So How Do You Feed a Pro Wrestler?

Renée Paquette is a WWE announcer turned cookbook author. She knows the secret to satiating big appetites.

Published May 7, 2021.

Renée Paquette has roast chicken on her mind.

Down the rabbit hole we went, from Paquette heaping praise on Ina Garten's Engagement Roast Chicken to me daydreaming about the schmaltz-fried croutons in our homage to Zuni Cafe's Roast Chicken. Of course we also reminisced about Swiss Chalet, the Canadian rotisserie chicken chain (we both grew up near Toronto). 

Paquette comes from the world of sports broadcasting. She most recently finished an eight-year run as an announcer for WWE, the pro wrestling juggernaut. Her debut cookbook, Messy In The Kitchen: My Guide to Eating Deliciously, Hosting Fabulously and Sipping Copiously, makes you daydream about the days (hopefully soon!) when friends can come over and share in a festive roast chicken dinner. Paquette's book is a whole lot of fun.

What piqued my interest was that Paquette for many years was surrounded by professional wrestlers (and she's married to one). They must eat a lot, right? Don't they need 5,000 grams of protein an hour? Or are they sipping kale smoothies because they need to keep their bodies in peak physical shape?

This—pro wrestlers and what they eat—is a world that fascinates me, and no person is perhaps more qualified to enlighten me than Renée Paquette. 

America’s Test Kitchen: I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s as a pro wrestling fan. Many wrestlers in that era, from what I know, didn't take care of their bodies. Andre the Giant ate, like, five porterhouse steaks for dinner. I feel wrestlers and MMA fighters today are more obsessive about what they put into their bodies. Is that fair?

Renée Paquette: That’s absolutely true. You hear stories of 80’s wrestling about how those guys treated their bodies; they’re on the road boozing a lot and dabbling into whatever they’re dabbling in. The way wrestling is now, everyone in this generation has learned from those guys from that previous era. To see the shorter windows of those people’s careers, and what they sometimes look like after their wrestling careers, everyone now is focusing on living a clean lifestyle. 

ATK: The travel schedule must be brutal.

RP: A lot of times you’re leaving a show at midnight, driving three hours to the next town. You’re starving and thinking, “What am I going to eat now?” You try to make something happen from a 7-Eleven or a Wendy’s drive-through. So a lot of guys and girls travel around with precooked meals. They get the meal kits, and they’re walking on the plane with a cooler filled with food to get them through the week.

ATK: How did you develop good eating habits when you’re traveling from small town to small town after midnight?

RP: It’s really hard. The good thing is most convenience stores have those tuna packages. You get tuna with crackers, and it comes with a side of mayo, relish, and mustard. I don't know I’d always recommend this, but there's always hard-boiled eggs. Those are always in convenience stores. I'm a sucker for Lunchables. Not saying that's healthy, but a good snack to get you through. But it’s hard to not pick up chips or chocolate, especially when you're just trying to keep yourself awake and make it to the next town.

ATK: You come home after a week on the road. You just want to spend time in your kitchen. What’s your go-to meal?

RP: In terms of go-to meals, I love barbecued chicken thighs. That's just a staple. But really, when I’m in my own kitchen, that’s my happy place. That’s when I really love to try new recipes. For Easter, I did a Beef Wellington, which I’ve never done before. I think I nailed it. Instead of having the pâté around it, it was a mushroom mixture. It was really good.

ATK: Do you have weird food combinations you enjoy? I have this thing for sprinkling ramen seasoning into sour cream and making a potato chip dip.

RP: I mean, that sounds excellent. One recipe in my book really leans into some Canadian stuff: I do an all-dressed-up chips-crusted pork chop. It's smashed up all-dressed chips for the crumbs batter, cooked Shake-'n-Bake style.

ATK: Can I say something because we're both Canadian-American dual citizens? Why is Canadian potato chip culture so much more sophisticated than American chip culture? Americans freak out at the idea of ketchup- or pickle-flavored chips. For Canadians, it’s no big deal. 

RP: You’d think it would go the other way around, with America having all the crazy chip flavors. I just got a care package that my mom sent and it’s got sour cream and bacon. Of course, the ketchup, and there’s a smoky bacon there. Have you ever had Harvey’s chips? (Editor's note: Harvey’s is a Canadian fast-food chain.) It tastes just like a Harvey’s cheeseburger. They’re amazing. There’s also Swiss Chalet chips as well—I love that stuff. I’m so dependent on my family sending those snacks down. We need better chip flavors here in America.

ATK: Your husband is a well-known professional wrestler (Jon Moxley). Is he one of those eat-whatever-he-wants type of guys, or is he obsessed about what he feeds into his body?

RP: You'd be shocked at what he eats for a professional athlete. If I just cook him steak every night, he's happy. But he’s also a big snacker. When I have all these snacks sent down from Canada, he rolls up his sleeves, ready to dive into it. He doesn't eat for aesthetics, so he doesn't worry about a bunch of carbs. He makes chips sandwiches all the time.

ATK: What do you mean chips sandwiches? A ham-and-cheese sandwich with chips in the middle? Or literally a sandwich of potato chips? 

RP: White bread and potato chips. I'm a chip lover and a bread lover, and I don’t think I can really get behind that. I respect that he does, though—he does it unabashedly.

ATK: Obviously you know a lot of wrestlers and MMA fighters. Who’s the largest person you've ever invited over to dinner?

RP: Probably Samoa Joe. I feel like I might've just done a charcuterie table that night. 

ATK: A charcuterie what?

RP: I like to turn my whole dining room table into a large charcuterie board. A whole-table spread. I started doing this a couple years ago at Christmas. The table essentially becomes the serving board. I lay down something between the food and table because I love my table very much. 

It’s great for socializing. It’s all about the variety, and for me, the cheeses. I want multiple variations of many different cheeses. There’s a company from the Bay Area called Cowgirl Creamery with beautiful cheeses. I make a baked brie in filo dough with honey and walnuts all over it. I have different pâtés; I’m a liverwurst maniac. An array of crackers and breads. You can have some dried fruits and nuts; I like a rosemary snack mix as well—that’s in the book. Nothing is discriminated against on the charcuterie table.  

ATK: If I’m inviting a pro wrestler or MMA fighter to dinner, what pointers do you have for feeding them?

RP: Go large scale, for sure. Think old-school barbecue, things served in vats. Lots of meats—definitely want to have some turkey legs or brisket. Also, know that the bar is set high because a lot of these guys are big foodies. You can’t just throw down some lunch meats. You’ve got to give them the goods. They want something slow-roasted or cooked in a smoker for several hours. Protein heavy, nothing too fancy, lots of breads, lots of sauces.

Messy In The Kitchen: My Guide to Eating Deliciously, Hosting Fabulously and Sipping Copiously is out May 18.

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