“A recipe has no soul. You as the cook must bring soul to the recipe.”

 Thomas Keller, American chef

If you are looking for the Bates College football team, you might find many of the players in a kitchen concocting their own culinary delights.

Tony Blasi

We are not talking about making toast or throwing a salad together. The Bobcats proved they also have some muscle behind a hot stove.

Serving up their favorite dishes and sharing their mouth-watering recipes with the rest of the world is the Bobcats’ roundabout way of building team unity  and an opportunity to sample their teammates’ dishes. Sporting their homemade meals on Instagram was also a reaction to boredom of the COVID-19 quarantine.

I have seen these dishes on Instagram (@BatesFootballKitchen). I am having a hard time choosing which recipe to serve to my family. 

Perusing the players’ hardy menu might tempt you to show up for dinner unannounced.

My wife married an Italian, who thrives in the kitchen and does 80% of the cooking with her blessings. Chicken parmigiana, shrimp jambalaya or chicken kung pao dishes — all made from scratch — are crowd-pleasers. My son has never turned down my home cooking, yet.

Bates football players “Big Mac” Mckeon Midland and Reza Badiee, who were both injured this past season, quickly became friends on the sidelines and discovered they have something in common besides football— they both share a strong passion for cooking.

Badiee feels right at home in the kitchen.

“I’ve been in boarding school since I was 13 years old,” he said. “We always kind of had a kitchen in our dorm, and from that I kind of decided to start making my own foods, since cafeteria food wasn’t the best. That’s kind of how it all started.”

Badiee and Midland began talking about starting a social media account, and when COVID-19 hit they brought their endeavor to fruition.

Reza Badiee, Bates football Brewster Burns for Bates College Athletics

“Since the (outbreak) kind of started, we were bored. We had not much to do,” Badiee said. “School ended, so we decided to actually go through with (posting recipes). It has been a success, but not as big as we would like it to be. We are trying to get more followers. It has been going pretty well for us overall. The coaches are pitching in; the players are pitching in.

“It is mainly to give people something to do. A lot of my teammates and friends were at home back in March. (The Instagram account) kind of encourages them to get out of bed, I guess…go make meals for their family and enjoy it. Most of the kids from school are friends who follow the account.

“I thought it would be super interesting for them to see and for the coaches to see how seriously they take their health. I think through that, you can see how people are living and eating. It is pretty fascinating, I thought.”

Midland said he has been cooking since he was 10 and prepares three meals in the household.

“I started with baking. I love baking cookies. That has always been my specialty,” Midland said. “Now I work with a lot of marinades. I do a lot of grilling. It has always been a passion of mine. I really like to cook.”

Midland and Badiee kept sending Snapchats about meals and information about diets throughout the summer.

Mckeon Midland, Bates football Brewster Burns for Bates College Athletics

“We just said, ‘You know what, why don’t we start a page and get the rest of the team to do this, and it kind of kicked off from there,” Midland said. “I have done three meals on the page and Rez has done a couple, too. 

“It would be pretty cool to have recent alumni put some stuff up, too.”

Bates College head football coach Malik Hall, who is equally at home behind a hot stove or a grill, supports this endeavor.

“All of them put a hand in it, but Big Mac Midland (junior defensive lineman) and Reza Badiee (sophomore outside linebacker) gave me call (and said), ‘Hey coach, we’ve been working a social media deal for our players in terms of eating, counting calories and making sure you are putting on weight.

“These two young men just made a decision to say, ‘We’ll put together a football eatery and let every guy send in meals that they are making over the course of the quarantine.’”

The pair also followed Hall’s lead on social media.

“I think what prompted that (response) was that I do a daddy daycare hashtag with my daughter and we were making pizza from scratch,” Hall said. “I will broadcast some stuff that’s funny and what not, and the guys, they will like it.

“I want them to use this experience to find out more about each other, even though we are not connected. It has created some traction among parents, which is good. I am proud of them.”

Hall was taken aback by his players’ recipes.

“I am surprised that they are that good,” Hall said. “We need to rent the cafeteria one weekend.”

Hall also got into the act and contributed a recipe.

“I was working on this paper-bag lamb (recipe),” Hall said. “I took a leg of lamb and seasoned it up. Threw it all in the bag and wrapped it up, put it in the oven at 200 (degrees). Let it cook for 10 hours, and when you pulled that thing out, you don’t need a knife. You just need a fork. I added that (recipe) to let them know I am behind them.” 

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