My name is Heidi Marsh and I’m the Philadelphia Fusion’s team chef. I feed these players so they can perform at peak performance levels, but it’s more than just giving them calories that their bodies need. I create food, experiences, and so much more.
When I took the position, I strove to create a home environment at the Fusion household. I wanted to create that family lifestyle that these players no longer had when they went pro or perhaps never had.
It’s important to me to keep them from getting detached from the group and getting in their own heads about their doubts and fears. I’ve always worked in hospitality, one way or another before the Fusion, so it came naturally to me. I’m a very hands-on type of person.
I arrived at the house in the middle of Stage 2. The boys were initially a bit skittish about the strange woman flittering around the house and kitchen.
Maybe it was because they didn’t have a lot of interpersonal communication skills, maybe it was cultural, or maybe just being nervous. I know it’s difficult to adjust when you’re just thrown into a team house like they were. Like it’s a giant aquarium.
It took time, but they started to warm up to me and the other support staff. That’s one of the things I helped them with, just being more open with each other and the people around them.
Now, every morning, I have my cup of coffee with Joemeister and we talk. That’s the sort of thing that didn’t happen when I first arrived.
I had to learn what they liked. Part of that came from my interview with the team for the job. I made it a two-way interview, where I was also interviewing them.
I knew there was going to be nine different nationalities represented on the team. I went in and presented them with a global economy of food: Korean meats, roasted mushrooms, vegetables, a ton of side dishes, and some salads. I wanted to see what they were eating. I knew if I was going to be good at this job that this was my chance to get a sneak peek at what they liked.
They didn’t touch the salads.
My days at the Fusion house usually start around 9 am. The first stop is the market for fresh meat and vegetables. Korea town is next – Korean meats for KBBQ Thursdays – and then it’s Glendale for the fish market. Sometimes I’ll drop by the local store to pick up their favorite garlic bread, but above all else, I keep it fresh and healthy.
— Heidi (@chefheidiLA) March 22, 2019
It’s important that these boys don’t eat the empty calories that many people do: the ramen, chips, and various junk foods. Our bodies crave that food because it fills us up.
I feed them “Mind Food” and that’s really important to me. It’s food that will do so much more for you than those empty calorie diets. Diets like double proteins and complex carbohydrates; you’re going to sleep and feel better on a diet like that; it will make your mind function better and you’ll be more emotionally sound.
Cooking is also a creative outlet for me and I put my own emotions and my experiences into what I make for them. This may be a bit deep, but if you have good emotions and good energy you’ll pass that into the food you’re making and feeding others.
These guys, they sit in front of a screen all day and have to constantly think on their feet. Not only that, many of them are trying to bulk up right now. I encourage them to eat correctly and stay away from the sodium and the soda. To just trust me and eat what I’m feeding them.
And you can see the effect of it in the team’s performance. You can see it in their emotions and how they interact with each other. That shift was clearly visible to me and it happened somewhere around Stage 3 of last year.
These guys are young and they’re still developing both mentally and physically. You can go one of two ways at their age, gluttonous and sedentary or you can eat well, exercise, and develop a disciplined routine. Only one of those choices is going to improve your mental and emotional capacity. You’ll be able to do amazing things and you’ll have increased career longevity.
To facilitate that, we have a rotating two-week menu that’s been refined over the year I’ve been with the Fusion. It gives them a sense of consistency on what to expect, which is important when you’re working as hard as they do.
I still experiment with their food when I can, even if they’re not too enthusiastic about it at first. But I enjoy doing things like that. It lets me flex my educational background of math and science and combine that with my creative side.
They still won’t tell me directly if they don’t like something, though. Instead, they’ll put little happy or sad faces on the menu that’s on the fridge. The Team Manager, Roston is also my liaison for things like that. He’s been incredibly helpful and he’s just an all-around cool guy to work with.
And sometimes, it’s just the little things like making them cookies on Wednesdays that really drive home the feeling of being at home instead of in a team house. Those are some of the things you may not get without a team chef.
At the beginning and end of the day, I’m there for the Fusion players. Morning or night, early or late game, it doesn’t matter. I’ve taught them plenty and they’ve taught me, though I still haven’t taken them up on the offer to learn Overwatch.
Being there for them is important to me because I can be that stable part of their lives that can be so hectic. Something as small as the same person being there to greet you after a tough match can make a big difference.
I don’t like to take credit for any of the success the team has had, but I know the fans believe it. They see it in the players and they support me as much as they support the team.
Fusion invited me to New York to attend the Grand Finals with them. When the fans started wanting pictures with me I realized I was a proper part of the Fusion family. Both the team and the fans had adopted me. It was truly a humbling moment for me.
What these guys are doing matters. They’re making history and I get to be a part of that. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
Jeff Yabumoto assisted with the creation of this article.