It Turns Out Pro Tennis Players Are Obsessed with Sweet Potatoes
At this year's Citi Taste of Tennis event, world-class chefs and tennis players talked tubers.
When Richard Blais competed on Top Chef All Stars in 2010, one of the challenges was to cook on a tennis court at the U.S. Open. The celebrity chef didn’t come that close to tennis again until he hosted this year’s Citi Taste of Tennis, an annual event that kicks off the American Grand Slam with some of New York City’s best chefs.
At the beginning of the night, Blais took the stage alongside John Isner, a top American player known for his 6′ 10″ height. The last time Blais spoke with Isner, he asked the tennis pro what he eats to be so tall and strong, and Isner replied that his diet consists of a ton of sweet potatoes. Blais, who is currently training for his sixth New York City marathon, said, “I’ve been doing that for the last six months since we met, and it’s not really working. So any other tips on how to try and be more like you?”
Laughing, Isner said, “I’m an aspiring chef, you said you’re an aspiring athlete. Something I love to do is I love to cook, I don’t think I’m very good, but as you mentioned, I do love sweet potatoes, that’s my favorite food in the world, they’ve got a lot of incredible nutrients.”
Although sweet potatoes won’t help Blais grow as tall as Isner, they do provide him with much-needed sweetness while he works to maintain a pre-marathon health kick. “A sweet potato with good butter and salt is basically cake,” Blais said. “One of my favorite light desserts is just a sweet potato roasted and super soft, even microwaved to be honest, with a lot of good melted butter and a little bit of salt.”
Some of the other players in attendance also expressed a love for sweet potatoes. Coco Gauff, the 15-year-old American who made a name for herself after beating Venus Williams at Wimbledon in July, doesn’t have a special tennis diet. She primarily eats pasta and other carbs, but sweet potatoes make a regular appearance on her plate. “I love sweet potatoes,” Gauff said. “I eat them for lunch almost every day from Outback Steakhouse. Just plain with sugar and butter and cinnamon.”
Sam Querry, another American player, said his wife, Abby, makes sweet potatoes at least once a week when they’re home. But when he’s on tour, he’s open to eating pretty much anything. “The food is different at every tournament, so you have to be willing to eat whatever’s available,” Querry said. “I try to have salmon and vegetables and rice before matches, but you can’t always get that. I’ll eat sushi if I’m in Japan, pasta if I’m in Italy.”
Speaking of sushi, Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto, a long-time participant of Taste of Tennis, said that to him, playing tennis is way harder than making sushi. As for sweet potatoes, he eats them grilled or mashed and completely plain—not even a dollop of butter.
Check out these recipes for sweet potato inspiration.