cooks at home
EAT LIKE A CHAMPION
Olympian Franz Weber feeds his speed.
WRITTEN BY NATASHA BOURLIN
PHOTO BY CANDICE NYANDO
"He’s the best barista!”
A smiling Janett Zermani Weber happily clarifies whether she or her husband, Franz Weber, is the chef in the family.
“I make breakfast,” her husband chimes in with a grin, to a bit of an eye roll from his visibly adoring wife.
In truth, Franz Weber quite literally is the best at many things. He’s a six-time world champion speed skier, an Olympian, in possession of the North American speed skiing record, an accomplished cyclist, and, at one point, even the European skateboarding champion. He has gone 140 miles per hour on skis. Today, he’s a globally successful entrepreneur running a sports-consulting and outdoor-adventure tour company, husband of 32 years, and father to two grown sons and a daughter.
Austria-born Weber grew up in a culture where outdoor activities such as skiing, hiking, ice hockey, and soccer were encouraged. As a youth in his meatpacking family, protein sometimes was consumed five times a day, often with rolls.
While training, he would try not to overeat and to ingest many small meals throughout the day. He believes knowledge about healthy eating has gotten more sophisticated over the years, to the benefit of athletes today.
“When I was training, I wasn’t nutritionally aware, but it’s not like someone else got an edge because they were doing something differently,” Weber says. “If I was winning, I just knew I was doing something right.”
Though it seems as if Weber has superhero DNA, everyone has a weakness — cheese and wine are his.
“I’m an indulger,” he says.
He wistfully speaks of the cheese buffets complemented by wines and ports he samples while traveling each winter. Each year, he gains and loses about 30 pounds based on the season, and the trip down that slope is helped by his nutrition-conscious wife, who keeps him eating healthily when home.
Weber met Janett in Manhattan while getting out of a cab. Thirty-two years of marriage and three children later, he greets her with a huge smile and kiss after skiing on a bluebird day with friends.
The region the Webers now call home drew him after two visits Franz made decades ago. With an appreciation for the quality of life offered in Reno, he started his family here in the early ’80s.
Opening a bottle of his friend Wolfgang Puck’s new wine, Weber gazes longingly at the steaming, aromatic Dutch oven full of Janett’s pot roast.
Love of food runs in the family. Their eldest son is an acclaimed author but forages as a hobby, often taking his parents out their back door to hunt for elderflowers, wild onions, and other Sierra morsels with which to cook.
“Food is the thing that brings everyone together,” Janett says.
The Webers do not bring cell phones to the dinner table; dinner is a time for family and friends to bond. Janett is primarily of Italian heritage and loves to cook, and does so gluten free and using her extensive knowledge of organic fare.
Her father Bruno grew up in the Emilia-Romagna region of Northern Italy, whose capital is Bologna, and one of Janett’s favorite recipes to prepare is her own Mama Z’s Bolognese sauce. Inspired by a sauce of her father’s, who did most of the cooking in their household when she was a child, the recipe is now one of the Weber family’s favorites as well. She loves to serve it with gnocchi or spaghetti.
Franz smiles broadly at both his wife and the dinner now making its way to the table.
“I never knew before what a treasure family is,” he says.
Natasha Bourlin is a freelance writer in Reno, plus travel and food fanatic who spent a lot of time at ski resorts over the years … though not going 140 mph.
Mama Z’s Bolognese
(courtesy of Janett Zermani Weber. Serves 6, generously)
⅛ cup olive oil
⅛ cup unsalted butter
1½ cups yellow onion, diced
½ cup celery, diced
1 cup carrots, diced
Total of 3 pounds lean ground beef, pork, and veal (good without veal, too)
1¾ cups dry red wine
1 cup milk
1 28-ounce can plus 1 smaller can of tomatoes, whirled together briefly in a blender
1 jar tomato sauce, preferably marinara or arrabbiata
½ teaspoon salt, if needed
⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon black pepper
Heat oil and butter in large pan or pot over medium heat. When it foams, add onions, celery, and carrots. Cook 10 minutes.
Add meats, breaking up big chunks. Cook until no longer red. Add wine, and simmer until wine is completely absorbed. Add milk; simmer until milk also has been completely absorbed. Add tomatoes, salt, nutmeg, and pepper; simmer gently on low until mixture is a dark, rust color with little liquid, about 4 hours.