Check out Riki Altman's interview with Eric Chopin, the executive chef at the American Airlines Arena.
So the Heat lost last night. One person who can't be blamed is Chef Michael Jacobs, the man who makes the team's breakfasts and lunches when they practice and play in Miami.
Chef Jacobs, whose father owned a small catering business, remembers catering his own bar mitzvah. "My father and I, a week before my bar mitzvah, sat there in the kitchen of the temple and rolled spring rolls," he recalled. "One hundred and seventy eight of 'em. It's one of those things, growing up, you say I've known what I wanted to do for my entire life. But then again, now I really can't do anything else. I'm kinda stuck with it."
Cooking has been his main occupation for a quarter of a century. Chef Jacobs grew up in Boston, graduated from Johnson & Wales in Rhode Island, and landed his first gig in Jerusalem at the King David Hotel, which at that time was the only four-star restaurant in the Middle East. From there he worked in California, then with Terrance Brennan in New York, then over to Europe, then back to New York. Then 23 years old, he opened a restaurant that didn't quite work out the way he planned. "I made every mistake you could make," he admitted. "But it was a great learning experience."
After a brief consulting job in Japan where he helped a produce company adopt the local cuisine for a crepe cart (eel special, anyone?), he landed in Miami and became Adrienne Arsht's caterer. Yes, that Adrienne Arsht.
In the mid-'90s he got a call from one Tim Hogle asking him to co-create the menu for a restaurant focused on aphrodisiacs. Tantra was born and Jacobs was on the path to a stellar Miami career, with another stint on the top floor of the Miami Center Building.
Today he has strayed from love apples and oysters to smoothies and wraps, but his job as co-owner of Strategic Hospitality Group is still serious business. His responsibility not only includes keeping the tanks of Heat players and their coaches and training staff fueled, but also making sure the guys are satisfied and nutritionally fulfilled.
New Times: How much food do you have to make?
Michael Jacobs: I feed about 30 people. I feed them breakfast and lunch and I do all the meals for practices, game days, and events and stuff.
This year's crop is very health conscious. Very nutritionally savvy. They eat a large volume. They're big guys.
How did you come up with menus?
The same way I did Tantra: research. And I brought in a nutritionist who works with our company directly, Betsy Berthin, who's a registered and licensed dietitian. Betsy and I work hand-in-hand to create the dishes. We're very precise. We like to have a wide variety of items
What do the guys get to choose from for breakfast?
I have steel-cut oatmeal for them. There's brown sugar and cinnamon, or there's raw sugar that I try to not have them eat. (It's kinda far back so they can't really see it.) Then I do three wraps or breakfast sandwiches. We do whole wheat English muffins or multi-grain bagels with turkey sausage or ground turkey, fresh whole eggs, and fat-free low-moisture skim mozzarella. And then we have another hotel pan of scrambled eggs, roasted tomatoes, and turkey bacon. I do multigrain pancakes, multigrain waffles...
And for lunch?
Wraps and sandwiches.
These guys are on the run. They're very busy.
Any of the players have special dietary restrictions?
Some guys are allergic to the processed crap. They get belly aches and get sick and stuff so we provide the best of the best.
What's the most popular item you make?
The D Wade breakfast wrap we do on game days.
What's in that?
Ground turkey, homemade barbecue sauce (a little bit), egg, cheddar cheese on whole wheat. Loves it. [Editor's note: Fans will get the recipe for this on Friday morning's blog post.]
Is there a LeBron meal yet?
Not yet. We haven't named one after him yet.
How 'bout Udonis?
He's one of the nicest guys. Good people. Udonis hits the wraps every morning. Once in a while he goes for the breakfast sandwiches.
Does everyone eat your grub?
Last year I had a player who would not eat my breakfast after a certain time. We learned he was picking up fast food. So I said, what's up? Why you sweatin' my food? It made me think, this is interesting. What does he like about it? So I went to [that restaurant], I purchased that item, dissected it, spit it out--it was gross. I came back to the commissary and said let's make a healthy one. I made whole wheat multigrain pancakes, cut them into ring molds, took turkey sausage, fresh whole egg, a mix of cheddar and mozzarella cheese, and painted the bottom pancake with sugar-free maple syrup and put it together.
Was he a believer?
They killed it. He didn't even get one the first day because they annihilated it.
Bounce back tomorrow to find out how much the guys can eat, which dishes they consider "foul," and which one treat Jacobs slips 'em once in a while.
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