Swimmers in the Kitchen

Feature by Kristen Heiss

COLLEGE STATION, Texas, November 13. ONE of the favorite subjects of many swimmers is food. During a long Saturday workout, thinking of having a breakfast feast of chocolate chip pancakes, eggs, bacon and fruit salad can prove to be the motivation to finish that last lap. Some swimmers have taken enjoying food to the next level, and national team members Mary DeScenza, Kelsey Ditto, and Garrett Weber-Gale have all found hobbies in the kitchen.

Mary may be an American record holder and national team member in several events, but her talents are not limited to the pool. Mary has found another skill in cake decorating.

"I got started with the cake decorating when I spotted a class at a local craft store. It looked really interesting, and since I was finishing up my classes as a 5th year student, I would have the time to commit to it."

Mary's skills have become well-known with her teammates and friends, and she makes cakes for friend's birthdays and also to just bring to the pool.

"Often I make a lot of cakes as practice and end up not wanting to eat them (spending a long time with a cake can eventually make it unappetizing) so I'll bring them to the pool whenever I have extra and let the kids on the team enjoy."

Mary spends up to six hours decorating one of her masterpieces, so it is easy to see how a cake might lose some of its appeal for her.

Although the cakes might take a while to decorate, the outcomes are well worth the work. One of Mary's favorite cakes she has made, her "Harry Potter cake," has gained legendary status among her teammates, which can be seen to the right.

"I made it right after the release of the last Harry Potter book for one of my good friend's birthday. She loves Harry Potter and needless to say she also loved the cake I made."

Something that started out as a fun activity in Mary's spare time has now turned into a possible profession for her. Although being a professional swimmer is her top priority right now, Mary recently started an apprenticeship with a bakery in Atlanta called The Cake Shoppe to decide if cake decorating might be something she wants to pursue as a career after she is done swimming.

Kelsey, a National Team member in two events, may not be thinking of being a professional baker, but she has also found enjoyment in the kitchen. Kelsey learned her baking skills by helping her mom.

"I've been baking with my mom for as long as I can remember. I started out just helping her in the kitchen when I was little, but then it turned into something I would do by myself."

Although Kelsey may be a distance freestyler in the pool, in the kitchen her specialty is desserts.

"I love to bake anything with a lot of chocolate, so mostly chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, or chocolate cakes. I've made the classic chocolate chip cookies for so long that I've memorized the recipe on the Toll House bag."

So what is Kelsey's favorite thing to bake?

"I really enjoy making chocolate cupcakes with a cream cheese and powdered sugar-based frosting. They're really moist, especially when the chocolate chips melt in the center."

Kelsey's cupcakes sound like they would be a big hit with almost any swimmer!

It is not just the girls who are displaying culinary expertise. Olympic gold medalist Garrett Weber-Gale has made it a priority to find time in the kitchen but for a reason other than simply enjoying delicious desserts. According to his web site, Garrett stepped into the kitchen because of problems with high blood pressure.

"To get the nutrition and taste I wanted, I had to start cooking. It's become a real passion."

Now on his personal web site, Garrett promotes healthy eating by sharing his favorite recipes with his fans and holding healthy recipe contests. Not only does Garrett get to enjoy the cooking, but he benefits from his home-cooked meals.

"Cooking for myself and creating healthy recipes helps me keep a balanced diet."

Mary, Kelsey, and Garrett all show how talent can continue from the pool into the kitchen. Besides being an entertaining past time, what better way to enjoy a hobby than by eating a self-decorated cake, chocolate cupcake, or home-cooked meal?

Do you have any food stories from your teams? Let us know via Reaction Time below.

DeScenza, Mary Cake

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