Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing some of the top-level competitors to every day training partners about food with GrapplerGourmet.com. What I noticed is that much like styles in jiu-jitsu, there’s a lot of variety. Just because I eat a certain way day in and day out, certainly doesn’t mean it is what the next person does or should do. The “Jiu-Jitsu lifestyle” that many practitioners speak of is more than just mat time; it’s about fully embracing all aspects of life to better yourself with the focus on your jiu-jitsu. I set out to really touch on all walks of life within the community and find out how a variety of individuals routinely eat and embrace this portion of the lifestyle. Each month I’ll share with you a different interview.
Renzo Gracie blue belt, active competitor and wife of celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain.
Q: What is an average day of eating like for you? This would include any supplements along with all of your meals.
OB: I don’t really do breakfast. They say it’s the most important meal of the day, but not for me. I’m not hungry most mornings and the last thing I want to do is train with food in my stomach. I DO need coffee, though. Two or three cups with a touch of heavy cream. Then, maybe a whey protein shake made with almond milk. Lunch is a different matter. While I’m not exactly sitting down to a three-course meal, I DO hit the buffalo mozzarella and prosciutto cotto pretty hard. It’s not always pretty. I’ll balance a plate full of ham on my laptop keyboard while I’m watching jiu-jitsu videos. If I’m not training, I’ll eat a jar of high-test Spanish or Italian tuna, sometimes smashed up with pickled pearl onions. It’s a solitary vice. My husband sees me eating this and he runs in the opposite direction with a look of undisguised revulsion. So, I never indulge before training out of respect for my professors and teammates. Life is hard enough. Who needs cat breath in your face? When I need a snack I usually huddle over a big gob of peanut butter or almond butter with salt. Dinner is the big meal of the day. It’s also tricky diplomatically and logistically. Though my daughter and my husband both train, they have a wider range of menu options. So, I either fend for myself—or we have to agree on an overlap of interests. This can be tough. I’m perfectly happy to pan sear a big steak or two for myself and that’s it. My husband (who thought that by marrying an Italian he might look forward to some good pasta now and again) is generally craving something in particular after being away. By default, we often order out for Japanese. I’ll have a pile of sashimi, some kabocha squash.
Q: What part of your diet do you feel is the most important to your training?
OB: Most importantly, I try to keep myself hydrated. I drink gallons of water every day. Also, light meals are key with an emphasis on LIGHT.
Q: What do you eat the night before and day of competitions?
OB: If I’m cutting weight, I might have a small beef filet or a piece of grilled salmon, nothing else. I cut salt completely out of my life three days before competing. If I’m NOT cutting weight, though, then bring on the shellfish towers and the porterhouse steaks. I’m an animal! Mornings of competition I usually have hard boiled eggs and coffee, but I will pack a jar of Nutella and some Kinder chocolates for afterwards; because win or lose I’m going to want it.
Q: What are your five favorite foods/ingredients?
OB: Beef — usually fatty beef, like a ribeye or short rib, but occasionally a filet.
Salt, because there is no life without it. Butter, of course. Don’t believe for a second that Italians don’t use and enjoy butter. Good quality olive oil. That’s a must. It’s a birthright! I have family who travel with their preferred olive oil. Sriracha sauce. I’ll mix the stuff with mayonnaise and eat it right out of the bowl.
Q: If today was your last day, what would your last meal be and what song would be playing in the background?
OB: A steak. A nice one. Maybe a nice, thick, dry-aged bone-in ribeye. Seasoned with salt and pepper only. NO rosemary or herbs or flavored oils or rubs or any of that crap. Medium rare, please. Also some very lightly seared otoro tuna sushi. They run a blowtorch over it for just a few seconds. Some fresh uni, and a jar of Nutella. The whole thing. F**k it! I’m about to die! I may as well indulge. I’d like to hear the Sex Pistols’ “Anarchy In the UK” before they hit the switch, open the hatch or pull the triggers. That song has been the soundtrack of my life, it may as well be my walk-off music.
Q: What would you like to learn or improve on the most in terms of your cooking skills?
OB: I’m a pretty good cook. My grandmother and my father are both excellent cooks and taught me when I was a little girl. I cook for my daughter every day, but I’m rarely up at 5AM toiling over fresh lasagna or a slow cooked ragu of necks and oxtails. Frankly I’d rather spend time on the mats. Also, my husband is a chef and he IS absolutely passionate about exactly those things. All I have to say is, “I’ve been thinking about a slowly cooked veal shank” and his eyes get all glassy and happy looking and he’s off to the butcher. He cooks with our daughter all the time. They’re very cute in there together.