In Santa Clara, there is a special café that’s open 5 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Seven days a week. Year-round. And it feeds a rather burly crowd with extremely voracious appetites.
Welcome to the café at the San Francisco 49ers training camp, located appropriately enough at 4949 Centennial Blvd.
The nearly two-year-old café, operated by Bon Appetit Management Company, serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and late-night snacks for free to the football players, staff and sports media. It is not open to the public. But recently, I was invited by team management to take a tour and to enjoy lunch here.
Talk about a hungry crowd; it’s not uncommon for Chef Chad McWilliams to go through 30 pounds of egg whites and 200 pounds of chicken a day here, as he serves up to 250 people at a time.
That includes having at the ready 75 protein smoothies (a frothy blend of egg whites, Greek yogurt, honey and fresh berries) when the players come huffing and puffing off the training field. Or stocking the café late at night with plenty of chicken skewers, cold cuts, quesadillas and trail mix when there are evening meetings or workouts.
Unlike his previous stint as a chef at eBay, where he cooked a lot of Thai and Indian cuisine, McWilliams’ sticks to more basic meat-and-potatoes fare here, along with plenty of Chinese and Mexican favorites.
“They like comfort food,’’ he says with a smile. “I remember trying out Cornish game hens here once, and that didn’t go over so well. The guys much prefer chicken breasts.’’