Gold-Medal Cooking

He kept the U.S. Olympic ski and snowboard team well-fed

By Peter Anderson
September 2018

As a sports performance chef, Brett Eisen has fed plenty of athletes, including the Sacramento Kings, Oregon Ducks, Denver Broncos and 2016 U.S. women’s Olympic soccer team. But working in PyeongChang, South Korea, as a chef for the U.S. ski and snowboard team was a special thrill. “Easily, to date, the highlight of my career,” says the 28-year-old East Sac resident.

The Olympic Committee contacted him five months before the 2018 Winter Games to be a member of the culinary team. (The team, which competes year-round, already had a full-time chef.) His mission? “Merely show up and cook food,” he says.

Eisen set up shop in an old snowboard store across from the bobsled course and went to work.

 “Cooking for finely tuned skiers and snowboarders is fun and fairly easy,” he says. “There is no nutrition counseling. These world-class athletes already know what they need and want. My job was to inject variety, flavor and fun into their daily menus.”

For breakfast, he made quinoa oatmeal sprinkled with orange zest, banana maple cinnamon muffins and lots of eggs: egg sandwiches, egg burritos, quiches, frittatas and French toast casserole.

Eisen fermented his own kimchi, which he added to pancakes and dumplings. “Nothing too spicy, but fun, flavorful and tasty,” he explains. To combat the cold, he made huge pots of bone broth for the athletes. In the snowboard-store-turned kitchen, he provided grab ’n’ go sandwiches along with simple pasta dishes and homemade gnocchi.

Dinners were robust affairs: chimichurri flank steak, Japanese sweet potatoes, roasted root vegetables, chicken piccata, pesto chicken, chicken and pasta, hearty soups. “I stressed homestyle cooking,” he says. “The athletes yearned for great carbs—not basting stuff in butter, but lean and clean.”

He stayed in the same condo as the athletes, and he kept their lounge stocked with dried fruits, granola and healthy snacks.

“It was inspiring to see the good nature and warm camaraderie among our skiers and snowboarders,” says Eisen. “Their gratitude for my home cooking induced me to perform at max.”

His friend and mentor, Adam Sacks, accompanied Eisen to PyeongChang to help him cook. The two share an intense passion for health, nutrition and sports.

Which brings us to Eisen’s next venture: Fuel Good, a Sacramento-based business that caters to retired athletes. Eisen shows them how to incorporate real food and performance-level nutrition into their lifestyles.

“I have found,” says Eisen, “that retired athletes might not immediately possess the necessary awareness to maintain healthy physical conditioning after they transition to their new way of life. Northern California is a highly desired locale for former athletic stars, and, while I hope to stay in Sacramento for the immediate duration, it’s a close commute to reach out and serve those athletes who still need a sense of direction when it comes to wellness, clean living and healthy nutrition.”

For more information about Fuel Good, email Brett Eisen at chefbretteisen@gmail.com.

Peter Anderson can be reached at 49peteranderson@gmail.com.

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