It turns out you can’t, at least not in the quantity or quality that Caccamo wants. So he had to fly the birds in from the US (you know turkeys can’t fly, right?)
“Tonight we are going to eat turkey, mashed sweet potatoes with marshmallow. So we kept the tradition,” Caccamo said on the eve of the crucial group stage showdown between the Americans and England on Friday.
This meal was one of dozens that Caccamo will prepare for the national team and its staff during their stay in Qatar. Yet cooking is the least of her challenges because it doesn’t matter how good the food is if no one eats it. When you’re dealing with 26 young men, including two teenagers, getting them to eat their vegetables isn’t easy.
This is where the artist from Caccamo comes in.
“It’s about being creative and healthy at the same time,” he said. “You have to give them a healthy diet. [so] that they are good at running for 90 minutes. Still, it should be fun and should be creative. I believe the emotional part is important when it comes to food, so you have to touch them. They should feel happy when they walk into the dining room and see what they are going to eat. What’s new?
“The excitement part is very important.”
Caccamo loves food. He lives it, breathes it, and… well, eats it. Which makes him the kind of guy you want in charge of feeding your World Cup team because while an army can walk on its belly a football team plays on theirs which makes for a good leader almost as important as a good goalkeeper.
“I take it very seriously,” Caccamo said of his work.
Players say it shows.
“Our boss,” said midfielder Kellyn Acosta, “did an exceptional job.”
The job was not one Caccamo was looking for – or even existed – just over a year ago when the United States flew to El Salvador for the start of World Cup qualifying.
Unlike Mexico, which has traveled with a team leader in the past, the United States preferred to work with staff from whatever hotel the team resides in. At the San Salvador Intercontinental, it was Caccamo, who quickly won over American coach – and renowned foodie – Gregg Berhalter, not only with his cooking but also with his work ethic and meticulousness.
With the World Cup confined to one city and the US team holding the tournament in one hotel this year, the idea of bringing a chef to Qatar seemed like a good one. After months of discussion, Berhalter offered the job to Caccamo, who, at 39, thought his World Cup days had passed him.
“You know, football is like a religion for us,” said the Italian-born chef. “Since you were young, you always dreamed of playing in a World Cup. So, yes, even if Italy is not there, at least we bring an Italian to the World Cup.
⚽ Qatar 2022 World Cup
“I’m privileged and blessed to be here. It’s a once in a lifetime experience,” he continued. “I’m very grateful. Not only to live the experience of being here but of being with them because as soon as you enter the group, you feel the atmosphere. It’s like a family. »
Caccamo, his sous chef and a local team of 11 other people prepare three daily buffet meals for up to 70 people and, apart from the turkey, very little of what they prepare is imported. Instead, they scour local markets for fresh ingredients. Menus are planned with the help of team nutritionists and a calendar since what goes into each dish – protein or carbs, for example – is influenced by how close the next game is.
“We don’t cook a lot ahead of time,” Caccamo said. “We don’t waste food. This is a very important question for me.
A personal chef is just one of the perks offered to American players at the Marsa Malaz Kempinski Hotel, the team’s sprawling five-star home at The Pearl, a 1½-mile man-made island built in the western bay of Doha. The hotel, in fact, is an advantage in itself.
“It looks like you’ve hit the jackpot so you can secure these sites, because it’s important to try to get it right,” Berhalter said. “We’ve put a lot of effort into making it accommodating, creating the kind of environment players are used to, understanding that we want to be here for a long time.”
Creating this environment involved bringing in 15 tons of equipment and other support materials and setting up a players’ lounge at the hotel that includes pool tables, big-screen TVs and a putting green.
“All nine yards,” Acosta said. US Soccer even brought a barber.
Perks aren’t new to the World Cup. For the 2010 tournament in South Africa, the late Diego Maradona, then Argentina coach, demanded that his suite be remodeled to add an expensive toilet, a throne fit for a soccer king. The Brazilians insisted that the water in their hotel pool be heated to exactly 90 degrees and the New Zealanders asked for golf lessons.
All of these requests have been granted – and some sports psychologists say the expense is worth it. Creating a comfortable environment that gamers are used to can result in better performance, they say.
Defender DeAndre Yedlin, the sole survivor of America’s last World Cup squad in 2014, said the fact that players slept in the same bed throughout that tournament has already made a difference. In Brazil, Team USA traveled nearly 13,000 miles to play four games; his longest journey in Qatar will be the 52-mile bus ride to the edge of the Qatari desert for the game against England.
“The first day we got here, Gregg said to us, ‘Unpack your stuff. Put your books on the shelf, put your clothes in the drawers, make yourself comfortable here,” Yedlin said. “It has a rather positive effect because you can really settle in and feel at home.”
On Thursday, they even had a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.