Chef Finds a Niche Sating the Palates of Big Hitters in the Sports World
Chef Bonnie Rae makes sure the Mariners opponents are well-fed
November 18, 2019By Rob Smith
This article appears in print in the November 2019 issue. Click here for a free subscription.
When the Cincinnati Reds come to town to play the Seattle Mariners, Bonnie McPike prepares lots of Latin-inspired cuisine. For the Houston Astros, she plans several vegan options.
McPike specializes in feeding professional athletes through her Seattle-based personal chef and catering company, Chef Bonnie Rae. She fed almost a dozen visiting Major League Baseball teams this past summer and works with several individual NFL and MLB players as well.
McPike, who grew up in Fresno, is first and foremost a San Francisco Giants fan, though shes quick to add she roots for the Mariners, too.
She no longer worries who wins or loses.
I would stress myself out too much, says McPike, an avid baseball fan and serious runner who is training for an ultra-marathon. Everybody always jokes with me about poisoning the other team.
McPike began at a Neapolitan-style pizza restaurant in Brooklyn and attended cooking school in Manhattan, where she cooked for supper clubs and dinner parties. She eventually moved to a high-end restaurant with a foundation in French food.
She found her niche seven years ago when she landed her first private client Charles Munger, vice chairman of Warren Buffetts company, Berkshire Hathaway. She still cooks on-site with the Munger family for a month every year.
She moved to Seattle three years ago and began contacting reputable dieticians. One was, coincidentally, affiliated with the Mariners, and she dropped my name to a visiting clubhouse manager, McPike says. Her business exploded. McPike fed only three teams in 2018 and 11 this past season. She lands business almost exclusively through word of mouth.
She and her team of two prepare up to three meals a day for visiting clubs, who typically play three or four games during a series. She customizes the menu for each team with a heavy emphasis on proteins and starches, including food common in the Northwest, such as seafood and fish, but she also serves pork, steak, chicken and pasta.
They dont really eat salads, she says. Theyre really going for the protein.
Anecdotally, she says the Reds have the heartiest appetites and order the most food, with the Astros a close second. Its not unusual for professional athletes to eat a pound or more of protein at a single sitting, though shes never present during meals because shes not allowed to actually serve food for insurance reasons.
The Midwest teams like to eat, she says.
She works with several players from the NBA, NFL and MLB in the off-season and recently worked with a player from Major League Soccers Seattle Sounders. She also works with busy professionals and has done corporate catering for the likes of law firm Lane Powell, WeWork, Boeing and Himalaya Capital.
Sports, though, is a big part of her future. Shes been contacted by various dieticians who work with Major League Baseball clubs and is considering branching out to other cities. She routinely shows up in Google searches.
Theres not a lot of us out there, and theres lots of demand, she says. People are asking me for this in other cities.
She is now in negotiations to work with the Seattle Dragons of the new XFL football league, which begins play in early 2020. Shed also like to land more NFL clients, though she worries it will conflict with her lucrative holiday catering business.
Sports, fitness and food. Thats a pretty good life.