What It's Like To Be A Chef Inside The NBA Bubble
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
Game 5 of the NBA Finals is tomorrow. And while LeBron James and the L.A. Lakers have a chance to close the series out, we want to make a case that the real MVPs of this very unusual NBA season might be the on-site essential workers, including Chef Alexia Grant. Grant, who goes by Chef Lex, is one of 10 chefs who's been brought in to cook for athletes in the NBA bubble, this restricted access campus at Walt Disney World in Florida. The idea being, keep players and staff inside the bubble, and keep COVID out.
Well, Chef Lex, welcome to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.
ALEXIA GRANT: Thank you so much for having me. I'm really, really excited.
KELLY: We are so excited to have you with us. OK, so I know you have just exited the bubble to head back home. How long did you spend - like, living there, cooking there, being in the bubble?
GRANT: I spent approximately 60 days in the bubble.
KELLY: And there were some logistics involved with getting the food that you had just cooked from the kitchen to the players. How'd that work?
GRANT: Yes. So we set up a system of, you know, contactless delivery as fast as possible. The NBA had a wipe-down station, so they would receive all of the meals from my runner, who would pick the meals up for me in the kitchen in a hot-hold bag, deliver it to the hotel. We would wipe it down, and then it would be delivered to the players.
KELLY: Wow. That must be really different from what you're used to. You don't get to see the satisfied look of, you know, people wiping - the juice dripping down their chin and saying, oh, great.
GRANT: (Laughter) Yes, you're absolutely right. It was such a difference. But I had really good rapport with a lot of players prior. And I think the word spread that it was OK to reach out to me because they had no problem (laughter) calling me and asking me, hey, chef, you think you could...
GRANT: How about - my menu also rotated, like, weekly.
KELLY: All right, well, let's talk food. Was there something hands-down, like, most popular thing you made that they kept asking for?
GRANT: Oh, my God. Yes. The fattest things possible because those were the things that they couldn't get. It was a chicken sandwich. I made a crispy chicken sandwich on a brioche bun with house-made pickles. That, along with my sea moss juices and...
KELLY: Sea moss juices?
KELLY: Is that what you said?
KELLY: What's that?
GRANT: Basically algae from the sea that has been dried and cured. And then you wash it, soak it in alkaline water and boil it. You puree it, and it becomes a gel. And it has 92 of the essential minerals and vitamins that your body needs, like, to just exist. Whole teams were ordering that and my juices, so that was awesome.
KELLY: I think you sold me on the chicken sandwich. I might have to...
KELLY: I might have to be talked to the sea moss juice. But you said you - people were texting your orders. What kind of orders, like, special requests were you getting?
GRANT: Guys were asking me for, like, jerk salmon. A lot of people were asking me for pasta with red sauce. They were like, do whatever you want, but just make it. Oh, catfish and grits - I took catfish and grits off the menu, and people were calling me like, chef, you got that catfish?
GRANT: I was like, I got salmon and short rib on the menu. Like, are you sure that you want catfish? And that's what they wanted.
KELLY: They're like, nope. Leave the catfish. Do you actually like basketball? Do you watch?
GRANT: I just support the people that are my clients (laughter). I don't even - it's nice, you know? This situation definitely had me watching sports far more. Usually it's just my clients. I just pay attention to them, and more so to watch their development. But no, I was not a sports fan.
KELLY: Alexia Grant, Chef Lex, thank you so much for talking to us about cooking in the NBA bubble.
GRANT: Oh, absolutely. Thank you so much for having me. This was great.
(SOUNDBITE OF HIDDEN SPHERES' "ISHONSAX")
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.