Across the globe, healthy eating and performance nutrition are becoming increasingly critical components of the lives of elite athletes and weekend warriors. Jobs in the field are growing rapidly, and the thirst (or hunger) for a performance edge is stronger than ever.
Enter Johnson & Wales University.
On the cusp of launching its landmark College of Food Innovation & Technology — where the intersection of food and society will be explored — the university recently brought industry leaders together at Boston’s TD Garden to offer perspective and advice to young students aspiring to join the movement.
As part of its partnership with TD Garden and the Boston Bruins, JWU presented the first of its Game Days: Advancing Innovation seminars to 120 high school students and educators from around New England, as well as JWU alumni from a variety of industries. The Eat Well, Play Well program harnessed the talents of chefs, dieticians and nutritionists — most of them JWU alumni — from powerhouse sports programs including the NCAA’s University of Alabama Crimson Tide, which has won five national titles since 2009, and the World Series champion Boston Red Sox.
For four hours, the high schoolers were treated to a smorgasbord of information about the emerging field of sports nutrition and the relationship between performance and food. They even had a chance to sample several nutritionally-appropriate recipes designed by JWU Chef Jonathan Poyourow ’03, RD, LD, CSCS.
Keynoter Amy Bragg, RD, LD, CSSD, director of performance nutrition at the University of Alabama, described the demanding and prescribed minute-by-minute schedules maintained by Alabama’s elite football players. Healthy eating is critical to their success and ability to maintain their rigorous training programs, said Bragg, who has been at the forefront of sports nutrition practices nationally during the past two decades.
AMY BRAGG TAKES THE STAGE FOR HER KEYNOTE SPEECH.
She agreed with other members of the all-star panels that followed her presentation that gaining the athletes’ trust is a key starting point on their path to a healthier diet.
“Once you start building that trust and connection with your players, it segues into the nutrition [discussion] and getting them to try different things,” noted Priscilla Martinez ’15, executive performance chef with the Los Angeles Clippers. “It shows them that you’re listening to them and providing the cuisines that they like, but also making it a healthier meal for them.”
As maintaining a nutritious diet does not come naturally to many athletes, panelists offered some tricks of the trade that have yielded results.
“We’ll make meatloaf or lasagna, but use spinach noodles instead of regular noodles and try to layer it in so they don’t see the green,” said Michael Schauer ’16, sous chef and culinary nutritionist with the Red Sox. “Sometimes you have to blend in the nutrition so they don’t see the green.”
Even though nutritional science is a traditional science of research, the currency of nutrition is food, and that’s where JWU is really changing things.”
Some do work to nudge picky eaters in the right direction, putting healthy food in their paths and even turning the process into a competition. Tomas Membreno ’11, executive chef with the Pittsburgh Pirates, offered that “athletes are competitive by nature, so, if you make it a, ‘Who can put the most greens on their plate?’ competition, you turn healthy eating into a fun activity.”
JWU Chef Todd Seyfarth ’01, RD, RDN, who led a panel discussion on “How and Why Healthy Eating Works,” said, “My whole career has been focused on looking at all the studies and translating that to menu items. All of these alumni up here are doing the same thing in different capacities for different sports teams.” He was joined on the panel by Shauer, who picked up immediate credibility with the crowd by flashing his Red Sox World Series ring; Alexa Appelman ’15, RD, LD, performance dietitian and chef with the University of South Carolina Gamecocks; Christine Blank ’15, MS, RD, team dining manager for the Jacksonville Jaguars; and Membreno.
Chef Poyourow’s panel, “Enhancing the Player’s Experience,” included Martinez; James “J.J.” Glaude, clubhouse chef for the Red Sox; Keith Garman ’09, the Boston Bruins’ team chef; and Becky Lindberg Schroeder ’13, M.A.Ed., RD, LDN, CSSD, coordinator of sports nutrition for the University of Louisville. All offered sage career advice to the attendees.
PANEL 1 (L TO R: CHEF TODD SEYFARTH ’01, MICHAEL SCHAUER’ 16, ALEXA APPELMAN ’15, CHRISTINE BLANK ’15, TOMAS MEMBRENO ’11 AND AMY BRAGG.)
“This was a great way to explore a new career path without having to go to school for four years to see if you like it,” said Jillian Caruso, a senior at the Warwick Area Career and Technical Center, echoing the thoughts of many in attendance. “It’s a great insight into a possible career choice.”
Many of the presenters commented on the role that Johnson & Wales played in their own career development.
“The partnership I’ve had with JWU, Chef Poyourow and Chef Seyfarth — just knowing them and getting to bring JWU students in has really changed our program and is now an essential part of it,” said Bragg.
PANEL 2 (L TO R: PRISCILLA MARTINEZ ’15, BECKY LINDBERG SCHROEDER ’13, KEITH GARMAN ’09, JAMES GLAUDE ’15 AND CHEF JONATHAN POYOUROW ’03.
“Johnson & Wales was a great place to get mentors,” said Appelman. “My professors taught me to diversify my experience as much as possible, because you never know what skills you’ll need in the field.”
Blank agreed that JWU was an important factor in her career. “Getting real information and soaking everything in from the experienced people around you is so important, and I always had that opportunity at JWU,” she said.
Seyfarth summed up much of the sentiment: “Even though nutritional science is a traditional science of research, the currency of nutrition is food, and that’s where JWU is really changing things.”
L TO R: JAMES GLAUDE ’15, CHEF TODD SEYFARTH ’01, CHEF JONATHAN POYOUROW ’03 AND AMY BRAGG CHAT AFTER THE EVENT.
JWU Chancellor Mim L. Runey, LP.D., kicked off the event and spoke of the university’s role as the official education partner of TD Garden and Boston Bruins. “JWU has succeeded, in part, through its keen focus on the future,” she said. “We look to stay ahead — in education, food and jobs. That future is what today is about.”
TD Garden President Amy Latimer welcomed the attendees to the historic venue and also lauded the partnership. ESPN’s vice president of national radio programming and production Marcia Keegan served as emcee.