Olympian Boitano builds community through food

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SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — Brian Boitano is an Olympic gold medalist, a two-time world champion and the winner of four national titles.

He also has a flair for food and bringing people together.

Among his long list of lofty achievements, Boitano makes a mean cocktail, too — and he credits the same attention to detail that made him an elite skater with helping him thrive in his culinary ventures.

“The same layers that go into creating a program, with music, costume, lighting, practice — all those layers of the onion are the same thing that go into food,” he said. “How it looks, how it smells, the glass it’s in, is it over ice? All those elements, how it tastes — just everything. It’s those layers that are really similar to skating.”

Boitano’s passion for food has taken many forms: first a Food Network show (“What Would Brian Boitano Make?”), then a cookbook of the same name and most recently, a restaurant.

Boitano’s Lounge opened in 2019 in Lincoln, Nebraska, and the Hall of Fame skater brought the experience to the SAP Center for a special activation during the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. Boitano, who grew up in nearby Sunnyvale, designed a menu for the event that includes creative cocktails and a spread of appetizers.

It wasn’t until Boitano’s competitive career ended that his love for food truly blossomed.

“I was on such a strict diet, and I think that that was the other thing that made me love hospitality and food and cocktails,” he said. “I just didn't have any of that in my life because it was so restrictive. ... I did that for so many years that when I could branch out, I was like, ‘Oh, this is fun. I really like this.’”

Following Boitano's retirement, he hosted dinner parties where he and his friends would all cook together. That sparked a passion and changed his relationship with food.

“It turned into one of the things that is one of the best memories, for me, of food,” he said. “It’s communal, it’s family, it’s extended family. It's sharing the moment and enjoying food and drink.”

That's the same idea behind Boitano's Lounge.

Since the first pop-up installment was a success, Boitano, 59, hopes to bring it back to future nationals as a means of bringing people together beyond what’s happening on center ice.

To him, food is best when it builds community.

“I just thought it would be a great place for all the figure skating fans to come and mingle, take a moment, get a breather," Boitano said. "You sort of feel like you're not really in the arena anymore, but still being connected.”


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