On the eve of the US Open, the former private chef for Serena Williams dishes on how to eat like a champion.
For Annie Hauser, the former private chef for pro tennis icons Venus and Serena Williams, Nantucket has served as her home base off the court. “I am full-on gypsy most of the time,” the chef says with a smile. “But the island always gives me the peace I search for and the adventure I can’t live without.” Hauser first came to Nantucket five years ago as a private chef for a summer resident, then fate served her up the opportunity of a lifetime.
She received a phone call from an old coworker who had since become the personal assistant of the Williams sisters. “Serena and Venus are talking about getting a chef,” he told her. “Can you send me your resume?” What began as a month-long trial period became a year and a half stint as the private chef to the most famous tennis players in world. During this time, Serena Williams went on a historic run, winning three out of four grand slams and almost matching Steffi Graf’s record of twenty-two. Crisscrossing the globe in matches from Australia to Wimbledon, Hauser was faithfully at the Williams sisters’ side, whipping up their favorite dishes such as turkey tacos, roasted chicken, or polenta. “It was one of the most challenging jobs that I’ve ever had,” Hauser says. “But it was fun and a great experience. I feel so very fortunate and blessed.”
Serena Williams’s journey was chronicled in the documentary Serena, which was recently shown at this year’s Nantucket Film Festival. In it audiences witness just how integral Hauser was in Serena’s inner circle. From preparing her every meal to taking care of her as she fights a bad cold before a match, Hauser was an indispensable part of the champion’s daily life. “The duration of the time they’ve been playing [is what struck me most about Serena and Venus],” Hauser says. “I got to hear so many players who competed against them say things like ‘I watched you play when I was little and you inspired me.’ It’s mind boggling that these women are still playing, winning, and being number one in the world. They genuinely love to play the game.”
When Serena went on a winning streak, Hauser prepared the same dish every night, her favorite risotto. “They were a little superstitious,” the chef laughs. “But each tourney was different and each country gave us new treats to enjoy.” Hauser says that the sisters were not opposed to indulging in some guilty pleasures every now and again, the exact recipes of which the chef declines to share. “That’s the personal in the personal chef,” she laughs. However, she says enjoying an occasional treat is only normal as long as it’s enjoyed in moderation. “If you come to Nantucket and don’t go to The Juice Bar or The Downyflake, what’s the point?” she says. “Life’s too short.”
After a hectic year on tour, Hauser made the heart-wrenching decision to resign from her post as private chef. “It was an incredible chapter in my life,” she says. “But I wanted to get back to Nantucket.” Now she is settling back into life on the island, where she’s continuing her career as a private chef. “I love putting food on the table and watching everyone together,” she says. “I feel honored to be in people’s homes and to be able to do that for them.”
ANNIE’S RECIPES FOR EATING LIKE A CHAMPION
BREAKFAST: Turmeric & Coconut Granola
“Turmeric is an all natural anti-inflammatory”
- 4 cups large old fashioned oats
- 2 cups slivered almonds
- 1/2 cup shredded coconut
- 1/2 cup seeds (sesame, pumpkin or sunflower)
- 1/2 cup honey, agave or maple syrup
- 1/2 cup coconut oil (melted)
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons turmeric
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup dried fruit
Preheat oven to 350. Toss everything except the dried fruit into a big bowl. Spread evenly over two sheet trays and bake for twenty minutes. Remove and gently stir to move darker bits around and pop back in the oven for another ten to fifteen minutes until it’s a delightful golden brown. Allow it to cool fully and then toss with dried fruit. Store in airtight containers and enjoy with yogurt and fruits or however you dig your granola!
“This is summer in a bowl!”
- 1 slice of bread soaked in a bit of water and gently squeezed
- 1 English cucumber peeled and roughly chopped
- 2 pounds of tomatoes roughly chopped
- 2 peeled garlic cloves
- 1/2 red onion roughly chopped
- 1/2 jalepeno, no seeds
- 2-3 tablespoons of sherry vinegar
- 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 – 1 cup water depending on the level of thickness post-blender
- Salt and pepper to taste
Blend everything in a strong blender and pass through a coarse sieve. Taste and adjust seasonings. Pop in fridge and leave for at least two hours. “This one is best next day!” Garnish with grilled corn off the cob, diced avocado, small diced red onion and croutons.
DINNER: Creamy Parmesan Polenta
with roasted tomatoes & grilled garlic shrimp
- 4 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock
- 1 cup yellow cornmeal
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese plus a tad more to garnish at the end
- 1/4 cup creme fraiche
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Place the chicken stock in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and very slowly whisk in the cornmeal, whisking constantly to make sure there are no lumps. Switch to a wooden spoon, stirring nearly constantly for about twelve to fifteen minutes until thick. Be sure to scrape the bottom of the pan while stirring. Turn off the heat, stir in with a piece of parchment paper directly on polenta while you grill shrimp.
– 1 pound of peeled and deveined (16/20 shrimp)
– 3 garlic cloves finely chopped
– Small handful of flat parsley
– Zest of 1 lemon
Turn grill on high heat. Gather two bowls. Rinse and pat shrimp dry. Toss with two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil with salt and pepper in one bowl. In the other bowl, add the garlic, parsley and zest, and a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Once grill is super hot (“Shrimpies cook so fast hence the hot hot flash grilling”), toss shrimp on grill. Give about one minute and turn for another minute. Remove from grill and into the bowl with garlic, parsley and zest and toss to coat.
“I love to serve in the same pot the polenta has cooked in. Remove the parchment and give a little stir. Pile the tomatoes in the center of polenta and then shrimps atop that and sprinkle with a little parmesan. Set that pot of wonder on the table and gather those you love. Enjoy!”
Annie Hauser was photographed at 222 Eel Point Road, a breathtaking new estate designed by Andrew Kotchen of Workshop/APD and built by Reid Builders. With a state-of-the-art kitchen and sprawling views of Madaket Harbor, this 8,000-square-foot, six-bedroom home is truly a showstopper. To taste this place for yourself, contact Greg McKechnie at Great Point Properties (508.228.2266 / Greg@GreatPointProperties.com)