Monri, Mexico – hamburgers, ham slices, macaroni and cheese: it’s hard to choose a favorite. That doesn’t even mention the custom vegetarian dishes that catch the eye at every meal.
Off the field and the pressures of qualifying for the World Cup and Olympics, food is the talk of the US women’s team at the CONCACAF W. Terryn Green may be the most popular person on the team.
“He’s awesome, what a skilled chef,” says American advocate Sofia Huerta, who caters to everything from tacos to avocado toast. Huerta and her teammates have already qualified for the 2023 World Cup, and they will try to seal a place in the 2024 Olympics on Monday.
Green – or “Chef T” as he’s known to almost everyone – is the team’s personal chef brought in during the big tournaments, cooking every meal for the players and crew. Three times a day – four times on late-night match days, and post-match meals – he oversees fueling the two-time World Cup champions.
In a setting like this, it can seem like stressful work, but what sets Green apart is its ability to make popular food while keeping mealtime fun. Part of this process is allowing players to have a say in the list. Each player gets a chance to design the menu on a particular day. The staff would put up a sticker on the player to celebrate their choices, none of which never disappointed once it was set up.
Emily Fox and Megan Rapinoe celebrated Christmas early at the CONCACAF W Championship here in Mexico. Fox chose a local taste: tacos and ceviche, then churros for dessert. Then came the birthday cake, along with vocals from the team that introverted Fox said Rapinoe enjoyed a bit more.
This collaborative effort between the chef and the team is a window into how Green works – and why he is such an important member of the team. He brings with him the lessons he learned as a young chef at The Sagamore, a luxury resort on Lake George in upstate New York: it’s not just about food, it’s about exceptional service and experience.
“I feel like mealtime is a big part [of the environment], “says Green from a chair in the private dining area that the team sealed and customized above their hotel in Monterrey, Mexico.” We have it three times a day and we want it to be the best three times a day. We want everyone to be happy, we want everyone to get what they want. We don’t want anyone to feel left out, so I constantly make requests. tell me what you want. We’ll make it happen.”
Green, 33, is a self-taught chef who got his start at a small restaurant in metropolitan Detroit, working his way up from prep and dishwashing to appetizers. He left for the opportunity in Sagamore to develop his skills before returning to Detroit to work atop the famous Renaissance Center overlooking the city.
He then got his first chance at the sport by calling, working with the Detroit Pistons of the NBA. Starting out as one of five chefs, Greene was cleaning elbows with Stan Van Gundy, Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson. Green says that after a few weeks, players exclusively asked him. Soon they began to invite him to their homes to cook and hang out. He now says that Greene’s popularity was as much about his hospitality as his food.
“Most of the time they didn’t really want to eat, they just wanted a friend,” says Green. “I’d come to cook, cook a meal, and then they were like, OK, let’s play [NBA]2K or let’s go to the movies they had in their house.”
The US women’s national team players moved on to Chef T, too. Green called the team ahead of the 2019 World Cup and served as chef for that entire tournament, which the United States won. He made another comeback for last year’s Tokyo Olympics, rejoining the team ahead of the 2022 CONCACAF W Championship qualifiers. His full-time job cooks for MLB’s Detroit Tigers when they play at home, and works with him on occasions he leaves to join the American Women.
Green is a tall character with a calm and modest demeanor. “It’s not really about me,” he says of his work. It integrates seamlessly with the team, plays an essential behind-the-scenes role, which in essence is designed to help everyone do their job better.
“When you bring anyone to a mix of delegations, it’s not just about your skill set – it’s about fit,” said Kate Markgrave, general manager of the US women’s team. “It definitely fits. It’s a big item [of the team], but it has an added value. He is someone that different people are attracted to. And when you see his face, the guys all go, ‘Chef T’ because he’s a supportive, non-threatening presence, something you need in this environment.”
Chef is officially a professional support position offered by US Soccer in its sole discretion. Markgraph says it should be an investment all teams make.
Becca Rowe, executive director of the USWNT Players Association, agrees. “It’s great that the USSF recently brought a chef to most of the major US championships and qualifiers because it’s a health, safety and performance advantage,” she told ESPN.
The US women’s national team staff is big, so Green isn’t working alone. He meets head of team performance, Eli Mayberry, and team nutritionist, Lindsey Langford, to set guidelines on what the team should eat: more carbs before the game, and flexibility in binges after the game.
Green then takes these guidelines and builds menu ideas, working with local chefs at the team hotel. He’ll make sure the hotel kitchen staff know the team’s nutrition guidelines and goals for any given meal, and then they’ll collaborate. Usually, Green doesn’t get to watch the first game of the tournament because he needs to accommodate local staff in the post-game operations, but he can be found on the field, enjoying a game, as he did during Thursday’s 3-0 win over Costa Rica in the tournament semi-finals.
Green says he likes to draw on the local expertise of the chefs and use local ingredients, all of which are a source of their quality. In Monterey, that means using authentic Mexican salsa and “perfect” avocado. At the Olympics, it was everything from ramen to wagyu beef and Miyazaki mango, an expensive dessert-like version of the fruit.
“You have to respect the kitchen,” says Green of entering new environments. “I’m glad I know how to get around the kitchen properly and navigate where I don’t offend anyone.”
Players notice the attention to detail. Green did not grow up on football. His first women’s soccer game was when he got his first shot with the team, at a training camp in St. Louis, Missouri, in 2019. Immediately, there was mutual respect.
“They are wonderful,” he said. “They don’t block anything. They are very appreciative, which is one of the reasons why they are my favorite team to work on.”
After the CONCACAF W Championship is over, Green will return to his regular job at the Detroit Tigers. However, he has already set his eyes on the 2023 World Cup, wondering aloud what kinds of cuisine he needs to start trying out from Australia and New Zealand.
Scroll through Green’s Instagram page and among the mouth-watering photos of his dishes, you’ll find him holding the World Cup on the pitch in Lyon after the US victory in 2019. Megan Rapinoe gave him a personal shout out on the stairs of New York City Hall during her speech after that victory.
It was there in France that the special attention that Green paid to his profession became apparent to the players. Among the team’s vegans is Alex Morgan, who was on that team and back with the team for the CONCACAF W. Green says he feels vegan because they can’t always eat exactly what they crave, so he puts the extra effort into their meals, serving them straight to the food instead of Prepare the buffet. Soon, more players wanted to participate in this experience.
“When we went to France, there were probably two vegetarians,” Green said. “In the end, there were about six. I built the board for them and made it nice and cool and handed it over to them. When the other players see that, they’re like, ‘Oh, I want to bring a meal to me too.'”
Now, new players are taking notice, too. This bootcamp is the first Huerta has experienced with a “Chef T,” but she said his appreciation for his work is strong and the relationship he forges with the players is instant.
“The food here was great, obviously it’s really important to be a professional athlete, and the nutritional side of it,” she said. “He’s very good and he knows just what he’s doing. It’s just one thing, when you’re not here, it’s something to worry about or think about. His being here, though, is taken care of. You don’t have to worry about anything you put in your body. It’s Very nice, he takes care of us. He is very valuable and important to the team.”
Of course, there’s always room for a few cheat meals to keep things interesting. After the team’s 1-0 win over Mexico on Monday, that meant filet mignon at 1am sometimes meant ice cream. So the boss is on board with a little fun.
“Post-game macaroni and cheese — and I don’t usually eat macaroni and cheese, it’s the best thing I’ve had in my life,” Markgrave says.