(August 13, 2014) Since 2000 the world’s top tennis players and chefs have been serving up culinary delights at the Annual BNP Paribas Taste of Tennis. This year’s premier pre-US Open social event to be held on Thursday night, August 21 at the W New York Hotel, is again being hosted by world No. 1 Serena Williams, along with featured Chef Masaharu Morimoto. Other players scheduled to appear are Gael Monfils, Victoria Azarenka, Agnieszka Radwanska, Bob & Mike Bryan, Dustin Brown and Sloane Stephens.
In addition to the Thursday gala, Taste of Tennis will be hosting several special events as part of “Taste of Tennis Week” including the Celebrity Chef Doubles Tennis Challenge on Wednesday, August 20th at the Midtown Tennis Club. The tournament will pair guests with a top chef in a round-robin style tournament. Serena Williams will team up with Chef Morimoto for the event which will be televised at a later date on MSG Plus and New England Sports Network on a program hosted by sports broadcaster Harry Cicma.
Hosting the Celebrity Chef Challenge will be Top Chef Masters Finalist Kerry Heffernan. Hefferman who is one of the chefs who has participated in Taste of Tennis the longest, said although he played a little tennis growing up in the suburbs, he didn’t really get thoroughly absorbed by it until he received a tennis racquet as one of the gifts in his Taste of Tennis goodie bag a few years ago.
”You get these great goodie bags and in them were these amazing tennis racquets,” he said.
“Wait a minute these look like really good racquets, maybe I should try this thing. One thing led to another… and it’s been three years now since I really got into it.”
“It grows on you, you want to get better, you want to play more, you want to find people that play. You just mushroom into this obsession that creeps into all different parts of your life.”
The idea for the Celebrity Chef Challenge came about as the result of attending the BNP Paribas showdown at Madison Square Garden earlier in the year.
“Other chefs were in attendance tweeting pictures at the event,” Hefferman continued. “Through social media and texts among other chefs” the idea gained a lot of momentum.
I asked Chef Hefferman if he thought that many tennis players are “foodies” and many chefs are into tennis.
“I would concur 100 percent,” he said. “The passion that most chefs have for tennis, is like their display of their cooking. Many similarities – it’s hot, it’s unpredictable, you’re subject to a lot of pressure.
“Lot of parallels between a tennis match and cooking in a professional kitchen.
“The other thing is I notice, having done this for 13 years, that probably a set number of celebrities come and cook with me, so many of them are interested in food and are so knowledgeable about food, it’s really, really satisfying to have somebody come back and recognize that you have an heirloom tomato, or chose a carrot with an usual herb, just to have that culinary fluency.
“And I would say that certainly the European players are a little more fluent even. But the Bryan Brothers for example are super. We did this almost quickfire challenge with Gail Simmons from Top Chef and Top Chef Masters and they were having a blast. Bob Bryan is such a great guy, he still follows me on twitter, we still both keep in touch. Okay, he’s a bit busier than I am. It was a connection through food that like lasts.”
With such a link between Chef Hefferman and tennis, I asked him: ‘If you were a tennis player, who would you be in the Culinary world?’
“That’s a good question,” he said. “I guess you would want to be (Roger) Federer because it’s that effortless execution, that focus and determination.
“Like many chefs, I have such admiration for him having gone back and strengthen part of your game….. his serve for example brought him to the finals at Wimbledon that you just have some respect for the craft. Many chefs would like to be compared to someone like that because he approaches it with ultimate appreciation for how the game is played almost the technical aspect. Anybody would want to be a (Rafael) Nadal or even a (Novak) Djokovic, for the passion, the energy and the dedication but for me if I could be compared to a Federer.
“Your cooking should appear as effortless as his backhand, it shouldn’t looked contrived, it shouldn’t look like you are trying to make look like something it’s not.
“The way that Roger plays the game has got sort of that natural beauty to it. There’s a kind of energy that we really appreciate.”
For more details on the Taste of Tennis events, visit www.tasteoftennis.com.
Karen Pestaina for Tennis Panorama News