As a professional cyclist, I have a very close relationship with food. When a hard day on the bike quadruples the number of calories you need to eat, you spend a lot of time eating, and thinking about what you are putting in your mouth. Oddly, people spend a lot of time wondering what pro athletes eat, as though we have evolved into a different species through the discovery of some magic formula.
No doubt there are many athletes who have invented insane, reductionist diets, trying break food down into its most basic parts, identifying those key nutrients we “need,” and dumping the rest. Athletes spend hundreds or thousands of dollars a year on supplements, protein mixes, powders made from leafy greens, amino acids, omega fatty acids, herbs for weight loss, dietary nitrates, ketones, the list goes on ad infinitum. While science can detect the effects of a food’s nutrients on a biological system, it can’t detect the most important part: its emergent qualities.
“Emergence” is the concept that something made up of many components behaves in a way that isn’t predicted by the simple addition of each individual part. My teammate can come home from a ride and throw a bunch of processed, science-based powders and potions into a blender to create a Frankenshake that is, from a nutrition-facts standpoint, similar to the kale salad with chicken and quinoa I would order from Yellowbelly, but it would fall short in emergent qualities. Aside from basic starting points such as “am I better off eating fresh foods that are nutrient dense already, without any processing?” are bigger questions, like “how does this make me feel? Does this food make me happy? Am I enjoying it? Is my soul recovering as well as my body? Do other people enjoy sharing this with me?”
These questions scale up to address the environment too. Am I happier sitting in my empty kitchen, drinking a glass of sludge with a weird taste, or going out to enjoy real food prepared with care by my friends, my community?
The people at Yellowbelly get this. They play as hard as they work, and they created a place that not only serves great food, they created a sense of community that feeds body and spirit. You can see it in the relationships they build with their customers, where everyone is greeted as a friend, and in the relationships they build with other restaurateurs, who they could treat as competitors but instead treat as allies in building a social circle committed to hospitality. When I walk in the doors at Yellowbelly, I’m not just going for food that is quick, delicious and healthy, I am going to see my friends. I am going to recharge my batteries with the people who have supported me over thousands of miles and hundreds of race days, and the beauty of what they’ve created is that they want you to have this experience too.
I’ll keep you posted on my season as it progresses, and use this corner to expand on the idea that we are all in the same boat. Scribble your questions on a napkin and leave them at the counter. And if you see me at the restaurant, feel free to come say hi- you’re part of the community too.
Look for more content from Julian Kyer here soon. In the meantime follow him on twitter at @juliankyer
Read his Velo News rider Journal here:
Or just catch him at the restaurant when he is in town!