Cliff Chetwood on Crème de la Crème And Cooking For Tony Parker 

Francophile’s Dream

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What's it like to cook for Tony Parker?

On Friday, March 18, Spurs fans will get a chance to ask the man wh cooks for No. 9 just that.

After more than four years of whipping up nutritionally balanced and delicious fare for the Spurs' point guard, chef Cliff Chetwood and Parker are teaming up to launch Crème de la Crème, a French food truck, which will make its debut at the Point Park & Eats (24188 Boerne Stage Road) at 3 p.m. this Friday.

But before they decided which crepes were going to make it on the menu, Parker and Chetwood had to build what will likely be a lifelong friendship that began in 2011.

For Chetwood, the process of becoming a chef to one of the Spurs' best players (and one of it's most food-driven, too) took some time. His love of food began at an early age, after getting that knack from both his parents. At 17, Chetwood dabbled in the culinary world with his first job at Sea Island where he developed as a front of the house manager. A three-year stint in the Army, and several jobs later, Chetwood made his way into J. Alexander's where he manned the prep station on busy weekdays.

"I had a knack for it, because I had the agility and speed. I knew I was valuable there. So I decided I wanted to become a chef," Chetwood said.

He took on a job with personal chef Sarah Penrod, then Parker's personal chef and a Dallas native who went on to participate on the Food Network's Next Food Network Star. Eventually Penrod's blossoming schedule meant Chetwood handled Parker's dietary needs, until TP offered him the position just before the 2011 NBA lockout.

"I was hesitant because I was working for her and learning a lot from her, and I didn't have training, but he said it didn't matter," Chetwood explained.

So what does a 28-year-old basketball star do when league play is halted by contract talks? Well, he goes back home to France with his new personal chef in tow. This meant Chetwood could take on a job in Michelin restaurants. With four French trips under his belt, these days 35-year-old Chetwood can lay claim to working in kitchens such as Paul Bocuse's Collonges-au-Mont-d'Or, La Maison Troisgros, Le Central and La Colline du Colombier.

While there, Chetwood was able to learn new flavor combinations, though he says the experience of traveling abroad in itself helped teach him plenty. He had the of support of Parker's mother, Pamela Firestone, who helped encourage Chetwood's love for French cuisine.

"His mom is a huge supporter. I came back from France with a duffel bag of books about French cuisine that she'd given me," Chetwood says of his first trip.

But it's not always off-season cheeses, and breads and foie gras — though these are all some of Parker's favorites.

"On the off-season, I can make pretty much anything. He'll have raclette, which is basically just cheese, for lunch," Chetwood said.

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Come game time, the meals lean on the healthier side of things with salmon and brown rice still making appearances along with a few dishes that have found their way into Crème de la Crème's menu. Food truck fans will get their pick of steak frites, sweet and savory crepes, croque monsieurs, hot goat cheese salad (chèvre chaud) and a few items that aren't food truck staples like the veal scallopini.

All of it will be made out of the French-flag-inspired former school bus that's been turned into a full kitchen. At 28-feet long and with a 19-foot kitchen, Crème de la Crème will face crowds with a handful of people on board, including chef's son Andrew.

"He's been working with me since I started working with Tony," said Chetwood. And just like his father, the 16-year-old can manage to keep things professional around the four-time NBA champion.

"I was never a fan, I was there to work," Chetwood said. "I've never asked for a autograph." flavor@sacurrent.com

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