Here's how the Eagles will fuel up before the NFC Championship, according to the team chef
By Nina Mandell
For the chefs and the nutrition staff at the Philadelphia Eagles, the mindset going into Sunday’s NFC Championship game was simple.
“Just try to keep it routine for these guys as possible,” said Jason Buniak, Senior Chef for the Philadelphia Eagles, FLIK Hospitality Group. “We try to keep it like any business day, try to keep the guys focused. Obviously there’s a lot going on outside of the facility but inside the facility we try to keep it as normal as possible, we want these guys to feel like they’re at home.”
So what does that really mean? We spoke to Buniak about the ins and outs of just what Philadelphia’s NFL team eats throughout the season.
(This interview has been condensed).
WHAT DOES AN AVERAGE DAY LOOK LIKE FOR YOU?
In season, we’re doing 3-4 meals a day, 6-7 days a week depending on the schedule. We do breakfast, lunch, dinner. We’ll do a snack. Monday and Tuesdays are a little lighter because it’s just coaches’ dinner. Players get the night off. Wednesday and Thursdays are full team and coaching staff dinners and Friday afternoons coaching staff and the teams usually have off in the evening. Saturday, lunch for the full staff and then it’s game day.
WHAT KIND OF FOODS DO YOU SERVE FOR EVERYBODY AND THEN ARE THERE DIFFERENT DIETS YOU HAVE TO DO FOR CERTAIN PLAYERS?
There’s a couple of players that have special requirements or a balance that they’re trying to eat and we do have a gentleman here that takes care of the individual players in that way and maybe preplates their meals or boxes them up to go home with them. But for the most part, what we try to do here is we have a lot of different tastes, a lot of different backgrounds and everyone has their own likes and their own habits. So what we try to do here is eat as much comfort food as we can with as many nutritional aspects as we can. So we don’t want to force nutrition down everybody’s throats, we want to make sure they have options. So if they want to cheat a little bit or have something that’s a little bit more heavy or a little bit more for their taste, we have that as well. So as long as we have a balance of comfort and healthy options, I think that’s our best bet for how we keep everyone happy.
WHAT DO YOU DO ON GAME DAY?
Game day, what they do is the night before they have a nice big meal: They have a pasta bar, a carving station. They have their options of turkey burgers, grassfed beef burgers. It’s a huge spread. On game day, they usually have a pregame meal that’s about four hours before the game. What that is the same every week — it’s lean proteins, there’s usually a pasta bar involved where they get some whole wheat pastas and some good proteins and good carbs in them and they get their fuel up before the game.
HOW DO YOU GET THIS JOB IN THE FIRST PLACE?
The Flik Hospitality group has been with the Eagles since 1999 or 2000 and I happened to get a transfer the one day and I’ve been here ever since.
IS THERE A SPECIFIC CHANGE THAT YOU’VE SEEN IN DIETS IN YOUR TIME THERE?
With your growth of sports science, there’s definitely been in a change in the way people eat for performance reasons. Back in the day it was thought that for example, football practice you would try to get through practice with the least amount of water breaks as possible. Now, there’s mandatory water and hydration breaks and hydration levels are monitored on a daily basis and the same thing goes into the nutrition aspect. These guys are putting higher octane into their bodies. They’re keeping calorie counts — on how many calories they’re eating on a regular basis and when they’re eating specific calories — when during the day or the week. Certain foods are better for fueling before practice or a game. And then you have to eat a different type of food or a different way after a heavy practice or a heavy game. You want to change up your diet and eat a more recovery based food. Whereas in (previous times), we had ‘junk food Friday’ or ‘Fast Food Friday’. Friday is more relaxed — we use it as a cheat day or a reward day. We fire up the smoker every Friday and have pulled pork, smoked wings, so it’s their reward for a hard week’s of work.
*Originally appeared inUSA Today on January 21, 2018.