J.J. Redick’s Twitter profile says it all: “Basketball player for the Orlando Magic. Former Duke basketball player. Lover of food.” In an offseason recovering from abdominal surgery, Redick hasn’t just been working out and going to physical therapy; he’s been visiting some of the most celebrated restaurants in the country and tweeting pictures and descriptions as he eats tacos at La Esquina in New York City and pork jowl and crème fraîche at Uchi in Austin, Texas.
In answering questions for us at SportsandFood.com, the man with the smoothest jumper in basketball tells us how he developed his love of food, which NBA player he’s eaten with the most, and how to enjoy the Redick food experience at Chipotle and all over Orlando.
SportsandFood.com: In an interview with Pat Forde, you mentioned how you grew up as a very picky eater. But now you’re eating pork jowls with pears, lemon crème fraîche and Brussels sprouts. How and when did that change?
J.J. Redick: I was never a very adventurous eater growing up, despite the fact that my mother is a nutritionist and my parents have always had a garden in our yard. When I was at Duke, I finally had an avocado — accidentally — on a turkey sandwich. I was hooked. Next thing I know, I couldn’t get enough guacamole. Avocado was the first thing I ever ate that was outside my box. As I finished up my time at Duke, I certainly wasn’t a “foodie” but I was learning to enjoy the finer things in the culinary world.
During my third year with the Magic, I took a trip with Chelsea (my girlfriend at the time and now my wife) to Mexico and we both tried some foods we had never tried before. At that point, February of 2009, I officially became a “foodie.” Now I will try almost anything and can enjoy some different foods, such as pork jowls.
SF: How has your diet changed from college to the NBA? How much involvement do the Magic have in players’ diets?
Redick: I eat better now than at Duke because healthy, sustainable food is more readily available. The Magic staff is not very involved in most players’ diets. The option for assistance and guidance is there, but I don’t use it. I have always eaten healthy and well. My wife and I cook 3 to 5 nights a week, and we generally stick to lean proteins and leafy greens. We both love pasta, but we have a special technique that allows us to make a “sauce” with a lot of flavor and not a lot of fat. We generally steer clear of any fried food and carefully monitor our dairy intake (which is generally high in fat). As with most things, moderation is key.
SF: Hypothetical scenario: A teammate from Duke is visiting you in Orlando, and you want to show him five great restaurants where he can learn about delicious food he hasn’t tried before. Where do you take him and why?
Redick: 1. Ravenous Pig is a fun place to eat and socialize. I especially love the lobster tacos. If oysters are on the menu, I get them because they come with a great mignonette.
2. Luma holds sentimental value because I proposed to Chelsea in their private wine cellar. They have the best small plates in town: always seasonal ingredients, fresh seafood and they usually have some sort of pork dish. Their staff is top-notch. A great take on modern American cuisine.
3. Season’s 52. Most of my out of town guests — especially my parents — prefer this restaurant because it’s so rare to find food that is both healthy and flavorful. I always start a meal there with one of their flatbreads.
4. Orchid is the first Thai place I’ve ever eaten at. I love their pad thai and their panang curry.
5. Briarpatch. OK, you can tell I spend a lot of time in Winter Park. But I am a lover of breakfast food and I think that Briarpatch makes the best breakfast in town. When Chelsea and I first started dating we would meet there in the morning, and I was driving all the way from Windermere. They have great pancakes and french toast, but I generally get some sort of egg dish with grits, bacon and a biscuit. Healthy? Not necessarily. Delicious? Absolutely.
SF: Who in the NBA shares your love of food the most? How did you guys find out you shared this love of food and where have you eaten together?
Redick: Adonal Foyle and I share a love of food that is unmatched amongst NBA players. No seriously, Chelsea and I actually had him over to cook for him last season. Adonal and I started going to dinner together on the road during my third year in the league, and we have been to some pretty cool places around the country.
SF: What are the top three meals you’ve ever eaten? Why were they so great?
Redick: 1. French Laundry — Napa Valley — August 2010. The French Laundry is Thomas Keller’s Napa Valley flagship restaurant and was named the number one restaurant in the world. Twice. I have since returned for another meal — last month — but my first experience there was unmatched. The creativity, the execution, the flavors. All amazing. My taste buds were dancing. The most unforgettable course I had that day was a squab dish. Never had squab before and haven’t had it since, but it was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. And this was the best meal I’ve ever had.
2. Holman and Finch — Atlanta — April 2011. Postgame meal with Chelsea. The waiter grabbed our menu and asked us what we liked to eat. I said pork. He then brought out about six small dishes, some with pork (like a pork shoulder bun) and some without pork. But the real star of the show was the bone marrow. It was my first time eating it, and now if I see it on a menu, I get it every time.
3. La Cava Los Cabos, Mexico — February 2009. La Cava is a once-a-week private dinner in the wine cellar at a 5-star resort in Cabo. The night we were there happened to be Valentine’s Weekend, and the secret ingredient of all five dishes was chocolate. Mexican cooking at its finest. My favorite dish was a shrimp enchilada covered in cocoa dust. On a side note, I believe this was the meal that sparked my true love for great food. My life has never been the same since. Oh, and I fell in love with Chelsea that weekend, too.
SF: Take us through a typical day of eating on game day. How does that compare to what you ate yesterday?
Redick: Breakfast: two scrambled organic eggs mixed with 2 ounces of egg whites. Two slices of multigrain bread. Banana.
Lunch: Usually a grilled protein (i.e., fish or chicken) and a leafy green salad.
Pre-nap snack: Bowl of granola with 1% organic milk. Can’t do skim because it tastes like water.
Pre-game meal at 4:30 pm: I have the same thing before every game — one chicken breast and some sort of pasta with marinara sauce. Boring, I know. But it gets the job done.
Tip-off: One Rice Krispies treat. Seriously. One little packaged treat right when the game starts.
Post-game: Generally some sort of pasta and protein.
I eat more during the season for obvious reasons: I burn more calories.
SF: You seem to have a real love of Chipotle. What’s the ultimate customized Chipotle order?
Redick: Rice and black bean bowl with grilled chicken. Mild salsa. And corn salsa. That’s it. Carbs/protein/low-fat.