What would it be like to be able to tell your friends and family you work for a major football team? I had a chance to speak with a former high school classmate of mine, Francis Sibal, who was a former chef for the San Francisco 49er’s. He filled me in on where he came from and what it was like to cook for a major league football team.
Tell us about yourself and your background
My name is Francis Sibal. I was born in the Philippines, and when I was 10 years old we moved to the United States. Growing up i would always ask my mom how she made certain dishes and if I can have the recipe, her reply to me was “I don’t know if you want to find out, you have to watch me make it because even I don’t know how much I put.” I never went to culinary school, in fact I just graduated San Jose State.
I owe it all to my mom because she showed me how to cook with passion instead of recipes. If you cook from the heart it will feed some ones soul. It’s hard when people ask me for recipes because now I know how my mom felt when I would ask her for recipes. My answer all the time is I can tell you what I put in it but how much I put I can’t because even I don’t know.
What was it like being the chef for a major NFL team? How did you come about this job?
I began my cooking career 11 years ago as a grill line cook at Ebay. Bon Appetite operated and ran their corporate kitchen, I learned a lot working on the grill and it was there where i realized I had a passion for cooking. The grill station is like your initiation into a club because if you can handle literally standing in front of the heat all day and do a great job at it then that shows you have potential to be a chef in any kitchen.
I’ve been lucky to work under great chefs and executive chefs who have shaped and took me under their wing to show a line cook there is more to cooking than just grilling.
How much work goes into prepping and cooking food for an entire team?
We start our day at 6:30 in the morning to prep for breakfast rush while most of the team is preparing for the lunch service. As soon as the breakfast service is done we turn over everything and start preparing for the lunch rush. During lunch we get about two rushes first rush is the players and all football personnel then the second rush consist of staff from accounting, marketing etc. So we see about 800 people for the lunch rush. The dinner shift comes in and they start prepping for dinner as soon as the lunch rush ends. Dinner usually starts at 6:30 and that is a lot less hectic than lunch to where we only see the players and football personnel. After dinner rush is finished the dinner crew prepares for a late night snack at 10 o’clock after the team meetings and just before they have to go home.
A lot of the food that we cook has to be marinated from the night before and sometimes longer. Menus are created monthly meaning that whole month nothing is duplicated and every dish is never the same. Our menu is very eclectic we cook different types of food from Filipino dishes to even traditional Mayan dishes from South America, we are cooking for a world class team and they only deserve the best from around the world. Of course to create a great meal it has to start from great ingredients so all the produce and all the meat can only be bought within 200 mile radius of the 49ers Head Quarters. We used a lot of local farms rarely did we get anything from other countries except for pineapples. We cure and smoke a lot of meat such as pastrami, bacon and experiment on new things like making duck breast prosciutto. 98% percent of what we serve to the players is made from scratch and we hold ourselves high in reaching this goal because it’s easier just to buy a pre-mixed salad dressing.
What was the most popular entree you made for them?
There are so many entrée’s to choose from but the one that sticks out more is the Braised Sesame Short Ribs (pictured left) marinated in my special soy based, marinated overnight then braised for 3 hours in the oven until it’s nice and tender. It was so popular 80 pounds of it would be gone in 30 minutes.
What’s your favorite memory of working for the 49’s?
My favorite memory would have to be Frank Gore doing a spin move on me, I was coming out from the kitchen with a three pound steak on a plate in my hand and I turn the corner and Frank was doing some running drills so at the last second to avoid crashing into me and possibly knocking the plate clear of my hand he did a spin move and somehow avoided all the mess.
What are you doing now?
I left the 49ers about a year ago to finish my degree at San Jose State University and have been working
part time at Anikis Sushi in Fremont. It doesn’t feel like I left the 49ers because even now a good number of the players and staff come to Anikis Sushi for some great sushi and of course to come see me.
Finally, whose your pick for Super Bowl 50?
My pick for Super Bowl 50? I have to go with Cam and the Carolina Panthers because nobody saw this coming so I would like to see them take it all. #getyodabon
You can catch Francis at Aniki’s Sushi in Fremont, be sure to drop by and say hi. Click here for directions and be sure to check out his instagram account for more info.