Food is a big part of Tacko Fall’s life. Even beyond the fact that he inherently needs to consume more of it than most folks as a professional athlete and, well, his first name, the Boston Celtics’ second-year big man views the things we eat as ways to build bridges between folks from different cultures.
“Every culture has different food, different flavors, different spices, whatever,” Fall told Dime over the phone. “I feel like being able to share it amongst us really can bridge some of the gap that exists between us.”
Fall’s love of food was front and center recently when he participated in an Airbnb Online Experience in which the big man showed off his culinary skills. With the emphasis on food top of mind, proceeds from the event went towards the organization Action Against Hunger.
Off the court, one of my favorite hobbies is cooking! And check it out – you can sign up for Tacko Night with me athttps://t.co/m8YaVmu3Ix
tomorrow at 12pm ET
! All proceeds will go towards @acfusa. #Sponsored
— Elhadji T Fall (@tackofall99) December 8, 2020
Dime caught up with Fall ahead of the event to talk food, cooking, and whether anyone on the Celtics’ roster has skills in the kitchen.
Where does this love of cooking that you have come from?
A love of food, so that helps. For example, my mom was here recently, she came and she was here for a couple of months and she basically cooked like every day, and I was like, “Mom, you have to sit down.” She would be in the kitchen, I would wake up and she was just spoiling us, my brother and I. She would wake up in the morning, make us breakfast. Sometimes I wouldn’t even eat because I was like, “I got to go to practice.” Then I would come back, the breakfast would be there. Then she would make lunch and right after then, she would make dinner. I’m like, “Mom.” But she just loves doing it. I guess some of that probably came from her.
So is it one of those things where you grew up cooking or was it something that once you get to college, once you start getting to the NBA, you have to learn how to start fending for yourself, and you started cooking because of that?
Yeah, I mean, I didn’t start cooking … When I was home in Senegal, I didn’t cook. My mom did all the cooking. When I came here in high school, I didn’t as well. But when I got to college, that’s really when I started to figure out a few things. I started with just mostly simple things.
Actually, yeah, I do remember. When I was in high school, I first went to Texas, and I came with a friend and there was two kids from Macedonia, if I recall, and we’re all in the same apartment. The guy I was staying with would make us go get groceries. Sometimes we would have to cook our own food. So there, I did learn how to make, like, one of my favorites, a nacho cheese dish where we added ground beef and tomatoes and all that kind of stuff. It was pretty good.
Sometimes we would buy a whole turkey and make the turkey. We used to make some chicken and rice and all of that. I was just watching them do it and pretty much learning how to do that from there. When I got to Florida, I didn’t do much cooking, but then when I got to college, I started doing a little bit of it. Obviously we have the meals from the cafeteria and all of that, but we also had … I know they would give us some stipend and allow us to go to Publix and give us gift card where you can go and get some groceries from Publix. So here and there, we’d just get a few, some meat or just make simple things.
What are some things that you like cooking, whether it’s Senegalese food or whether it’s other sorts of food that you like to make?
Senegalese food is a whole process. It takes hours to make. I would be lying if I said I could make some Senegalese food. I never really asked my mom to teach me how to make it because I don’t think I would, like, I wouldn’t have the patience to do that. It’s really good, but it’s a whole process. And we like to do things from scratch. We like to get fresh things. One of my favorite meals back home is called Thieboudienne, it’s a rice and fish dish. Rice and fish sounds simple, but it’s not. You have to get the fresh caught fish, fresh vegetables, and you have to cook the rice a certain way. Before you cook the rice, you got to mix it all. It’s like a whole process. It takes hours. For example, when I was home, even when my mom was here, for them to be able to make the meal, they would have to wake up early to start the process. It wouldn’t be done probably until like noon or one o’clock.
Yeah. One of those things where you have to like let all the flavors kind of get to know each other over the course of like six, seven, eight hours.
I know you mentioned your mom was here recently. When was the last time you were able to head back home to visit?
Actually, when I left my country, I was 16 and I didn’t see my mom until I was a senior in college of this year.
Yeah. That was the first time where I saw her since I left, she came to my Senior Night. After that, she left and that’s when I was going through the NCAA Tournament and the pre-Draft process and all that. After I got to Boston, a few months, I think around December last year, she came over. She stayed in New York for a little bit, then she came to Boston and stayed with me. But the crazy part is she came to Boston, her and my little brother came to Boston, and then I had to go to the Bubble.
