Beyond ‘Flamin’ Hot Cheetos’

Chef’s Table demonstrates healthy cooking to fuel Fighting Hawks student-athlete performance in and out of the classroom

Executive chef Greg Gefroh demonstrates how to make easy guacamole with a student athlete's help.

Executive chef Greg Gefroh demonstrates how to make easy guacamole with the assistance of Aubrey Hovland, marketing major and track and field athlete. Photo by Paul Wesp/UND Today.

The hardest part is boiling the water.

That’s what UND executive chef Greg Gefroh said as he demonstrated how to make pasta with vegetable marinara and chicken to a crowd of student athletes at a recent Chef’s Table cooking class for student athletes.

More than 40 hungry athletes watched as Gefroh – with helpers from the audience – deftly made guacamole, hummus, pasta, energy bites and more. The food demo and nutrition talk focused on quick, healthy meals, then let athletes sample the results.

Bowls of fresh hummus and guacamole with corn chips were waiting for taste tests, along with recipes for quick and healthy dishes to fuel performance.

Dietitian Dustin Frize discussed healthy eating to fuel athletic performance. About 40 student athletes attended the Chef's Table presentation at Wilkerson Dining Center.

Dietitian Dustin Frize discussed healthy eating to fuel athletic performance. About 40 student athletes attended the Chef’s Table presentation at Wilkerson Dining Center. Photo by Paul Wesp/UND Today.

Performance plates

The student-athletes enjoyed power fruit smoothies, hummus, salsa, guacamole, penne with spring vegetables and sautéed chicken breast, teriyaki glazed salmon, black bean and sweet potato burritos, quinoa pilaf, grilled asparagus, Nutella energy bites, cranberry almond energy bites and peanut butter energy bites.

Gefroh swiftly made the dishes as he shared the secrets of cooking healthy, easy meals.

“We make two to three gallons of hummus every day,” Gefroh said as a student-athlete put garbanzo beans and other ingredients into the food processor. “It’s full of fresh herbs and garlic, and it’s very popular. We don’t use a lot of salt, but I’m jalapeno crazy. I like them in every dish.”

Gefroh, who runs marathons and is an avid gardener, is a fan of healthy eating.

“The first seven years I was here, I gained five pounds a year, a total of 35 pounds,” Gefroh said. “Then I had an epiphany. I didn’t go on a diet, but I changed my lifestyle. I cut out bread, pasta and rice. Over the last seven years, I’ve lost five pounds a year, and am back to my original weight when I started here 14 years ago.”

Athletes, though, need more food and carbs than he does, said Gefroh.

Fueling achievement

That’s where Dustin Frize stepped in. A former UND baseball player, Frize is a dietitian with dining services who enjoys meeting with athletes and coaches to talk about how food can fuel performance.

“Your bodies need to refuel, rehydrate and repair,” Frize said. “Fueling your bodies is individualized for different goals.” For example, a football player who needs to bulk up would have different needs than a sprinter.

“Eat a variety of foods from the food groups, multiple times a day,” Frize said. “Fuel your body with small portions, and build a performance plate that’s right for you.”

Student-athletes, Frize said, are often so focused on school and practice that they often find it tough to make simple, nutritious meals.

Amelia Johnson, nutrition & dietetics major and student athlete, helped plan the Chef's Table event and chose most of the recipes.

Amelia Johnson, nutrition & dietetics major and student-athlete, helped plan the Chef’s Table event and chose most of the recipes. Photo by Paul Wesp/UND Today.

Healthy and good

“There are more options than Flamin’ Hot Cheetos,” said Amelia Johnson, a dietetics sophomore and student-athlete from Roseau, Minn., who organized the Chef’s Table for athletes.

An athlete herself, Johnson understands how hard it can be to make healthy meals. She got the idea for the event by watching an athlete fill a plate with spinach, then tomatoes, then grapes, then finally go back for a plate of curly fries.

“People don’t realize you can eat healthy food that tastes good,” said the self-described nutrition nerd. “Eating habits can improve sports performances. It’s fascinating the food has so much power. It can help us excel or be detrimental.”

“When the body is eating junk, it will crave junk,” said Johnson. “But your body can learn to crave healthy food. There are no bad foods; it’s all about balance.”

“I think this is great,” said Mat Cox, a former Fighting Hawks football player and civil engineering senior from Olympia, Wash. “It’s nice to be able to see and taste the recipes. Sometimes you can cook the recipes and have no idea if they’re good. The chef did a good job and the food is great.”

“I’m very glad I came,” said Lyndsay Hathaway, a softball player and junior double-majoring in sociology and criminal justice from Clovis, Calif. “I loved the black bean sweet potato burritos. I never thought those would go together. I would make that. It’s hard to make and prepare a meal with practice and class, and this is helpful.”