College football's national championship is tonight between the Oregon Ducks and the Ohio State Buckeyes. In preparation for the matchup we're busy planning our game-night menu and have decided to go with former Oregon Duck and current New York Giant Geoff Schwartz's bacon cheeseburgers: barbecue sauce, Colby Jack cheese, bacon and onion rings on a toasted onion bun. (Check him out making the burgers here). If you can't grill outside like Schwartz, he recommends cooking the burgers in a cast-iron skillet using some of the leftover bacon fat to fry them.
We talked to the 6-foot-6, 340-pound Schwartz about his love of cooking, TV and his time at Oregon.
1. Who are you picking in tonight's game?
Oregon is going to win! It is definitely our time to win, and we are playing at such a high level. They played lights out against Arizona in the Pac-12 championship game and then forced five turnovers against Florida State. While you can't rely on forcing turnovers against Ohio State, that style of attacking defense carries over game to game. Look for Oregon to use that defense to create momentum for the team, thus allowing Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota to get that offense scoring big points.
2. What was the best part about playing at Oregon?
The atmosphere and fans. Oregon football is the only show in town—and oftentimes the state. We have extremely passionate fans, and Autzen Stadium rocks. I loved playing there. Win or lose, the fans always have our backs. Also, having Nike up the road was special. We got taken care of better than any school. It was cool being the poster school for unique and flashy uniforms.
3. Was there any good food near the University?
Surprisingly, Eugene has quite a few good Hawaiian food spots that I loved. I'd get the basic plate lunch: rice, mac and cheese, chicken, spare ribs, beef, etc. This is probably why I gained a whole bunch of weight my freshman season.
4. Do you have a go-to dish when you're cooking?
I have a dish I've been making since I was about 12 years old. It's a simple shrimp pasta in tomato sauce, but it's amazingly tasty if you use fresh ingredients. I take a pound of cleaned, large to jumbo shrimp and sauté them in a tomato-based sauce. The sauce is diced roma tomatoes, garlic, shallots and fresh basil. I let that cook for 3-4 minutes. I then add some butter and white wine and allow the dish to cook for another few minutes. The next step is to add the shrimp to the pan and cook until they are done. While the shrimp is cooking, add fresh linguine pasta into salted boiling water. The fresh pasta only takes 2-3 minutes to cook, so it will be finished when the shrimp are done. Finally, strain the pasta, throw it into the pan and mix it all together. Plate the pasta, add some fresh basil and parm cheese. So yummy!
5. What's your favorite food show?
I don't find myself watching many food shows anymore. I watched a whole bunch when I was a kid. Emeril was probably the one that got me hooked on cooking. I loved his flair. Today, I mostly watch "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives" or "Bizarre Foods America." I just love seeing what America likes to eat. I sometimes find a dish on there that I'll love, so I make it. Recently, I made a black squid ink pasta with shrimp and squid that I saw on "Bizarre Foods." It was amazing.
6. What does a typical day of eating look like?
When I'm training I eat only protein, veggies, nuts and cheese. Therefore I burn fat and not carbs and lean out with more muscle. Carbs are a big enemy of guys my size. They do more harm than good. However, I do get one cheat meal a week under this system, and I normally blow it out with pizza and fried rice. During the season, I have to eat carbs. I work out too hard, and my body needs them.
7. If the Ducks win, what would you make them to celebrate?
I'd probably smoke some ribs. That would be easiest for an entire team. But I'd cook whatever they wanted if it meant we would win this game!