Team Chef: Elio Sarmiento
You’ve seen Wolfgang Puck, Bobby Flay, and Gordon Ramsay cooking, and in some cases screaming, on TV. Sure all of these guys can cook, but can they also catch? My guess is that they can’t. But one man who can do both is the RoughRiders’ own Elio Sarmiento.
I’ve known for a while that one of Elio’s greatest hobbies is cooking, but what I didn’t know until this current road trip is that he cooks on the road. I made this discovery when we arrived in Springfield, MO and as a group of us were waiting by the elevator, I saw Sarmi carrying this box in his arms:
When I took this picture, the “kitchen in a box” was missing its rice cooker and electric skillet (more on that in a minute). However, some things it did have included salt, pan spray, white corn meal, cups, plates, and paper towels. Where was the electric skillet and rice cooker? Exactly where you would think: the bathroom counter.
Right next the the shaving cream and toothpaste, that’s where Elio does his cooking. Pretty resourceful, don’t you think? He told me that he spends about $50 on groceries for a six-game road trip and keeps everything cold in a small cooler packed with ice. Staples like eggs and ground beef were packed for this trip, and both were used for the meal prepared above called arepas.
“I learned how to cook back in Venezuela when I was 11-years-old,” Elio told me from his bathroom kitchen. “My mom had to teach me to cook for myself because I went to school late in the afternoon and she worked early in the morning.”
Sarmi isn’t just feeding himself. He feeds lunch to Renny Osuna, Jose Felix, Jose Ruiz, Guilder Rodriguez (before he was promoted to Round Rock), and others.
“I’ll give those guys a call whenever lunch is ready and they’ll swing by the room and grab a plate,” Sarmi said as he started making tortillas from scratch using, what else, but his hotel room’s ice bucket.
Most people have never attempted homemade tortillas in their own kitchen, let alone a hotel bathroom. All it takes, as I learned, is some pre-cooked white corn meal, salt, and tap water (and an ice bucket, of course). Once Elio mixed it all up, it was time to ball, flatten, and fry.
“This takes some practice,” Elio told me. My guess is that it’s made easier without wearing a catcher’s glove.
And in about 20 minutes, it’s time for lunch.
Sarmi told me that he cooked at lot on the road when he was playing Single-A ball. The players get less money for food on the road at that level, and cooking his own meals gave Elio more variety. Plus, anyone who has ever cooked before, knows it’s nice to provide a hot meal for your friends.
“I love the expression of people when they try my dishes and go ‘mmmmm.'”
When Elio’s playing days are over, he’s already given some thought to a career in the kitchen and, at times, has considered culinary school. For now, he’ll settle for cooking for his teammates, wife, and young son. And soon he’ll have another mouth to feed. He and his wife are expecting the birth of their daughter on July 27.
Next time you watch the Food Network and are impressed with the host’s cooking skills, ask yourself if he or she is a switch hitter who has thrown out nearly 40% of basestealers. My guess is that they aren’t.