When You’re a Jet

Starting Linebacker Calvin Pace.

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Though the Bears’s William Perry long ago scored the nickname “The Refrigerator,” we’re more interested in the fridge contents of hometown hero Calvin Pace. Barely 28, he joined the Jets a year ago through a six-year, $42 million contract, including a signing bonus of $20 million, making him one of the highest-paid linebackers in NFL history. Though he tips the scales at 265 pounds, he’s no meathead—in fact this Southern gentleman prefers tofu to pork.

How’s the food here treating you?

When I was in Arizona [with the Cardinals], everything was TexMex. I mean, how many ways can you eat quesadillas? You can’t beat the food in New York. If I lived in the city I might really weigh 300 pounds. The beauty is you can go any little place and get a decent meal. Morimoto, Ono, Kittichai. My all-time favorite is Nobu. And Philippe’s has this Peking duck that’s ridiculous.

I like to cook, but it’s hard when you’re dealing with football. I leave the house at 6:30 every morning, don’t get back ’til 5:30. [The team feeds] us, but nothing too exotic. I’m a big Whole Foods guy—you can get a lot of different vegetables, spices, that you can’t find in the regular grocery store. The best is the stuff they have made. It’s healthy. Their Dijon chicken breast is almost like restaurant quality. They do roasted Brussels sprouts, mashed turnips with cauliflower. It’s the simplest, easiest thing for me to come home to and throw in the microwave.
I grew up [outside Atlanta] eating soul food. The best thing about it is the desserts: peach cobbler, pecan pies. But the fried chicken, mac and cheese—I eat that at night and wake up feeling so heavy. Forget going out to practice like that. But in the off
season, anything’s game.

Any forbidden temptations?

You’ve got to pick and choose the situation. On Monday or Tuesday, I’ll eat Asian or Indian-type food. I don’t want to try crazy stuff Wednesday to Sunday. Maybe I’ll eat a turkey burger. Different guys have different weight restrictions. Some guys eat lunch and gain five pounds. Me, it takes a lot for me to gain weight. I try to stay away from cream sauces, heavy foods. If I do rice, it’ll be brown. Sometimes with our schedule you fall into a situation where you have something in front of you that might not be the best thing. Sometimes I’ll overindulge in desserts. You know Whole Foods has got the big dessert section—cannolis, cheesecake. I don’t know who invented Krispy Kreme donuts, but they get the best of me sometimes.

Many athletes are superstitious. Do you have any food rituals?
You just got to do what works for you. I can’t tell you the last time I ate steak before a game. On game day I always eat breakfast foods—omelets or scrambled eggs, I don’t know why. Even if it’s a late game. Monday night games are 8:30 p.m., so pregame meal is maybe 4 p.m.

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Do you go eat out with your teammates?

I try to stay away from Applebee’s, Chili’s, the chain stuff. If you’re gonna go out to eat, you might as well get something you can’t make yourself. The thing I have turned guys on to is sushi. A lotta guys had a hangup about raw fish, but now if we do anything together it’s sushi or a steakhouse. I try to get them to branch out, say Indian, but they’re like, “Oh man, I can’t eat that.”

Are you into steakhouses?

It’s not the steak itself, it’s what you get on the side. Potatoes, creamed corn, creamed spinach, that’s where I get into trouble. Different places might have the big thing of onion rings. The dessert— you basically end up leaving overweight.

Any favorite Super Bowl party foods?

As crazy as it sounds, I really won’t do Super Bowl parties. I feel like, if you’re not playing in it…I don’t wanna say “hate,” but you’re like “I’m not there.” I’ll pay attention but I don’t wanna sit there and watch it. One of my teammates was in the Pro Bowl and I went and it just didn’t feel right. It was the craziest feeling. I was like, “What am I doing?”

What shaped your taste in food?

Growing up, my parents were working and I kinda taught myself how to cook from watching Food Network. I stay up late, and it’s always on. I do a little Rachael Ray 30-Minute Meals. I like to experiment with new recipes but there’s that I-don’t-wanna-messup factor, and some ingredients are hard to find. In college, a girl friend took me into this little hole in the wall sushi place. I tried it. I started liking it. Then from Chinese to Japanese to Vietnamese to Indian to whatever. I’ve been wanting to get into French. I love No Reservations and I’ve been meaning to try Anthony Bourdain’s restaurant. I like pâté—not pork, but goose.

Why not pork?

Sometimes it’s hard to pass up the bacon in the breakfast line but I don’t like pork in general. My grandfather raised pigs, he’d slaughter it and trade it for peanuts. I ate pork when I was young, didn’t really have a choice, but it kinda grossed me out. The more traditional Southern foods like chitlins, hog maws, hogshead cheese, it’s disgusting how they make it—boil a pig’s head and take all the stuff that boils to the top. Seeing it done is different from just having someone serve it to you. It just freaks me out.

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Saucy
I’m a condiment guy. You gotta have your mango-ginger chutney. Chicken, fish, whatever—as long as you’ve got your chutney it’s good. Mixed Pickle is my all-time favorite. I’m a big spicy type person. It saves everything.

Petit chou
I love Brussels sprouts. Love to roast ’em with a little olive oil and balsamic.

Oil Change
I’ve been experimenting with truffle oil. I do it with egg whites, maybe some onions. Drizzle a little on top. Or put it on salad with red peppers, Parmesan cheese, olives. For some reason I love olives, always keep some around the house.

Hydration
I always try to keep Vitamin Water, Gatorade and water in the fridge. Every now and then I do a little juice, a little cheap wine. My favorite is Tiger Gatorade, but I don’t think it gives you any different edge. You’re not likely to cramp in this kind of weather.

Organic Baby Food
I don’t know where my girlfriend got this from. Cydney’s six months, so she’s at the transition. At Thanksgiving I could see her looking at our food and looking at her food, and she was like, “I don’t really want this.”

Egg whites
I don’t really worry about stuff like cholesterol, it’s just easier to buy this and put it in a pan and scramble it up. I like mushrooms, onions, red peppers. I like more vegetables than meat in my eggs. I don’t think you necessarily have to have a meat with your food. On a day like today, I might have sesame tofu.

Oreos
Can’t leave home without ya Oreos. If I’m about to go somewhere I might grab three Oreos to hold me over, that’s my sweet tooth for the day.

Smuckers Uncrustables
This is the best idea ever created: frozen PB&J without the crust. Our trainer said the best time to eat carbs is after practice, so he gave us these. I went out and got my own, been eating ’em ever since. From when you stop training to about 20 minutes after, that’s the best time to replenish your carbs.

Cheddar-Beer Kettle Chips
Man, you can eat a whole bag of these in no time.

Photo credit: Stephen Munshin

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Gabrielle Langholtz is the former editor of Edible Brooklyn and Edible Manhattan.