If you follow Von Miller on social media (and you really should), you're familiar with Curtis Bell's work. The personal chef cooks Miller's meals, which inevitably wind up on the Super Bowl MVP's Instagram or Snapchat accounts.
As Bell tells it, prepping such a physical human being begins in the kitchen, with the right balance of protein, carbohydrates and fat. Miller avoids dessert and only takes a few weeks off from eating healthy. It's all in a day's work for one of the Broncos' most-beloved players — and his Instagram-worthy personal chef.
We spoke with Bell about Miller's likes, dislikes, calorie intake and Super Bowl-worthy meals.
Westword: Fill us in on some of your history. Where are you from, and how did you become a personal chef?
Curtis Bell: I'm from Denver, born and raised. I grew up in Lakewood and went to college at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. I told my father I wanted to be a chef when I was around ten, and that I wanted to go to the CIA when I was twelve. I stuck with what I told him and followed my dream. I used to joke about becoming a personal chef as a kid, but didn't ever aim for the position, necessarily. My career excelled pretty quickly during and after school. I spent some time gaining experience and expanding my knowledge of food on the East Coast in Manhattan, Cape Cod and Montauk. Then I returned to Denver to work at Restaurant Kevin Taylor, which was a pretty big deal at the time. I was quickly promoted and grew into other positions at the Denver Art Museum and La Tour in Vail. I was then recommended by Kevin Taylor to a family about seven years ago. I interviewed for the job at the ripe age of 21— didn't quite feel old enough, but I was confident in my abilities. I got the job, and I still cook for that family to this day.
How did you get the job as Von Miller’s personal chef?
Surprisingly, it all started with a Facebook post. I was recommended by a few clients who I have cooked for over the years. They all excitedly responded with my name to the "In search of" post. I then was invited to cook for him, actually not even knowing who I was going to cook for still. The only information I had been told was that it was a professional athlete. I found out it was Von when I was told so, upon walking into his home. I made dinner for him, and apparently he liked the meal. A few days later I received a call asking to make his meals starting the next day! I think the food spoke for itself, and my knowledge of athletic nutrition worked in my favor as well.
What does a normal day cooking for Von look like?
First thing in the morning, I make green juice and his breakfast. His green juice is very important for an extra boost and making sure he gets adequate micro-nutrients. Breakfast will generally be about four eggs, some sort of breakfast meat, and plenty of complex carbohydrates to prepare his body for working out. Lunch is similar. Being that his lunch will generally come after working out, it is the most important time to quickly get protein for proper protein synthesis, and also plenty of carbohydrates to replenish the glycogen stores in his muscles. Dinner will typically be a bit lighter, maybe 500-700 calories, and lower in fat. To make all of this happen in a day, I tend to shop at least twice a day and drive upwards of 100 miles a day, depending on where he is and where I need to be. So the days are quite full, but it is all to make sure he has exactly what he needs. As he says, “You have to put premium in the Ferrari,” and I work to do exactly that.
How does cooking for a professional athlete differ from cooking for a normal human?
There aren’t major differences. I cook healthy food for everyone I cook for. For Von, though, I am just very dialed into his personal health. We work together to make sure he has the exact nutrition he needs, when he needs it. I am very focused on tracking the numbers for his macro- and micro-nutrient intake, which is very important to make sure his body is perfectly fueled.
Are there certain things you won’t give him because he’s so active? On that note, how many calories a day does he eat?
I avoid feeding him most dairy, such as heavy cream and butter. Also, there is absolutely no processed food in his diet. Simple carbohydrates are avoided as well. Nutrient density in every meal is very important. His daily caloric intake depends on his activity. If he's working out twice and has practice, I will make sure he has extra carbohydrates to replenish his energy and those glycogen stores. So overall, his calorie intake can vary anywhere from 2,500 to 3,000 calories. This guy is incredibly active, but it is still very important for me to not overfeed him.
What are some of his favorite foods? Anything he doesn’t like?
He loves Mexican food, and I have found most Asian foods go over positively as well. He likes potent flavor, which I try to incorporate as much as possible to keep the food constantly exciting and new for him. He is absolutely not a picky eater, but there is one rule: no pork.
What’s Von’s ideal dessert?
Dessert is not something we do very often — and during the season, not at all. But when cheat days come around, his go-to is ice cream. He has a sweet tooth, but he’s good at resisting the naughty foods.
Does he ever cook?
No — why would he?
Von is one of Denver’s most famous Texans. Does he ever crave anything from the Lone Star State?
He loves good barbecue and seafood. A good spicy Dungeness crab boil will always make him happy.
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Do his meals change during the off-season?
During the off-season, we will take a short break on his diet and throw in a bit of the naughty foods that are avoided most of the year. Only briefly, though: He barely takes a break — maybe only a week or two. After that, he jumps straight into heavy training, working to hone his strength and skills more every year.
Did you cook for him before the Super Bowl game? If so, what did he eat that day?
I did not cook for him before the Super Bowl game. That was before I began cooking for him. The plan now is to cook for him before Super Bowl 53!