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Because it’s strange and beautiful and hot, people from everywhere converge on Florida and they bring their cuisine and their traditions with them. The Zest celebrates the intersection of food and communities in the Sunshine State.

The Bucs' chef talks about feeding the team, pregame ice cream and Tom Brady's 'very disciplined' diet

Tom Brady
Mark LoMoglio
/
AP
Tracie Hartman, the executive performance chef for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, feeds all 53 players, plus the coaches and support staff. She says quarterback Tom Brady's diet is very disciplined.

Said Tracie Hartman: “Since I’ve come here, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are learning how to eat a lot of veggies.”

Listen to the episode

This week on The Zest Podcast, meet the woman behind the men. Tracie Hartman is the executive performance chef for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, meaning she feeds all 53 players, plus the coaches and support staff breakfast, lunch and sometimes dinner every day during football season.

Meals are served at the dining room of the Bucs’ practice facility, the AdventHealth Training Center, in Tampa.

Bucs Chef Tracie Hartman
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tracie Hartman is the executive performance chef for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

“Our shopping list looks like everybody else’s, but in huge, massive quantities,” Tracie says with a laugh. “We eat a ton of salmon and a ton of chicken.”

To create new menus every week, Tracie works with a sous chef and nutritionist. What’s on the menu depends on the day of the week.

For instance, during midweek practice, Tracie offers lots of salmon, chicken and leafy greens. Toward the end of the week, Tracie adds in more simple carbs, like potatoes, burgers, pasta and chicken tenders — albeit not fried. On the eve of each game, the team indulges in ice cream sundaes “because it’s quick carbs,” Tracie says. “So it’s not all healthy 24/7/365.” For postgame recovery and calorie replenishment, Monday is the perfect time for biscuits and gravy.

“Everybody eats some of the meals,” Tracie says. “You have to think with 53 players, everybody doesn’t love everything all of the time, and that’s OK.”

Barbecue chicken in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers dining room.
Kyle Zedaker
/
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Meals await players in the dining room line during 2022 training camp at the Bucs' AdventHealth Training Center.

In general, the players consume anywhere from 3,000 to 7,000 calories daily, depending on their position and goal weight. Tracie says offensive and defensive linemen need the most calories.

Since coming to the Bucs in April 2021, Tracie has emphasized vegetables. Sometimes she’ll even sneak them into food, like zucchini tots.

“Since I’ve come here, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are learning how to eat a lot of veggies,” she says.

But knowing that players will grow tired of her cooking and be tempted to eat off-campus as the months drag on, Tracie keeps a few tricks up her sleeve for later in the season. Popular meals include birria tacos, make-your-own acai bowl and avocado toast with smoked salmon and pork belly. On the day of off-season visits in July, lunch was a build-your-own grilled cheese bar.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers dining room
Kyle Zedaker
/
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
A variety of foods await players in the dining room at the Bucs' AdventHealth Training Center.

To keep things interesting, Tracie and her team create a new menu every week. She estimates that she’s written 2,000 recipes since she started. She even takes suggestions from players. Center Ryan Jensen bought her a grill, which Tracie occasionally uses to make ribs or brisket. There’s also a daily “clean menu” of grilled chicken, brown rice, broccoli and salads for picky eaters.

“We cook every day, unless they’re out of town,” Tracie says. She hasn’t been traveling with the team due to COVID. But when the guys are on the road, she sends recipes to their hotel.

On this episode of The Zest, Tracie discusses how she went from working in finance to feeding the Bucs, which players love junk food and whether Tom Brady’s diet is as strict as everyone thinks.

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