U.S. Ski & Snowboard Head Chef Allen Tran on diet, Chicago sports & Bulletproof Coffee
Last November, U.S. Ski & Snowboard announced an exciting new partnership with Bulletproof 360, a leading science-based food and beverage company, focusing on their widely popular Bulletproof Coffee beverage. Bulletproof’s iconic coffee beverage is not your average latte; it is made with Brain Octane Oil and grass-fed butter to provide a quick and reliable energy source throughout the day.
As U.S. Ski & Snowboard’s official coffee supplier, Bulletproof 360 helps keep some of the world’s top ski and snowboard athletes fueled, focused and achieving optimum performance levels on and off the slopes. This partnership kicked off at 2018's Killington Cup in Killington, Vermont, where both spectators and fans at home watched female national and international alpine ski superstars debut the Bulletproof branded race bib during the Giant Slalom event.
Luckily, the team also has Allen Tran, U.S. Ski & Snowboard’s High Performance Chef and Registered Dietician on-held. Chef Allen help keep these athletes in a high performance state and on-track with their diets. I had the chance to interview Chef Allen and about this and more on behalf of Sportskeeda.
When did you first get interested in nutrition and not just cooking?
Chef Allen Tran: Nutrition and cooking go hand in hand for me, while my dad was a wonderful cook who prided himself on high-quality family meals, my mom worked for the Chicago Department of Public Health and so nutrition was an important part of her work. But in particular, I was also active in all kinds of sport growing up from soccer to basketball to swimming and it was very apparent early on that what I ate impacted how I played my sports.
How did you end up working with U.S. Ski & Snowboard?
Chef Allen Tran: I pursued my graduate degree in Sports Nutrition at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, and the "Center of Excellence” headquarters for U.S. Ski & Snowboard just happened to be up the highway in Park City, Utah. So I paid a visit to the Center to meet the High Performance staff and it just so happened their existing dietitian was leaving for a different organization. They also needed someone with culinary experience. Being a trained chef, I had experience in both, so the rest is history!
What exactly is your role with the team? What kind of work do you do with the athletes?
Chef Allen Tran: I am the High Performance Dietitian and Chef, so the dietitian part of the job involves advising our athletes on their fueling plans to allow them to train and then perform their sport at the highest level. This involves one-on-one consults, team talks, education such as grocery store tours, handouts and informative videos through social media, as well as working as part of the High Performance team -- this includes the Strength staff, Sports Medicine, and Sport Scientists and data analysts -- to best integrate the different parts of athlete preparation.
One example is an injured athlete who has torn their ACL. I need to work with Sports Medicine to help them keep their muscle mass after surgery, eat properly during their recovery, then progress their diet when they are healed enough to work with the strength staff, and use Sports Science, such as hydration monitoring and heart-rate data, to see their food and hydration needs.
On the chef side, I’m also in charge of managing the chef staff that serve nutritious lunch and recovery snacks to the athletes at the Center of Excellence to go along with their training, as well as projects on road at training camps all over the USA and the world, from Oregon and Colorado to Switzerland, Korea, Chile and many other locations. My four-year cycle culminates to food service at the Olympics, which will differ depending on the host city but usually involves bringing familiar American foods that are nutritious, in a foreign environment like Sochi, Pyeongchang, and Beijing. The U.S. Team tries to avoid the Athlete’s Village at the Olympics because the food quality and safety can be suspect, so an emphasis is put on securing and delivering high-quality and safe food for the Olympians.
For someone looking to get more well-versed in eating well, what do you think is a good first step to take? Is there a particular diet you recommend following?
Chef Allen Tran: The first step is to follow the words of Michael Pollan: "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants." So all that means is to eat whole foods -- fruits, veggies, lean meats/fish, grains/potatoes/rice/other starch -- and avoid processed foods, moderate and be mindful of your portions, and focus on colorful whole fruits and veggies. There are many different diets out there that work for different reasons, but the ones I gravitate towards are the ones that include real food, do not eliminate entire food groups, and are sustainable for the long-term instead of quick fixes and “detoxes.” The Mediterranean diet is great one to start with that follows Mr. Pollan’s motto.
How did the partnership with U.S. Ski & Snowboard and Bulletproof 360 come to fruition?
Chef Allen Tran: In initial informal chats between the Bulletproof and U.S. Ski & Snowboard teams, we realized that each of us are in the industry of creating “super-humans” who have resilience and are drawing inner-strength to perform incredible human feats. It became obvious that we should leverage this together and the rest was simple.
I believe U.S. Ski & Snowboard's partnership with Bulletproof kicked off last November at the Killington Cup. Can you tell me more about other upcoming collaborations with Bulletproof?
Chef Allen Tran: Our athletes are returning from competing around the world for the past six months and will soon begin their off-season training programs, with around 100 elite athletes coming to the Center of Excellence to train every day. This will be a great opportunity to integrate Bulletproof into their offseason training regimen and also to capture some great behind the scenes social/digital content.
Bulletproof collaboration aside, what else is coming up for U.S. Ski & Snowboard?
Chef Allen Tran: For me even though the Olympics are three years away, this is the beginning of planning for the logistics of where the food service will be in Beijing, but all the while there are still competitions happening throughout the year, including Grand Prix events, World Cup events, X-Games, and World Championships in 2021.
From marketing side: We’re coming off a great season where the athletes competed for 136 major event podiums in competitions around the world this season, highlighted by Mikaela Shiffrin’s record breaking 17 World Cup wins and 4 Alpine Overall Crystal Globes. Next season, we will be bringing back the Visa City Big Air event which will take place in one iconic ballpark each season running through the 2022 Winter Olympics.
What was the last sporting event you attended for fun?
Chef Allen Tran: It’s always fun to watch as a spectator the Ski & Snowboard events such as World Championships that was held in Park City this past February, and with my constant travel I follow my favorite teams online or on TV, so I make sure to watch my Cubs at Wrigley Field whenever I am at home during the Spring or Summer.
So do you have a favorite sports team?
Chef Allen Tran: I was born and raised in Chicago, so I’m a Bulls, Bears, Blackhawks and Cubs fan!
Finally, Chef Allen, any last words for the kids?
Chef Allen Tran: As a chef and a dietitian, I feel it’s important to take nutrition concepts into actual food that you eat. Recipes don’t have to be complicated, and resources such as the Instant Pot, slow cookers, Sheet Pan recipes, and home delivery meal services -- Blue Apron, Hello Fresh -- make it easier than ever to cook healthy meals.