If you work a 9-to-5 desk job, you can probably get away with eating leftover pizza and break room bagels whenever you damn well please. If your job is running around on a five-time MLS Cup-winning soccer team, you're going to have to hold the schmear. Such is life for the stars of the LA Galaxy."I have a diagram of what I need to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner," forward Gyasi Zardes said of his diet. The LA County native rattled off a typical day for me as we stood in the Galaxy practice field parking lot.
"Usually, [you] wake up, you have breakfast, you have a protein shake," Zardes said. "Then you train, have a protein shake, then you have lunch at the stadium, which is provided for us. Then in the afternoon you have a little snack, then you have dinner. You make sure you have protein, your grains, your vegetables, and fruit as well. Then that's your dinner, and you have a snack before you go to bed. I like to have a protein shake."
The protein shake-fueled frenzy continues after the season is over."During off season, I still try to eat clean because it takes a while to get your body back," Zardes added, "but I'll have more cheat days than usual."Ghanaian forward Emmanuel Boateng also focuses on keeping things clean year round."I just try to eat healthy, and obviously I train a lot. You have to balance it out," he said. "There might be a couple days where you want to have something sweet, but I try to stay consistent most of the time."
When it comes to pregame meals, players keep it simple and carbo-load."I always like to go with pasta. You get good carbs in there and a little bit of protein, whether it's chicken or something else–beans, anything like that," Boateng said. "Mostly pasta. Lasagne sometimes."There's a KFC across the street from the LA Galaxy stadium in Carson, California. But don't waste your time stalking the place, or any other neighborhood restaurants, if you're trying to cross paths with the players.
"We have such a great chef here at the stadium," goalie Dan Kennedy said. "We get just amazing food every single day, so there's no real reason to eat around here."
The source of that amazing food is chef Morgan Bunnell. Before assuming his role with Galaxy last season, the Southern California native spent four years cooking for Chivas USA, another LA MLS team that dissolved in 2014. Bunnell catered for the club, but not under ideal circumstances."I was doing everything out of the house. It was a nightmare," said Bunnell. "My wife was about to kill me with the dishes and everything."
Bunnell then got a gig catering for Galaxy II, LA Galaxy's reserve team. Alex Savva, Galaxy's manager of sports science, had a chance to try Bunnell's food and approached him to cook for the whole club. They even offered to build him a kitchen inside the StubHub Center, alleviating his wife's dish woes.Today, Bunnell works closely with Savva to create athlete-friendly menus to feed the whole Galaxy family, from the players to admin to the stadium groundskeepers."I come up with a bunch of menus, shoot them to [Savva], and he places them here and there according to what their training will be like," Bunnell explained of the menu-building process. "If it's the day before a game, it's more carb-loading, some more pastas, Israeli couscous. If they're lifting weights, it's more heavy on the protein side."
Bunnell likes to keep the players' palates guessing by offering varied meals throughout the week. One day, the players may have Asian-influenced options like miso butter fish and green papaya edamame salad; on the next, it's Mediterranean grilled chicken with roasted cauliflower.
Before catering for Chivas USA, Bunnell cooked around Hawaii for nearly nine years and earned accolades from local media for his culinary talents. While helming the kitchen at The Blue Dragon, he worked closely with a nearby farm to grow the restaurant's produce."That kind of prepped me for this job. I wanted to do something similar, grow the food," Bunnell said. "Now [that] it's kind of a large scale, I can't be a farmer and the chef all at the same time, but I try to nail the little niches."
Bunnell sources lots of Galaxy's produce needs from his own garden. At his home in Huntington Beach he grows salad greens, beets, cauliflower, and more—not to mention all of the herbs used in the Galaxy kitchen."He's awesome. He's a bit of a hippie kind of guy," Bosnian midfielder Baggio Husidic said of Bunnell. "He grows his own plants and he's real friendly."Husidic may appreciate the fresh produce more than his other teammates."For four and a half years, I've been vegetarian. And then the last two years, I've been plant-based," Husidic said.
Bunnell makes sure to have plenty of vegan food available for Husidic—who is getting enough protein, by the way."Every single [Galaxy player] asks 'where do you get your protein?' and that's such a dumb myth," Husidic said. "It's a taboo in sports, but it's breaking barriers slowly."Husidic loves to cook and makes his own granola to eat at home and on the road."I do pumpkin puree, banana, maple syrup, coconut oil, and then I'll do raw pecans, almonds, pumpkin seeds. Then I'll throw all the superfoods like maca, mulberries, chia, hemp— whatever I can get my hands on."While the players do stay away from certain foods (Zardes doesn't drink, no animal products for Husidic, and Kennedy only allows himself a couple Coors Lights), they're still human, and there's still room for occasional fun in their nutritionist-approved routines. Bunnell even incorporates protein powder into birthday cakes and holiday treats to keep things light."For Saint Patrick's Day, I make a Guinness cupcake with green frosting and I'll incorporate some of their protein powder into the food," Bunnell said. "It's coming right up. Robbie Keane, big Irishman, I'm sure he gets a kick out of it."