Leron Sarig went to an Arizona grocery store and, in a moment not remotely unique these days, gazed upon shelves where food once was. No pasta in sight.
And so, that day’s instructional meal was not going to include pasta.
Flexible as Mauricio Dubon, she pivoted to gnocchi to pair with chicken parmesan. Soon enough, just about everyone in the Giants family, from players to coaches to front-office members, had a “how to” video, replete with step-by-step instructions and nutritional information, to serve up the dishes, with a short grocery list of chicken breasts, gnocchi, broccoli, mozzarella cheese, marinara sauce, breadcrumbs, olive oil, garlic and onion powder and black pepper.
At this very specific time in American history, when sidewalks and beaches and parks are empty but homes are occupied, Sarig, the Giants’ dietitian, is privately sheltering in place while cooking in public, she and the team’s nutritional staff providing video tutorials on how to make meals.
“There’s no rhyme or reason [for a specific meal] — I just started doing whatever I was able to get from the grocery store,” Sarig said over the phone Friday. “We’ve been putting together videos, adding music and trying to make it look professional. I started doing it this week, and we spent some time putting it together.”
Since spring training disbanded March 12 as coronavirus concerns demanded all groups of people separate to slow the spread of COVID-19, the Giants’ dietary team has tried to ensure the players are staying healthy.
First they called or texted all the players to confirm they had access to food, then asked if they needed assistance nutritionally, choosing what to eat. When that was covered, they set out to make those videos you happen upon on Facebook with whatever was in the cabinet or on a store shelf. That’s what the players would find on grocery shelves, anyway.
For Sarig, in her second season in the role with the franchise, this scratches an itch, having wanted to try video meal preparation for a long while. It’s more a head-first dive than a foot in the water.
“Basically every time I go to make something I’m taping it or taking a picture of it. It’s part of the natural routine of my day,” said Sarig, who said she’s done live cooking demos in the past. “Now there’s a group of us doing it, which helps.”
The meals have been diverse for a diverse team. There have been burgers and asparagus, chicken with Spanish rice and peppers, breakfast sandwiches, overnight oats, beef tacos. (Sarig was also working on some no-bake energy bites.) The kitchen staff that remains in Arizona hotels feeding the players who weren’t able to return home has been asked to record some of the meals the group cooks up, too, including chilaquiles and make-your-own salad dressing.
The response to the work Sarig, Adam Rodrigues (the coordinator of minor league nutrition) and the chefs on hand has been has been louder from the coaching staff than the players thus far, though Sarig said a few players reached out saying thanks for the idea. Assistant coach Alyssa Nakken successfully made one of the recipes, and manager Gabe Kapler is planning to set up his phone and add his own expertise to the project.
“I’m loving the sous vide method on the steaks,” Kaper said in a text message, referring to a style that involves cooking food in bags in temperature-controlled water. “Means I can nail the temp every time even if I get distracted with a phone call or a text coming in. You can get a big rib-eye to a perfect medium rare, then throw it in a cast iron pan for a minute to give it a steakhouse-style crust.
“The idea behind all of this is that we (players, staff, even media and fans) just want to stay connected during a pretty challenging time. Food is usually a good way to connect.”