Why do you go to a baseball game? Is it the thrill of watching the bat collide with the ball, sending it soaring beyond the outfield for a home run? Is it the camaraderie of gathering with your neighbors and friends to root for the home team? Is it that fresh air that smells like summer? Or, is it the excuse to eat delicious food under the open sky with no remorse?
For us, it’s all of these things, but with a culinary staff as talented as the ones at the Pitchin’ Kitchen, that last reason is definitely not least! Even when the Atlantic League canceled their 2020 season, our neighbors at Truist Point and the Pitchin’ Kitchen stepped up to make sure our community was able to experience a few of our favorite elements of the ballpark – namely some good old fashion baseball food. Thanks to executive chef, Miquel Phillips – it’s baseball food with a twist!
With the High Point Rockers’ 2021 season a month away, and the Pitchin’ Kitchen already offering their delicious food each day at lunch, we sat down with Miquel to hear from the man behind the Pitchin’ Kitchen’s delectable dishes like the Sweet Music Burger and the Fall Berry Salad.
But to learn how Miquel ended up in High Point leading the Pitchin’ Kitchen, you have to go back to his family dining room in Richlands, North Carolina where he grew up.
“My mother and grandmother were normally cooking cliché soul food,” Miquel explains, “But my uncle used to experiment with food.”
While Miquel respected the food he grew up eating at his mother’s and grandmother’s tables, it was his uncle that gave him the eyes to see that cooking is all about creativity.
“With food comes creativity,” Miquel says, remembering how he and his uncle would innovate in the kitchen with different ingredients and styles. “That’s how recipes are created.”
In high school, a representative from Johnson & Wales University spoke to Miquel’s foods class, leading him to realize he could pursue culinary arts in a professional setting.
“There’s nothing else I’d do,” Miquel says now. After graduating from Johnson & Wales with a degree in culinary arts, food, beverage management, as well as sports and event management, he began working in the sports and entertainment world. This led him to work for some pretty high-profile clients. Ever heard of the Carolina Panthers?
In fact, before coming to High Point, Miquel provided services for the Carolina Panthers, the Charlotte Knights, and the Charlotte Hornets. He even cooked at the Masters Tournament for the past seven years, so his chops are well-earned.
In 2017, Miquel moved from Charlotte to the Triad when he was hired as sous chef at Wake Forest University. Spectra, the company that provides entertainment and hospitality services to Wake Forest eventually offered Miquel the position of executive chef at their new client, the High Point Rockers.
“I’m a big sports guy, so this position aligned well for me,” Miquel explains.
But when the COVID-19 pandemic put a hold on the Rockers’ season, the team at Truist Point wanted to keep their High Point community engaged and their chefs employed in the meantime.
“As far as food, if you don’t have foot traffic, it’s hard to know who you’re selling food to,” Miquel says. “Without people, who are you feeding?” He notes that he has been grateful to continue having a job working at the Pitchin’ Kitchen, while he knows other chefs and hospitality workers haven’t been as fortunate.
That’s why in 2020, the Pitchin’ Kitchen began opening for lunch on the weekdays, as well dinner on Taco Tuesdays and Wing It Thursday, to provide jobs for their employees and enjoyment for the community. And while the Rockers’ 2021 season is right around the corner, the Pitchin’ Kitchen is already opening its gates again for foodie fans to get their fix.
As the Pitchin’ Kitchen begins its second year, Miquel and his team have one continued goal: to provide customers and fans with the best possible experience.
“I want people to know there was love put into my food,” he says. “I don’t want to take any shortcuts. I want to provide them with the best of the best and give them the experience they are looking for.”
A big part of that experience, Miquel explains, is maintaining a creative and innovative menu. That’s why he leads the Rockers and Spectra teams in crafting a menu that keeps Rockers fans well-fed while offering a one-of-a-kind experience. To do that, Miquel often returns to his roots.
“You can put your background into your food,” he explains. “That’s a way of describing yourself, putting yourself out there to people. That is creativity, and it allows you to be personable to your customers.”
It’s no surprise that the dishes that are most infused with personality, creativity, and individuality are favorites – by both customers and staff alike.
“My favorite dish is the chicken and waffles,” Miquel says. “There is a lot of creativity in it, as well as my own background in soul food.” He notes that while that dish will stay on the menu, many items will rotate out to make way for new, innovative dishes for fans to try this summer.
Because for Miquel and his staff at the Pitchin’ Kitchen, their guiding philosophy is that food is about more than survival – it’s about experience, connection, and joy.
“Food is a necessity,” he says, which he reminds himself often whenever the hospitality industry becomes stressful. “Whatever sporting event, whatever meeting, whatever conference… there’s food provided. It’s a must-have thing. So why not please people’s palettes and stomachs?”
Want the pleasure of enjoying some of the delicious food at the Pitchin’ Kitchen in High Point? Grab a bite outdoors while you take in the beautiful scenery of the park, Tuesday through Friday from 11 AM to 2 PM. (Plus, grab dinner on Tuesday and Thursday nights from 4:30 PM to 8:30 PM!)
Discover our High Points,
The HPD Team
Photography by Hannah Norris Photography