Chef Julio Kacamu makes the USMNT feel right at home at the World Cup



Thursday was Thanksgiving and even in Qatar that means turkey. The problem for Julio Cacamo, the new chef for the US World Cup team, was where to find him.

Turns out you can’t, at least not in the quantity or quality that Caccamo wanted. So he had to fly in the birds from the US (you know turkeys can’t fly, right?)

“Tonight we’re going to have some turkey, and some sweet potato mash with marshmallows. So we kept it traditional,” Kakamo said on the eve of the Americans’ game. confrontation in the group stage With England on Friday.

That meal was one of dozens of Kakamo’s that the national team and its staff would attend during their stay in Qatar. However, cooking is the least of his challenges because it doesn’t matter how good the food is if no one eats it. When you’re dealing with 26 young adults, including two teens, getting them to eat their vegetables is no easy feat.

This is where the artist in Caccamo comes in.

“It’s about being creative and healthy at the same time,” he said. “You have to give them healthy food [so] It’s good to run it for 90 minutes. However, it should be fun and it should be creative. I think the emotional part is important when it comes to food so you should touch it. They should feel happy when they enter the dining room and see what they are going to eat. what’s new?

“The exciting part, it’s very important.”

Caccamo loves food. He lives it, breathes it, and… well, eats it. Which makes him the kind of guy you want to be in charge of feeding your World Cup team because while the army might walk on his stomach, the soccer team plays on him, which makes a good chef almost as important as a good goalkeeper.

“I take it very seriously,” Kakamo said of his job.

Players say it appears.

“Our chef did an exceptional job,” said midfielder Clean Acosta.

The job wasn’t one Kakamo sought — or existed — just over a year ago when the United States traveled to El Salvador to start World Cup qualifiers.

Unlike Mexico, which has flown with a team chef in the past, the United States has preferred to work with the staff in whatever hotel the team stays. At the Intercontinental Hotel in San Salvador was Caccamo, who quickly won over US coach — and food lover — Gregg Berhalter, not only with his cooking but also with his work ethic and precision.

With the World Cup confined to one city and the US team spending the tournament in one hotel this year, taking a chef to Qatar seemed like a good idea. After months of debate, Berhalter offered the job to Kakamo, who, at 39, thought his World Cup days had passed him by.

“You know football is like religion to us,” said the Italian-born chef and coach. “Since I was little you always dreamed of playing in the World Cup. So, yeah, even if Italy isn’t here, at least we got one Italian in the World Cup.

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“I am fortunate and blessed to be here. It is a once in a lifetime experience.” I am so grateful. Not just living the experience to be here but to be with them because as soon as you enter the group, you can feel the atmosphere. It’s like family.”

Kakamo, his chef-chef, and a local staff of 11 other people prepare three daily buffet-style meals for up to 70 people, and aside from the turkey, very little of what they prepare is imported. Instead, they search local markets for the freshest ingredients. Menus are planned with the help of the team’s nutritionists and a calendar because what goes into each dish—protein or carbs, for example—is affected by how close the next match is.

“We don’t cook much in advance,” Kakamo said. “We don’t waste food. This is really important to me.”

A personal chef is just one of the perks available to American players at Marsa Malaz Kempinski Hotel, the team’s sprawling, five-star home on The Pearl, a mile-and-a-half-long artificial island built in Doha’s West Bay. The hotel, in fact, is its own feature.

“It looks like you’ve hit the jackpot in a way to be able to secure these places because it’s important to try to get it right,” said Berhalter. “We’ve gone to great lengths to make it convenient, to create the kind of environment players are used to, knowing we want to be here for a long time.”

Creating this environment required bringing in 15 tons of equipment and other support materials and creating a gamers lounge in the hotel with pool tables, big screen TVs and a putting green.

“Every nine yards,” Acosta said. American football even brought a barber with it.

Franchise is not new to the World Cup. For the 2010 tournament in South Africa, the late Diego Maradona, then coach of Argentina, demanded that his suite be redesigned to add an expensive toilet, and a throne worthy of the King of Football. The Brazilians insisted that the water in the hotel pool be heated to exactly 90 degrees and the New Zealanders demanded golf lessons.

All of these requests are approved—and some sports psychologists say the cost is worth it. Creating an environment of comfort, to which a player is accustomed, can pay off in better performance, they say.

Defender DeAndre Yedlin, the only remaining player from the last US team at the 2014 World Cup, said the fact that the players will be sleeping in the same bed throughout this tournament has really made a difference. In Brazil, the American team traveled nearly 13,000 miles to play four games. Her longest trip to Qatar will be a 52-mile bus ride to the edge of the Qatari desert for the match with England.

“The first day we got here, Greg said to us, ‘Get your stuff out. Put your books on the bookshelf, put your clothes in the drawers, Yedlin said, and get comfortable here. “This has a very positive effect because you can really settle in and feel at home.”

On Thursday, they had a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

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