Minnesota Timberwolves players are served meals fit for Michelin-starred restaurants. The team has hired James Beard Award-winning chefs to concoct mouth-watering meals for their franchise stars and newcomers alike.
Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and the rest of the team have the option to munch on protein powder pancakes and crispy turkey bacon for breakfast. And thanks to the Wolves' state-of-the-art nutrition program, they'll always have the perfect individualized recovery food ready for players after practice or a game.
For rookie Jarrett Culver, there's one problem. These world-renowned chefs cannot quite duplicate one of his favorite foods: his mother's scrambled eggs.
"I just love Mom's eggs," Culver said. "I don't know what the difference is. It just always tastes a little better."
So what is Regina Culver's secret? Fresh basil? Some diced peppers? Maybe a few sauteed onions?
Nope. The simple recipe consists of a sizable splash of whole milk "to make them fluffy" and, most importantly, a heaping spoonful of salted butter.
"I didn't think it was anything major," Regina said with a chuckle.
Tasty fats, however, have become a universal no-no for optimal NBA nutrition. So in an attempt to bridge the gap between Culver's palate and the team's dietary goals, the Wolves flew Regina to Minnesota to map out her son's meal plan.
And, of course, to show the Wolves the ropes.
"Right now we are a butter-free kitchen," team chef Ryan Stechschulte said. "[But] I think we are going to need to bring in some butter."
For Culver, the Wolves' No. 6 overall pick out of Texas Tech, there is more to it than preferring his mother's cooking -- the team has found that other egg recipes actually make Culver physically ill.
During a routine diagnostic lab test, the Timberwolves staff discovered that Culver has a sensitivity to eggs. He isn't quite allergic, but his body does have a mild reaction to non-Mama-made eggs.
"Mom knows him and we want to embrace it," Wolves VP of basketball performance and technology Dr. Robby Sikka said.
"What we've discovered is, when you mask the eggs with butter or milk or other things, his body doesn't treat it the same."
NBA teams have more nutritional metrics at their disposal than ever before. As a result, players have gone vegan, ditched gluten, or experimented with intermittent fasting.
The Wolves have taken the league's nutritional data trend to new heights, unveiling the league's first load-based nutrition plan, where each player's daily meals are tailored to his workload (Culver's nutritional goals include adding lean muscle).
But even cutting-edge programs and food cooked in the fanciest kitchens couldn't crack Culver's egg riddle. For that, they needed Regina.
"He is such a routine kid," Regina said. "He likes to go to the gym at the same time, he likes to nap at the same time."
Regina's eggs were a part of that routine.
"I think with him being so far away, those are things that -- when you think about being home or missing home -- these are dishes that we bring up because that is part of what you miss about being home," she said.
Culver was raised in Lubbock, Texas, and cooking was a family activity. Regina is a skilled chef but an even better baker, and was often whipping up brownies -- Culver swears they should be world-famous -- and cakes. Regina especially loved to bake around the holidays, using Christmas recipes she saw on late-night television.
Growing up, the Culver family had mandatory Sunday family dinners. Sometimes, Regina would play short-order cook, making Italian food for Culver and sweet potatoes and fried chicken for his younger brothers. Sometimes, Culver would join Regina in the kitchen.
"He'd probably die that I am saying this now, but he fixes a really good omelet," Regina said. "That is one of the first things he learned how to cook."
And you bet that Culver prepares the eggs for the omelet with milk and plenty of butter.
During his two years in college, Culver was usually able to make it back home for Sunday night dinners. "I just always want my mom's cooking when I'm away from home," he said.
Culver isn't so much a picky eater as he is refreshingly unpretentious, preferring Pop Tarts to tofu. His favorite dishes include spaghetti (his mother adds sugar and spices to the sauce), chicken casseroles and, on occasion, he's known to inhale a sleeve of Oreos. He is 20 years old, mind you.
During Regina's trip to Minnesota to meet with Stechschulte and take in the Timberwolves' first game of the season, she also put aside an hour and a half to set up in Culver's home kitchen. She went to work right away, boiling pots of water for spaghetti, measuring out spices for pasta sauce and preparing chicken and rice, which she then ladled into Tupperware and stacked into Culver's freezer.
Culver didn't mind the mess spread across his pristine countertops. You have to break a few eggs to make an omelet, after all.