Whenever Chef Chris Tamayo told people in the Philippines he’s cooking for NBA stars, he’s usually met with raised eyebrows.
Like when he recently dropped by an NBA store in Manila. “The look that I got was, ‘Yeah right,’” Tamayo, chef-owner of Café Intramuros and GM of the family-owned Tamayo’s Group of Companies, recalls to ANCX.
To Filipinos who are basketball aficionados, it could sound unbelievable. Until one actually sees Tamayo’s selfie wearing a chef’s uniform outside the Sacramento Kings locker room, or his picture with celebrity chef Tyler Florence who runs Miller and Lux Restaurant at the Chase Center in California, home of Golden State Warriors. And then there’s another shot of him at the sports arena proudly wearing the Warriors jersey.
“Kahit ako naa-amaze—a Pinoy cooking for NBA players!” the young chef says, obviously thrilled. The thrill also comes from the fact that he himself is a huge NBA fan. “Wala pa mang basketball player na Pinoy sa NBA, at least there’s a Pinoy chef who cooks for them.”
The 29-year-old Tamayo says he got the opportunity to train under Chef Tyler Florence because he completed his culinary arts degree at the Culinary Institute of America. “I met Chef Tyler there and he loved my attitude towards food,” Chris offers. “He knows my background in the Philippines—that our family runs one of the biggest catering companies.” The Pinoy chef says he’s currently training under the famous chef-restaurateur.
For the guys of Sacramento Kings, Chris has prepared a Caesar Salad, Roasted Lemon and Herb Chicken, Seared Alaskan Salmon with Lemon and Capers Beurre Blanc, Citrus-glazed Sweet Potatoes, Roasted Broccolini, and Black Truffle Rigatoni and Cheese. “Everything’s really good,” he happily recalls the NBA stars telling him.
Chris was quite surprised seeing the athletes’ eating habits. “They eat like birds. They’re really conscious about their diet,” he says.
Chris admits he finds it quite challenging to cook for NBA players because they have a lot of dietary requirements. “Some of the food should be dairy free, gluten free. Less sugar,” he says.
When the chefs at Miller and Lux Restaurant are busy, it’s Chris who single-handedly prepares the meals of the players. He also personally brings the food to the athlete’s locker room “to make sure no one’s going to add anything to my food.” Which means he gets to talk to them sometimes.
Chris says he usually cooks for the visiting basketball teams whenever there are games with the Golden State Warriors. He cooks as well for their entourage, which includes coaching staff and assistants. “I get to see the players. And I watch the games for free—that’s the best part,” says the basketball fan.
If the guests ask for the Miller and Lux Restaurant menu, that’s what they get. Otherwise, Tamayo creates a special menu for them. “They trust my cooking naman,” he says, adding that each team usually has specific diet requirements. “On Friday, I’ll be cooking for the Miami Heat,” he offers.
Does Tamayo play basketball too? Well, Chris used to play the game until college. Sadly, he got into an accident which injured his knee. “A guy stepped on my foot while I was getting a rebound. So yung knee ko tumama sa floor,” he says. “Binalewala ko siya, but after a year, hindi na ako makalakad. That’s when I found out na may basag na pala ang knee ko.”
The guy underwent therapy and recuperated after that, but the doctor advised him not to play basketball anymore. “Shooting shooting na lang,” he says.
Chris will be training in California under Florence for a year. Then he will be focusing on his culinary career and the family businesses in the Philippines.