Ever since the Baltimore Ravens came to town in 1996, they have been eating food from The Classic Catering People.
Classic Catering, the official caterer of the Ravens' training facilities, started a sports management catering department in 1995, said Tenille Moore, a Classic Catering employee who is director of food service for the Baltimore Ravens. She has held that position for almost six years, and said the relationship between the Ravens and Classic Catering had grown since the 1990s.
Classic Catering, headquartered in Owings Mills, now has its own kitchen and cafeteria at the Under Armour Performance Center. Moore said she had about eight full-time employees during the regular season, but needed about 30 extra people to help out during training camp.
"We are open all year long," Moore said. "I think most people think it's just during the season. We feed the entire staff here. Even if the football players aren't here, coaches are usually here. But we also feed marketing. We feed grounds crew. We feed everyone.
"Not too many corporations feed the entire staff, from janitorial crew to the vice president. Everyone here gets to eat for free, and they really eat well. It's a very nice thing that [Ravens owner] Steve Bisciotti does to allow the employees to do that."
When training camp starts, Moore said, the cafeteria is open from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m., serving breakfast, lunch, dinner and a snack. The regular-season meal schedule is breakfast, lunch and dinner Monday through Thursday; breakfast and lunch on Fridays; and breakfast on Saturdays.
Enough To Feed An Army
It takes a lot of food to cook for the players, coaches, executives and other personnel in an NFL organization. Tenille Moore, director of food service for the Baltimore Ravens and The Classic Catering People, estimated that the people who eat at the Under Armour Performance Center consume the following quantities of food per day.
Moore and her staff don't have to cook on game days, but she said some players were convinced that her menu could affect the outcome of a game. Moore said running back Ray Rice had become superstitious that if she didn't serve her low-fat buffalo dip before a game, the Ravens would lose.
"Even though he wasn't here the week before [Super Bowl XLVII]," Moore said, "he made me make that [dip] right before they left. … There's a lot of superstition here. If they feel something's important, as stupid as that dip is -- and that had nothing to do with anything -- they wanted it."
The staple entrées on the menu are a fish, a healthy chicken and a red meat, Moore said, and some of the most popular dishes head chef Nicholas Goff makes are his chicken and sausage jambalaya and his glazed sea bass. There are salad and deli stations at the cafeteria, as well as vegetables, whole-grain rolls and whole-wheat pastas.
"Our primary focus is to keep it very healthy, very lean, using whole grains, good quality foods, fruits and vegetables," Moore said. "But we try to make it in a more home-style kind of feel to it, because that's what the players like. There's guys from all over the United States that eat different things. We try to incorporate that into the menu, but keeping it in a healthy way for them."
Moore said she often included some international food options -- such as Asian, Indian and Mexican -- when planning the menu for each week. She also consults with Sue James, the Ravens' nutritionist, to make sure there isn't too much fat in any one meal. When a player is trying to lose weight, James notifies the kitchen staff and gives suggestions for what to include in the player's meal, Moore said.
"Health has become such a huge issue right now," Moore said. "[The players] really watch what they eat. They're eating fish. They're eating flank steak, which is a very lean red meat. They're really into chicken, rotisserie chicken. They don't eat the skin on it. There's a lot of quinoa and farro right now. Grains are a big deal."
But there are also snacks and desserts available to the players, such as baked chips and M&M cookies, although Moore said the players didn't have too many of those at lunchtime.
"I think everybody assumes that they eat so much," Moore said, "and they don't. … When they come here, their lunch might be before practice, so they're not eating tons and tons of food, because they're going to go run and run and run."
Moore said the rookies often had to adjust their eating habits and try new foods when they joined the Ravens.
"[Some rookies] don't know some of the foods we have," Moore said, "or they're not used to having a medium steak -- they want it rare. We really try to teach them a variety of foods. They've never maybe had quinoa. One of the players never had Old Bay. … By the time they leave here, everybody loves Old Bay and is into Maryland crab."
Above all, Moore stressed how grateful she was to Classic Catering partner Eddie Dopkin, the company's vice president of finance, for giving her the opportunity to work with the Ravens. She said the thought of the players on the team as friends more than professional athletes.
"I'm pregnant right now," she said, "and they ask me every day: 'How's the baby? How you doing?' I have a 2-year-old. They always ask about my son. … They're people that we root for because we really love them and we know who they are, and we're very passionate for them because we have that interaction with them."