Team of local chefs feed Buffalo Bills players 5 times per day at camp

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PITTSFORD, N.Y. — The Buffalo Bills are here in Rochester for training camp at St. John Fisher University — and when they’re not on the field, they need to eat.

Executive Chef Joel Kraft and his team of about 30 at SJFU make sure the team has everything they could want, starting with the basics.

“We’ve got fresh cut romaine that we get locally when it’s in season, vegetables, we gotta have the avocados out,” he explained while showing News10NBC around the dining hall. “A variety of different grains and proteins, fresh fruits, fresh berries, yogurts … we normally make our own, but we’ve actually been asked to switch over our dressings to clean label.”

News10NBC visited just as lunch was being served. “Today, we’ve got a smoked brisket, we actually smoke it in house,” Chef Kraft explained.

Jennifer Lewke: So, do you have to like run this by the Bills and make sure they’re okay with everything you’re serving?

Chef Kraft: Yea, so as you can well imagine the Bills and the coaching staff change every few years; they are enjoying just a wonderful coaching staff right now, so we’ve got a rapport with the current strength and conditioning coach and his trusted staff as well. We send menus a few months in advance and sometimes they make some minor tweaks or changes but for the most part, we know what they want and they trust us to deliver.

Jennifer Lewke: I think a lot of people think, these are world class athletes, they probably travel with their own chefs. Do you accommodate personal chefs?

Chef Kraft: So, a few players have personal chefs that package food for them. I’m not sure what their particular targets are … it could be clean food, a particular amount of protein they need — but almost all of the players are able to find what they need here and adjust their diet and their likings based on the amount of offerings we have.

The only thing — or person — the Bills bring from home when it comes to food and beverage is their smoothie chef.

Chef Kraft: The smoothies and the juicing program which they do at One Bills, we try to mimic here. They’ve got a wonderful program; in fact, the chef that handles that in Buffalo actually comes here to make sure that the program stays consistent.

The Buffalo Bills team and coaching staff eat five meals per day. Coach Sean McDermott is an early riser, so the SJFU team arrives at 4 a.m. to start preparing for breakfast. After lunch, there’s an afternoon snack, then dinner, than an evening snack.

Jennifer Lewke: I’m guessing your late-night snacks aren’t nachos with cheese and pretzels?

Chef Kraft: No, they’re not, they’re definitely not … well, every once and a while we do a pizza night but again, don’t tell the nutritionists.

Jennifer Lewke: Do the strength and conditioning coaches walk around and watch what they’re eating and say that’s too big of a portion or that’s too much?

Chef Kraft: I don’t know if I’m allowed to say, but every once and while I do notice them being very interactive.

In addition to feeding all the players, coaches and Bills staff, SJFU also feeds the media daily and is responsible for all the food in the hospitality tents. Still, Chef Kraft says it’s only about one-fifth of the people they serve compared to the school year.