You will rarely catch Reilly Opelka in the kitchen, but the American certainly knows plenty about food.
In this edition of The Tour – Food Court, the 24-year-old, who will compete next week at the BNP Paribas Open, spoke to ATPTour.com about the two foods he will not eat, the importance of Lucky Charms and more.
When you stayed with Tommy Paul during the pandemic, did you guys ever cook, even something small?
Very rarely. Maybe once a year… The only way I do it at home is if there’s time. If it saves time, if it’s more efficient for me to make oatmeal at home, two scrambled eggs, some berries and toast, then I’ll do it. But even then, it takes up too much time.
You get guys on tour who, every single meal they eat, it’s pre-planned. How careful do you have to be to avoid any issues with your training?
I don’t monitor or track it, but I eyeball everything. I ate at Surf Club, I ate a lot of dessert, I ate a lot of bread, I ate a lot of butter, so the next couple of nights [I knew I was] really going to reel it in and go cleaner, watch what I eat, [eat] more simple, whatever. It’s just balance.
I don’t moderate it too crazy, but you do have to be somewhat conscious of what you’re doing, especially for the Slams, because playing five sets is a whole other animal, so what you put in your body is pretty important.
When you were younger, training in Florida, did you have a different idea about nutrition? And when did you came to realise that you can do certain things?
I have a crazy sweet tooth, that never changed. Luckily for me I’m very hyper as well, and very active, more so than most, even if it’s not training-related. Playing basketball, I’m on my feet, walking around somewhere. I lift, I play tennis, I work on my speed and footwork, and that takes up a whole day, so it’s really hard. My input-output is definitely one-sided… high on the output side.
So for now, I’m really enjoying the fact I can get away with eating whenever, especially when I’m not in a Slam. But any month where there is a Slam, my diet changes.
Does it help that you’re a bigger guy, so you might need more?
Yeah, for sure. I think I can definitely get away with [more]. It’s hard for me to gain weight as it is, so it definitely helps.
What is your go-to cheat meal?
Lucky Charms. I love Lucky Charms.
As a snack?
Yeah, or like a little nightcap, a little dessert. I don’t want to eat them before I play, but at night, I eat Lucky Charms.
I had a dessert once, it’s like this orange ice cream, with almost this marshmallow meringue on top with honey. It was just a crazy.
If you want to go to a good restaurant, the drinks are important. Before a match you don’t drink alcohol, but the mocktails, that’s an art as well. It’s a full service and you want to try that or try the dessert, that’s all part of it. If you want fine dining, you can’t just go off appetisers and entrees. You have to do the whole thing if you want to judge a restaurant.
If you could have one meal, what’s one you would have, and what’s one you would never have?
I love caviar. Good caviar, you can’t beat, and I like beef wellington.
I don’t do eel. I tried it, I don’t like it. I don’t like sea urchin. I eat a lot of Japanese food. It’s my favourite cuisine. Those two are the only no-no’s for me.
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I know you’re into trying high-end restaurants. When did you get into that?
Probably 2018. I love New York City. New York City is the best city in the world. Part of the appeal of it for me is every street, there’s something special food-wise.
One of my really close friends is an unbelievable chef, his name is Simon Kim. He opened up a restaurant in Miami, it’s been around in New York for a while, it’s one of my favourite restaurants in New York City. It’s called COTE and it’s my favourite restaurant in Florida, in Miami for sure. It’s Korean barbeque. He’s an unbelievable chef. He’s had success in other restaurants as well, outside of Korean food.
[One] night at COTE we had an unbelievable paella. With Korean barbeque, it’s unheard of. But he’s a Michelin-star chef, so he knows what he’s doing and he’s a foodie as well. I hang out with him often in Miami, and we don’t just eat at COTE, we go to tonnes of other restaurants. He orders the best ingredients, even his salt. He brags about where his salt is from, mushrooms from Canada. He brings in the best of the best.
You mentioned the type of salt that goes in. Most people don’t think like that, but I’m sure that attention to detail leads to greatness if it works?
No doubt, it’s really a process of trial and error. It’s hard, you can’t always go off your tastebuds. But the thing I love about COTE, unlike most restaurants that are great foodie restaurants, like Per Se and Surf Club to name a few, but COTE is one that I can eat at a few times a week, because it’s clean, it’s lean meat. It’s one of the few foodie restaurants that I can crush before training a few times a week and it’s not going to get in the way.