Retired NBA player Tony Parker has had a personal chef for more than 15 years: 'It's basically like eating at a restaurant'

·6-min read
Tony Parker says growing up in France, he'd go to street markets with his mom and sell cheese.
Tony Parker says growing up in France, he'd go to street markets with his mom and sell cheese. "I would explain the cheeses and sell [them]," he tells Yahoo Life. (Photo: Getty; designed by Quinn Lemmers)

Because food connects us all, Yahoo Life is serving up a heaping plateful of table talk with people who are passionate about what's on their menu in Deglazed, a series about food.

While Tony Parker is most widely known as an NBA legend who led the San Antonio Spurs to four championships, this MVP is also a secret foodie with a passion for French cheese and the art of wine-making.

"When I was a kid, I used to go into the market to sell cheese with my mom," he tells Yahoo Life. "We would go in the morning. I would wake up early and that was my way to make quick cash."

"We would go into those markets in France — where you go out to the street and they set up the market," he continues. "I would explain the cheeses and sell [them]. I was around 10 or 11 years old."

Parker says these experiences, as well as his upbringing in France, have shaped not only his love of food, but also the passion he feels for French cuisine. "It's something we're very proud of in our country," he explains, "food and wine."

As a young boy, great food was all around him, so when Parker moved to the U.S. to play basketball, he missed some of the French flavors he'd grown up with. However, he did find some restaurants that lived up to his expectations for delicious food. A favorite was located right in San Antonio, Tex., and he would visit often while playing for the Spurs.

"A shout out to San Antonio, where I spent the last twenty years: Fralo's, has one of the best pizzas in the U.S.," he says. "It's my favorite spot because they make it with a special oven imported from Italy. I love those pizzas."

"I had to call over to Italy to get one of those ovens for my house," he adds. "I added it to my house so my chef can make it, too."

Parker often requests that his personal chefs recreate his favorite restaurant dishes at home. "I had a personal chef when I was in San Antonio, he stayed with me for fourteen years," he says. "And then when I decided to move back to France, now I've a chef for two years in France. I've had a [personal] chef for 16 years."

What's it like to have a personal chef? "It's basically like eating at a restaurant," says Parker. "Each restaurant that I like, I always send my chef to go and learn all the recipes — learn everything — so they can redo it at home."

Having a private chef might be something you'd expect from a superstar baller, but Parker's diet isn't all pizzas and French cheeses.

"[People think athletes are] on a diet all the time," he says. "Not true: I was definitely not on a diet ever, my whole career. I think it's all about managing the portions and how you eat. You can eat everything, just be reasonable."

And it's not just food where Parker imparts this "everything in moderation" mindset: It also goes for another of his great loves — wine. Even before becoming one of the owners of French winery Château La Mascaronne, sharing wine has always been a way for Parker to spend time with friends and family.

Parker with Michel Reybier, the French investor behind rosé-focused winery Château La Mascaronne. (Photo: Sebastien Clavel)
Parker with Michel Reybier, the French investor behind rosé-focused winery Château La Mascaronne. (Photo: Sebastien Clavel)

"You have to be careful with it, you can't abuse it," he says. "I like to drink a glass or two — my doctor always said it was good for my heart, the red wine. As long as you don't abuse it, you should be fine."

"I like to pair it up with cheese," he says. "That's the best time, a nice glass [of wine] and some cheese"

The 40-year-old athlete has had a passion for great French wine for now more than half of his life.

"I always loved wine," he says. "I grew up with it — it's in my culture — and so it's funny to see because when I first arrived in professional sports, they were all drinking beer. Beer was the number one thing."

"When I was 17, I was exposed to wine and I really enjoyed it," Parker recalls. "So, when I was 19 and I arrived to play with the Spurs, my coach loved wine. He had a huge collection — had tons of bottles — I was very lucky that he would bring me to all the nice restaurants and open very nice bottles."

Over his time in San Antonio, Parker hosted a slew of unbelievable events for friends and family centered around sharing food, wine, culture and good company. "I love sharing stories — the experience — because, for me, that's wine." he explains. "Wine is about sharing and talking about everything. We like to do long dinners in France — sit at the table for a long time — enjoying our wine."

Parker says investing in a winery has been a dream of his for years. (Photo: Sebastien Clavel)
Parker says investing in a winery has been a dream of his for years. (Photo: Sebastien Clavel)

Parker, who chatted with Yahoo Life on behalf of his work with Château La Mascaronne says he's always wanted to break into the wine industry, but was waiting for the perfect opportunity.

"I've always wanted to invest," he says. "Over the years ... I've been to many vineyards. I always knew I wanted to invest in that area, but I wanted to wait until I retired."

Once retired, Parker connected with an old colleague, Michel Reybier, past owner of the French basketball team, ASVEL, which Parker purchased in 2014.

"Knowing Michel, an opportunity came up when he bought La Mascaronne — the rosé — last year and proposed to me to partner [with him]," says Parker. "For me, it was an unbelievable opportunity because it's very hard to get into that business, especially the good deals — they're owned by generations and generations of different families, so, it's very tough."

Equally as important as sharing wine with the world, Parker finds ways to share his passion for food with his two sons, Josh and Liam. "I share with them my love for cheese," he says. "I explain to them where it comes from and what I've learned. I try to pass it on to them and I hope that they like it too. I think it's my job as a parent to share that passion and how I grew up."

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