Award-winning chef serves up custom meals for Texans players

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- From farm to table, then from the table to the field- that's the idea and strategy behind a meal plan fueling some of the Houston Texans players this season.

It was Linebacker Whitney Mercilus that first approached the owner and executive chef of Underbelly Chris Shepherd about a gourmet meal plan.

"We tried it out last year. It panned out well. I had one of my better seasons last year, and diet is just really important," Mercilus said. "On the field I feel a lot lighter so it expels from my body pretty quickly because it's all healthy food."

Since then, some of his teammates have jumped on board.

"They love the food. It tastes good and matches their diets, and all that," Mercilus said.

James Beard award winner Chris Shepherd, is the owner of Underbelly, a favorite amongst some of the players during the offseason. When he was presented with the idea of providing meals for a few of the players, he couldn't say no.

"I'm kind of a geek when it comes to it. I love the Texans. So if you need this assistance, were going to help you with that," Shepherd said. "We sit them down when they first come in. We talk to them about what they like, what they really don't like."

Once approved by the team's nutritionist, Shepherd brings in the finest ingredients.

"We're getting all the local produce, all the local animals, all the local everything. Madeline who's our chef for special events, she does the meals for them on Sunday," Shepherd said.

Unlike traditional performance meal plans, Shepherd says these dishes are kicked up a notch.

Cornerback Kareem Jackson says he can't get enough of it.

"I've got a thing for bison, buffalo, so he does different styles of buffalo for me. Some mac and cheese here and there," Jackson said.

Instead of the microwave, the players are given emergent circulators to heat each meal.

"We vacuum seal everything so it cooks to a point of exact temperature and perfection," Shepherd said.

Shepherd is serving up Korean grilled chicken with kale and pear salad dish, and beef filet with kimchi and corn salad with pickled eggplant. The dishes are winning combinations all can agree on.

"Being healthy throughout the entire season. What better way to do it than with one of the best chefs here in Houston?" Jackson said.
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