I want to know, how does food, whenever you’re able to get Senegalese food, serve as a way that you’re able to stay connected to home from thousands of miles away?
Food from home, obviously it’s a cultural thing, but it just brings a lot of memories from when I was a kid. I mean, everybody grows up with different struggles and just kind of reminds me of my upbringing and saw the struggles I went through, and it just makes you become more and more grateful. For me, I just have that type of connection and I do miss it. There’s not a lot of Senegalese restaurants — there’s a few in New York. In Boston, I don’t know if there is one. I tried looking for it, but I didn’t find. But I heard someone say there was one, but I just have yet to find it. I don’t get to eat it often. When my mom was here, I ate it every day.
Made sure she got your fill for whenever you’re able to get it the next time, I’m guessing.
Yeah. I don’t know how she got all the ingredients, but she made it happen.
What do you have going on with Airbnb?
So pretty much I’m going to be cooking live. There’s going to be a few guests. Probably going to make some tacos. It’s almost like a fundraiser. I guess for me, coming from my country, I’ve always wanted to find ways to give back. When the idea came, I was like, this is a great opportunity for me to do it. Action Against Hunger, it’s going to go to fighting against hunger in Senegal. That’s something that I’m really excited to do.
Whether it’s through something like this, whether it’s through cooking for teammates, whether it’s just having a meal somewhere, what do you think it is about food that makes it such a good way to build bridges between people?
Well, so my country Senegal is called the pays de la Téranga. That means anybody’s welcome in my country. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Senegal, if you haven’t, I highly encourage it. It’s like there is just a sense of community that you won’t find in a lot of places. You will go there and fit in like you’ve lived there your entire life. People are so nice. People are so welcoming. A lot of that is done through food. So if you haven’t, I would encourage you to go experience that yourself, because that doesn’t do it justice. We just have that kind of culture back home where it’s a pretty big deal. And every culture has different food, different flavors, different spices, whatever. I feel like being able to share it amongst us really can bridge some of the gap that exists between us pretty much.
So just have a few quick hitters here at the very end. One, what’s your favorite place to eat in Boston?
I got a couple. When I first got here, it was Redbones, which was a barbecue place. Really good, I love barbecue — when I was in Florida, one of my favorite one was 4 Rivers, but there is no 4 Rivers in Boston. Then, there’s a restaurant that I first went to that restaurant in New York and I found out they had one in Boston called Mastro’s. The only reason why I go to Mastro’s is because of their butter cake. It’s the best butter cake in the continent.
Then do you have a favorite place to eat in any of the other 29 NBA cities? Or is there so much stuff out there that it’s hard to pick just one.
In the other cities, like I said, obviously Florida because I lived in Florida for so long. It’s probably 4 Rivers. But the other cities, I can’t really say there’s one specific restaurant.
Whenever I talk to someone about gaming, I always ask who’s the best and worst gamer on a team. Who is the best and worst cook on the Celtics?
I could not tell you because I don’t think most of us cook. Even me,I have someone drop off some food for me as well. A lot of us probably have chefs and that kind of stuff. I know Grant maybe does a little bit, but because his mom is here every now and then, his dad as well. We live in the same building. I could say some of my teammates from last year, but I’m not sure. Enes definitely didn’t cook. There’s no way I could see Enes cooking anything. He likes to post stuff and look like he was cooking, but I’m like, “Enes, I know very well there is no way you cooked that” — I just like to tease Enes, he’s with the Blazers now.
You can only eat one thing everyday for the rest of your life. What are you eating?
Wow, I might starve to death. I don’t know. I can’t tell you there’s one food that I would pick over anything. I just like a variety of things.
I know that we’ve seen some other NBA players who have explored cooking a bit on the internet — Serge is the big one, he has his YouTube channel where he cooks for people. I’ve seen DeAndre Jordan do some cooking on the internet, that kind of thing. Have you ever considered doing something where you use YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, whatever, to show off what you like to make and use it as a way to feed your teammates or something?
Never crossed my mind, actually. Never did. I did used to watch Serge’s show, because he’s from Congo, I think. His culture and my culture, it’s a little different but not so, so much. We’re both Africans, were French colonies. A lot of the things that he would make … he would make some crazy things, where you’re like, “Yeah, I know.” So, I’ve seen his show. That’s pretty dope. That would definitely be a good idea, for sure.