Each year the BNP Paribas Taste of Tennis event at Manhattan’s W Hotel provides the perfect amuse-bouche to whet the appetite of tennis fans hungry for the final Grand Slam of the year. An eclectic mix of world-famous chefs, celebrities and athletes makes it one of the hottest tickets in town just days before the U.S. Open begins. Though Serena Williams hosted the event Thursday night, there were plenty of other players in attendance. We gave them (and Nancy Kerrigan…why not?) a break from the tennis talk and focused on the food!
What is your absolute favorite meal?
Agnieszka Radwanska: Cheesecake (laughs)! Actually my birthday is always at Indian Wells, and I always go there for my birthday dinner. They always sing to me “Happy Birthday,” so it’s always fun!
Dominika Cibulkova: Our Slovakian meal. It’s a traditional meal. It’s really hard to explain!
Janko Tipsarevic: If I pig out, I would have to say pizza and hamburger together. I eat one and then I eat the other one. I eat junk food either when I’m really, really happy and there is no tomorrow tennis-wise, or when I’m really sad (laughs).
Nancy Kerrigan: I don’t know. I like a lot of food. I don’t discriminate. I like a nice steak, or when the kids go off to school I cook myself some fried eggs. You can’t order them out because they have to be done just right.
If you were stranded on a deserted island and could bring only one food item, what would it be?
Agnieszka Radwanska: I think that would be chocolate coconut cheesecake from Cheesecake Factory, of course!
Andrea Petkovic: A crepe with Nutella!
Monica Puig: That’s a good one. Does it have to be healthy? You really got me there. There are so many! Let’s just say red velvet cake (laughs).
Do you cook? If so, what is your signature meal?
James Blake: The only things I’ve started cooking now are waffles on Sunday mornings. My dad used to make waffles for me and my brother every Sunday, and for my wedding I asked for a waffle maker. It was probably the only thing on the registry that was just for me, so I got it and then I had to learn how to make waffles. I wouldn’t say they are amazing, but they are getting there.
Dominika Cibulkova: No, not really. I don’t really cook. My boyfriend cooks!
Janko Tipsarevic: I’m not a cook because we have a small kitchen. I don’t even have space to make a split step, but I imagine once we move to a house, which we plan to do hopefully soon, I will start to cook.
Sweet or salty?
Dominika Cibulkova: Salty. Anything but chips!
Jelena Jankovic: I eat a lot of sweets. I have a sweet tooth. I love chocolate, anything with chocolate. Ice cream, cheesecake, candy (laughs).
Nancy Kerrigan: Yeah, both. I have a sugar addiction, so I’ve been really trying over the past few years to work on that. As I get older, my body doesn’t agree. I even gave up orange juice in the morning because I really feel like the rest of the day I crave sweets. [If I don’t drink it], I can control myself better.
We all know about Novak Djokovic’s gluten-free diet. Have you ever tried any kind of special diet?
Andrea Petkovic: I don’t eat gluten either. Well, I don’t eat wheat. I have a wheat allergy. I don’t eat lactose, obviously. You can only eat a couple of things, but rice [is one of them]. When in doubt, always rice.
Jelena Jankovic: No, as you can see I’m not on a diet. My percentage of fat is really high (laughs)! I’m actually pretty fortunate that I have a great metabolism with lots of energy most of the time. I try to eat healthy, but I’m not too strict. I’m only strict when I’m competing. Before the match I have the proper food because it’s kind of like my gas. If I want to make it to my destination, I have to fill it up.
What is your favorite post-practice or post-match meal?
Monica Puig: It’s not my favorite, but it’s something I always eat. I always have pasta to help me recover. Anything carbs-wise.
Janko Tipsarevic: I kind of have to eat pasta or brown rice.
Brian Baker: First, I’ll probably have a recovery shake or a protein drink. After that, you know, I’m not the biggest guy on pasta before matches or after practices. I’m more of a meat and potatoes kind of guy.
What food do you eat solely because you’re a professional athlete and you know it’s good for your body?
Andrea Petkovic: Well, there’s a lot. I hate broccoli, but I eat broccoli. I actually [dislike] all the vegetables, but I eat them because it’s good for me.
Monica Puig: Avocado. Well, I have avocado in sushi, and I don’t mind it. And watermelon. I’m forced to eat that.