Biju Thomas, a cycling chef, explains the best ways to ride and eat your way to a happy life
I was born in India, and with the exception of three years in the US, spent my childhood there. My whole family cooked. Some of my earliest memories are of my mother and grandmothers with fresh ginger and garlic on their hands. In India, we had no running water or electricity.
Cooking was, literally, you go get some wood, start a fire, get some well water, go kill a chicken and take it apart and cook it. We moved back to the US when I was 10. There, my dad mixed flavours from different cultures when he cooked. To see a man cooking made it okay for me to cook too; boys who don’t see their dads cooking usually don’t get into it until later in life. I started early. There are photos of me as a child standing on a chair at the stove.
At 15, I got into bike racing. I was decent - I could sprint and navigate packs - but not good enough.
In the ‘90s, I was watching the Tour de France coverage and they had a segment on Chef Willy Balmat, the first cycling team chef, at Motorola. It seemed like the coolest f***ing job. I knew a little about bikes and I was working in restaurants. I wanted to live as a chef in sport.
In 2009, I met (cycling coach) Allen Lim at a dinner. Later, Al went to work with Lance Armstrong as his trainer. I kept bugging Al during their Hawaii training camp, saying, “Dude, you should let me cook for you; I’ll pay for it myself and fly out.” I talked my way into it, and the Feed Zone cookbooks that Al and I wrote together grew out of that.