You probably already know him as the second best player on the defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers. But what you probably don't know (unless you read our September interview with Lakers trainer Gary Vitti) is that he's also the team's resident foodie. He is, after all, from Spain. Squid Ink caught up with a relaxed Pau Gasol after practice in Phoenix on Sunday, just hours removed from the team's double overtime win against the Sacramento Kings.
Squid Ink: Right now, a lot of people are saying that Spain is making the best food in the western world. Do you miss it much?
Pau Gasol: Uh...I miss it a little. I've changed a little, my diet here in the states, but yeah. I definitely miss the shellfish, the seafood. We've got really good seafood back home. The product, I'm used to it.
PG: Oh, yes. Of course. I haven't been unfortunately. I met Ferran two years ago, I met him at a book presentation in L.A. I went to support him. We met and it was really nice to meet him. And yeah, he told me to go any time I could, but I haven't had the time. But I look forward to going. He told me just to call him and he'd seat me.
SI: Have you found any Spanish restaurants in Los Angeles that you like?
PG: When I first came, I was really craving it, homesick for Spanish food. So my mom and my dad cooked for me. But I kind of lost a little faith in Spanish restaurants in L.A., because the quality wasn't nearly as good as I thought it could be. But it's getting better. I go to The Bazaar a lot. I thought that was really good. The ambiance is very good. Really L.A.-ish. It's a cool place to go, have some tapas. I'm friends with José [Andrés]. He gives me bigger portions than usual.
SI: Have you taken your teammates to The Bazaar yet?
PG: Yeah. Team dinner, five of us, when the season was over. Derek [Fisher] was there, he tried most of the stuff. Some of it they weren't willing to try. But they were pretty open to it. It was nice. It's always a special feeling when teammates try the food that I love and they enjoy it.
SI: What are some of your favorite restaurants in the city, of any kind?
PG: I love Japanese food. I'm a big sushi and Italian fan. It's much more introduced in the states. So many great quality Italian restaurants. Something that I hope in the near future is more Spanish restaurants and more Spanish products in the states.
SI: Any particular sushi or Italian that you're fond of?
PG: As far as sushi, Nobu is really good and I enjoy it. I also have good friends there. It's a place that I love to go. And uh...Italian places, Pizzeria Mozza is really nice. Another restaurant I really like a lot is Amarone on Sunset. Great product, really cool spot. Great people.
SI: Do you have any kind of pregame meal ritual?
PG: Usually I try to get carbs. Anything with pasta. Pasta dishes, also chicken. Mashed potatoes or mashed sweet potatoes. Rich in carbs and protein.
SI: Who eats the least healthy on the team?
PG: Lamar [Odom] eats all that candy...but other than that, he eats pretty well, as far as I know. But that candy...that's not very healthy.
SI: Do you ever cook for yourself? Does anybody else on the team?
PG: When I get a chance, but I'm usually pretty tied up. But when I have time, at dinner, and feel like staying in, I like to.
SI: From what I've heard, a lot of NBA players love the Cheesecake Factory. Have you been?
PG: Yes, I've been.
SI: What was your reaction the first time you went there, after coming straight to Memphis from Spain?
PG: Well, it's an interesting place. I still go to it every now and then. It's a place that has a large, large, never ending menu. The portions are huge. I always have to ask for the lunch portion because dinner is too big, so that I can get a couple different portions. Lots of variety, good meal, good place. Family oriented, it's a nice place to go.
SI: How do you balance out the difference between eating from an athletic performance standpoint, versus eating for taste?
PG: Usually I like pretty much anything, as far as taste goes. But I try to eat as healthy as I can. I'm not too strict, because I've never had weight problems. Only on game days am I stricter.
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SI: What about Kobe? He strikes me as the kind of guy that only eats based on how it will affect his performance, with no regard whatsoever for taste. Is that at all accurate?
PG: Kobe's a big steak guy. He loves steak, but beyond that I don't really know.
SI: Last question. Of all your teammates since you came into the league, who consistently ate the most?
PG: The biggest appetite? Uh...well, as far as I remember, I'm sure I've been with guys that eat a lot, but uh, we got one guy on the team now...Shannon Brown. He is a really hungry guy. For his size, he shouldn't eat that much, but he does. He's always hungry, to the point that it stands out. It's noticeable.