Luge Canada pilot project with chef Jade Berg feeds the dream, the soul

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Chef Jade Berg has been stewing, pan-frying and serving nutritious and delicious meals for the Canadian National Luge Team for over a month, while quenching her own thirst for adventure.

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Chef Jade Berg adds seasoning to seafood chowder.
Chef Jade Berg adds seasoning to seafood chowder. Photo by Brooke Apshkrum /Photo submitted

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Berg, a Saskatchewan native living in Campbell River, British Columbia, joined the team as part of a Luge Canada pilot project aimed at increasing the nutritional intake of athletes, providing escape from mundane hotel meals and maybe save a few bucks. The cash-strapped organization got all that and more, as Berg slipped seamlessly into the kitchen and into the hearts and minds of team members.

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“As we approach the end of (Berg’s tenure), I would say it has been a great success in every way; what Jade has brought to the team and what she has given to the athletes,” said Luge Canada’s High Performance Director, Sam Edney “It’s really improved the environment on so many levels, and that’s exciting.

“We thought there was potential to save some money in this type of scenario,” he continued. “If we do room and board in Europe, it’s 70 or 90 euros per day. So instead of staying in a hotel or guesthouse, you find Airbnb apartment-style living and then you can cook for yourself.

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“Immediately we started to see the benefits. First, you add a new element to the team and we were lucky because Jade ended up being such a good fit. It’s cool to see what a new person brings to the team environment and the elements they brought from their profession.

At World Cups in Whistler, BC, Park City, Utah and Sigulda, Latvia, Berg has been their secret ingredient.

“It cost us money, but we’re getting a great return on what we put in. It’s a win-win at this point,” Edney said.

The same is true for the side of Berg’s equation. As a freelance chef who has cooked for well-to-do clients on their yachts and in their chalets, he doesn’t have much of a day-to-day team vibe and he didn’t know how much he would enjoy it.

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“It’s a concert that really feeds the soul; to be able to see the impact I have, to be able to see their excitement and then be on the track, cheering them on and being part of a team,” he said last week from Latvia.

Berg is careful not to go to the track empty-handed. Since athletes exercise constantly, they tend to lose weight, especially on the road where familiar dining options may be limited.

“That’s where I come in,” Berg said. “I’m at the finish line instead of sitting at home in the kitchen. I’m there and I have homemade date bars, hard-boiled eggs, snacks, freshly baked muffins; just trying to make sure there’s always something they like to eat. In my opinion, it takes the stress off them. Instead of going to a hotel in Latvia or Germany and not having anything you know or like to eat, I’ll cook anything. So we can keep it comfortable for them.

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Berg served standard fare like chowder, pulled pork and tacos for family dinners in his apartment, but he “goes out of his way” once a week in plated dishes that included shrimp risotto , miso-marinated sablefish and wasabi. potatoes. And each night turned into a tasty moment of team-building.

“My challenge was to call it back,” he said. “Most of my food over the past five to 10 years has been overdone, which has helped me make sure it’s the best meal (customers) have ever had. And yes, it’s important to these guys, but the most important thing is nutrition and simplicity and accessibility. For me, that means not spending 14 hours cooking dinner. I cook all the meals and still have time to go on the track, so it was definitely a learning experience and it went really well.

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So much so that he discussed continuing the relationship off-season; doing meal prep classes on Zoom, maybe a team building trip to the woods to look for mushrooms.

“It’s been a really cool relationship over the last two months. It went from a sport that I knew nothing about to something that really fascinates me.

Chef Jade Berg (third from right) huddles with members of the Canadian National Luge Team.  (Photo by Brooke Apshkrum)
Chef Jade Berg (third from right) huddles with members of the Canadian National Luge Team. (Photo by Brooke Apshkrum)

Edney, who said Luge Canada will explore possibilities of bringing Berg back next season, believes athletes now have a different and better relationship with food.

“For me, food is the biggest part of my life and I know it’s a huge part of sports,” Berg said. “If we can make food an adventure for them, instead of saying ‘OK, I have to eat this meal’, that’s great. And I see these athletes have gone from that mentality in the first week to now they’re fired up; what are we going to eat tonight?

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