Cooking for an NBA player involves more than a stove and spatula; it requires knowing a player’s dietary needs and personal habits. Many personal chefs must travel with athletes and visit their homes daily. They may be tasked with cooking what a player wants or acting as a dietician.
Being a personal chef requires culinary talent, dietary knowledge, a flexible schedule, and, as we learn from firsthand accounts, the ability to connect with their clients. Here’s what you need to know about these integral people who work with NBA stars behind the scenes.
Becoming a personal chef to NBA stars
In 2012, a 22-year-old personal chef received an unexpected call from Kevin Durant, reports The Score. Durant asked Ryan Lopez, who only had three cooking jobs at the time, to drive from his Michigan home to Akron, Ohio, where he was hanging out with LeBron James. So Lopez got in his car and started driving. He spent the next day preparing food for lunch and dinner.
Lopez served the NBA players kale Caesar salad, grilled chicken sausage, Caribbean jerk shrimp, chicken wings, duck, and salmon. He had never been a personal chef, but he’d developed a good reputation. Durant enjoyed the meal and hired Lopez as his personal chef. Eventually, Lopez moved with the NBA star to Oklahoma City, and then Golden State.
Personal chefs ask NBA clients lots of questions
According to Lopez, a key to becoming a personal chef is to get to know the player, and this can’t occur without asking some questions. An athlete like Kevin Durant has an open mind about food, which makes it easier to cook for him.
As Durant and Lopez got to know one another, the chef began to learn exactly what to prepare in order to make the NBA player happy.
NBA chefs make a name for themselves
Entering the NBA circle means other players will soon call upon your services. For Traci Siegel, this equated to serving many of the league’s best players. Clients like JaVale McGee, Kyrie Irving, Damian Lillard, Enes Kanter, and Wilson Chandler come to Siegel when they want to try a vegan diet.
This niche market helps chefs like Siegel get their name out there. Siegel, in particular, says her signature is a vegan version of ricotta cheese, pesto, and parmesan cheese. She also enjoys making vegan fried rice for her NBA clients.
Opportunities may open outside of the NBA
Siegel has used her platform and her connections to build her website. She promotes healthy living, debunks myths about what people can and cannot eat, and helps develop diverse palates among her readers.
In the social media age, this is a good market to tap into, as food accounts across platforms have helped chefs achieve international fame, get book deals, star in cooking shows, and much more.
NBA chefs must be prepared for anything
According to Sports Illustrated, LeBron James’ chef Glenn Lyman quickly learned that cooking for high-profile celebrities can lead to unpredictable requests. On one particular evening, the Cavaliers had just finished a game when LeBron James asked Lyman to come over and prepare a meal.
The meal was not just dinner for LeBron and his family; it was a dinner for 20 film executives and late-night talk-show hosts such as Jimmy Kimmel. Lyman had three hours to prepare the spur-of-the-moment meal. This is, perhaps, the greatest lesson for aspiring chefs. They must be prepared for anything, regardless of the logistical challenges they face.