Joseph Doyle watches the most exciting two minutes in sports from the rooftop of Churchill Downs. He stands high above the track, high above the fancy hats and cheering masses. He's more than a fan, but he's no gambler.
"I don't pick horses, just the food," he says.
Chef Jo-Jo, as Doyle is known, has been the executive chef at Churchill Downs for three years now. The only peace he gets from feeding the masses who come for the Kentucky Derby is the two minutes everyone else is in a frenzy for.
"I always take time for that. You have to see 150,000 people singing 'My Old Kentucky Home' with their mint julep in their hand watching those horses walk the track," Doyle says. "I get chill bumps."
He and the team from Levy restaurants, who are charged with the catering of Churchill Downs, have been hard at work ordering, prepping and cooking staggering quantities of food for the big weekend, which includes the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby. Roughly a quarter of a million people will come to the races. And they come hungry.
This week Doyle has flown in a team of 44 chefs who direct 3,000 support workers to handle the massive kitchen load. Here's just a sampling: 32,400 jumbo shrimp; 142,000 hot dogs; 300,000 strawberries; and more than a ton of mint for the official Derby drink, the Mint Julep. But as incomprehensible as those numbers seem, they aren’t what shocks Chef Jo-Jo the most.
"The turkey," he says. "I'm ordering 14,000 pounds of turkey this week alone."
To put that in perspective, imagine a turkey the size of an adult male elephant.
Doyle has added a new menu item do the Derby this year, the Superfecta burger. It has four types of meat, including a patty made of beef and chorizo. It's then topped with shredded pork shoulder and bacon. The behemoth is finished off with bbq sauce, cole slaw and pepperjack cheese.
"It's all about the wow," he says. "We want people to see it and say, 'Wow, where did you get that!?'"
It's sold in the general concession stand, so it's available to everyone from the nosebleeds to millionaire's row. And don't think the celebs pass on meals.
"A couple years ago, Wade, Jordan, Barkley and the fellas were up there enjoying the race," Doyle says. "They were dressed to the nines and really into it."
Chef Jo-Jo is more of an MMA fan himself, but he does follow the Heat. He started with Levy Restaurants at the AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami and has a championship ring from his time there.
"I never really thought this is where I'd land. I'm the chef of Churchill Downs," he says. "How many people can say that?"
Just one, but there is no rest for the weary. Doyle says he began preparing for next year’s Derby two weeks ago. At least he'll get his two minute break on Saturday.