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Development camp Q&A: Can Blue Jackets prospects cook?

Columbus makes sure its youngsters learn proper nutrition, but what do they know beforehand?

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider /

Few things I've ever heard during an interview have led to as much of a eureka moment as something Ohio State football performance guru Mickey Marotti told me in early 2015.  

As I was working on a story about the importance of nutrition within the Buckeyes' football program, Marotti said something that took me aback. 

"Every player that has lasted in the NFL for more than three years will tell you, the No. 1 reason why they last other than they're a good player and they have talent and skill and are smart is their diet," football performance czar Mickey Marotti said. "You can't out-train a bad diet. You can't."  

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When we think about high-performance athletes, we think about them going hard in the gym and hard on the practice field (or rink). Then we think about them dominating on the field of play when the time comes. 

But the average person likely doesn't think a ton about the food their favorite players eat, but the reality is that -- much like a Ferrari -- you can't run a high-performance athlete on junk fuel. The secret to success might very well be in the meals. 

The Blue Jackets recognize that, and as a result, the team has made it custom to include a night dedicated to nutrition in each season's development camp. The team's prospects, over the course of two nights, are taken to a local grocery store for shopping tips and go through a cooking class to learn a few basic recipes that will help fuel their bodies throughout the season. 

It might sound a bit silly -- jocks cooking?!? -- but it's important, especially considering many top prospects are either in college -- home of the late-night pizza run -- or living on their own for the first time before they get to Columbus. 

So with that in mind, I asked a few Blue Jackets prospects about their culinary skills coming into this year's cooking extravaganza. As many of them learn how to cook, what's their starting point?

Alexandre Texier 

A Frenchman, Texier spent most of the 2018-19 season playing in Finland. A year after his mom accompanied him in his first season in the Nordic country, Texier lived on his own as a 19-year-old this past season then came over to Cleveland and then Columbus to finish the campaign. 

As someone who debuted in the NHL this year, do you have to go through the cooking class again? "I did it last year. I think as a professional athlete, you have to expect some different things. Development camp is for everything. It helps to be better on the small details and cook and stuff like that. It's really good. For the guys who are coming from the draft or the guys who are here for two or three years, it's exactly the same. You have to learn from everything. It's really good because I live alone so sometimes you have to think about what you are going to do for food." 

So if you've been cooking for yourself, what are your specialties? "It's hard to say, but some chicken and pasta. I'm really good at chicken and pasta. That's really easy and really good." 

How do you cook the chicken? "I just put it in the pan. You can ask Emil (Bemstrom) too. I just cooked for him over the last two weeks. You can ask him if he likes it." 

Emil Bemstrom 

OK, so we asked Bemstrom. The Swedish prospect spent last year in his home country's top league, where he led the way in goal scoring despite being just 19 years old. Bemstrom and Texier have each been in Columbus the past few weeks training with Blue Jackets staff.

I was just talking to Texier and he said he's been cooking for you. How has it been? "I mean, it's OK. I think I'm the better one, but I haven't shown him yet." 

Oh, really? What do you enjoy making? "I mean, some Italian food. I like it a lot, like pasta carbonara, things like that. I have to show him later tonight." 

Being a returning player to development camp, has the cooking class helped you before? "Of course. It's great to know how some good cooking. It's not the same back in Sweden, so it's good to learn some American food things here." 

I don't know exactly what Swedish food entails, but are there things you miss eating when you're in North America? "In Sweden, we like a lot of sauce. I don't find that much sauce in the grocery stores here." 

What kinds of sauces? "Have you heard about bearnaise sauce? That one. And I don't know how you call it -- garlic sauce in Sweden is pretty good. And some tomato sauce." 

Carson Meyer 

The Powell native spent last season with Ohio State, but dorm food is far from his diet. OSU provides a fair amount of meals to its athletes, but Meyer says he's a pretty good cook. He just stays away from fish -- a tapeworm, likely acquired from undercooked fish, laid waste to his body during the 2017-18 season. 

This is your fourth development camp. Do you get out of doing the cooking class for a fourth time? "Nah, I'm doing it tonight. I don't mind doing that because I like cooking and we get three meals out of that for free, so I'll take that." 

So have you learned what you used from previous classes? "I actually cook very frequently. I cook just about every night, especially during the season. Right now in the summer I'm usually home and my mom makes me meals, but during the season I make breakfast omelettes every day and try to make steak at night." 

Would you cook for your teammates a lot at OSU? "Last year I lived with six other guys and I would cook for them sometimes, but honestly a lot of them also cook for themselves so I didn't have to worry about it. This year I'm living with (teammate) Austin Pooley in the Short North, so we'll probably cook for each other every once in a while. I know he likes to cook as well. We're both pretty serious about our diets." 

You said you make steak -- on the grill or in a pan on the stove? "It depends on the day. If it's nice enough we'll go outside. Otherwise, it's just in the pan because it feels like winter all season." 

Tyler Angle 

Angle was just drafted after three seasons with Windsor of the OHL and is attending his first NHL development camp. Just 18, he has spent the past three seasons with a billet family, the Renauds. 

Going into the cooking class, have you had to cook for yourself in the past? "I think I have a good billet family in Windsor. (My billet family's mother) shows me the ropes when it comes to cooking. She knows what I need to eat. I made stuff with her and stuff like that, but we'll see what happens." 

So you've cooked some. Have you developed any specialties? "To be honest, I don't cook a lot. I know how to cook - just the simple stuff, nothing crazy. I can cook a hamburger, steak, all that kind of stuff. But when I'm in Windsor, she treats me well. She cooks everything for me, so it's nice." 

Tim Berni 

No, not bearnaise (hat tip to Emil Bemstrom). Berni was drafted in 2018 and is back to his second CBJ development camp. He spent last year playing in his home country and turned 19 in February. 

You're back for your second year of development camp. Did you get much from last year's cooking class? "I did, yeah. They taught us how to make a breakfast burrito, so I used that. That was good." 

You're a pro in your home country. I don't know your living situation, but did you cook much last year? "I live with my parents back home, so that's good, but I like to cook by myself or with my girlfriend. It's really easy stuff, so like pasta, omelettes, maybe some meat, but it's really easy." 

It's good to learn this stuff though, right? "Oh yeah, for sure. Nutrition is important." 

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