I have cooked there a number of times for Widespread Panic and their Tunes for Tots fundraiser.”
The move comes as sports arenas around the country continue to overhaul their own food offerings to better appeal to America’s growing appetite for good grub. For several years now, ballparks and other stadiums have been touting their own healthier and gourmet choices, from sushi to fine wines to artisanal sausages and Dungeness crab salad.
“To me, it’s a matter of finding companies that actually want to make the steps towards a better food space, and Live Nation is. Plus I love the Black Keys and dream of serving them squash casserole,” Acheson said.
Staff writer John Kessler contributed to this article.