On Saturday night, chefs Daniel Boulud, Tom Colicchio, Daniel Humm, David Bouley and Florian Bellanger gathered in Bouley’s test kitchen in Tribeca to prepare a meal for 50 guests.
The occasion was the Gold Medal Dining Experience, a benefit for the USA Swimming Foundation, which supports athletes in training and teaches swimming to children in underserved areas. Tickets were $1,500; All-Clad was the sponsor, providing frying pans in the goodie bag.
While Humm, chef of Eleven Madison Park, is a marathoner, and Bouley a boxer and swimmer, the real athlete in the kitchen was Garrett Weber-Gale, an Olympic swimmer and amateur cook. Think of him as a budding Martha Stewart for the Maxim crowd: a handsome, affable 26-year-old who -- when he’s not training for the Summer Olympics -- posts recipes on his website, AthleticFoodie.com, and teaches cooking classes at Whole Foods stores.
At Weber-Gale’s request, the meal had to be healthy. So Boulud, of Daniel, offered peekytoe crab with apple and poppy-seed gelee. Bouley, whose latest venture is the Japanese eatery Brushstroke, grilled wild mushrooms; they clear toxins out of the body, he said. Humm poached loup de mer in citrus. Colicchio served venison (half the fat of beef, he said) rubbed with rosemary and juniper; on the side was a mix of quinoa, spelt, red bean and wild rice.
Weber-Gale’s contribution: butternut squash soup, made without cream.
“I used rice milk and infused the soup with nutmeg, some cinnamon and star anise,” Weber-Gale said. “I usually find a way to alter things. I’ll use less butter, less sugar and add vegetables. I’ll use whole grain rice.”
“The soup is good, the soup is really good,” Boulud said after tasting.
A native of Stevens Point, Wisconsin, Weber-Gale won two gold medals in 2008 Olympics, swimming with Michael Phelps in the 4-by-100-meter medley relay and the 4-by-100-meter freestyle relay. He is now training for the Olympic trials in July in the hopes of competing in London in August. He is the first American to swim the 100-meter freestyle in less than 48 seconds.
He started cooking healthfully when he was a swimmer at the University of Texas at Austin. A physical exam in 2005 revealed his blood pressure had soared.
“My diet was better than most college students, but I was eating a lot of cold-cuts for lunch, lots of pasta and biscuits that probably had too much salt,” Weber-Gale said.
His culinary training took a serious turn when he met Boulud on the set of the “Today” show in Beijing.
Time in France
Boulud arranged an apprenticeship for Weber-Gale at La Maison Troisgros in Roanne, France, for five weeks in 2010.
Last summer, the swimmer spent about four weeks looking over the shoulder of chef Rene Redzepi, founder of Noma restaurant in Copenhagen, which won last year’s S. Pellegrino World Best Restaurant in the World award.
The meal finished with lime millefeuille prepared by Bellanger, a former pastry chef at Le Bernardin and co-owner of Mad Mac, a wholesale baking company.
His cooking done, Weber-Gale donned one of his Olympic gold medals over his white apron and dug in.
(Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)