Tenille Moore has been the Director of Food Service for the Ravens for eleven years, she talks about her role in the organization. (Kevin Richardson / Baltimore Sun)
Every week during the season, The Baltimore Sun will spotlight how a member of the Ravens organization does his or her job.
Tenille Moore remembers the cookies — big, warm and plated up after almost every meal.
She endured a long, cold year in the Ravens' team cafeteria, explaining to players and staffers alike why those gooey delights had been sacrificed at the altar of good health.
But change, Moore will tell you, is a constant in the 16-hour-a-day diner she supervises as the Ravens director of food services. Often, she's the one pushing unfamiliar ingredients as the organization and its players embrace a healthier existence.
Moore's staff arrives at 5 a.m. to begin prepping breakfast for early-rising Ravens and remains on hand until 9 p.m., when snacks go out for night-owl coaches. Everyone who works at the team's headquarters in Owings Mills is welcome to eat in the cafeteria, free of charge. The kitchen only closes on game day, when the scene shifts to M&T Bank Stadium or some other city.
When Moore first signed on to feed the Ravens almost 11 years ago, the team cafeteria was a different universe — far more cramped and far less health-conscious.
It was a land of fried onion rings and pizza Fridays. No one knew or cared that turmeric might reduce joint inflammation, that drinking tart cherry juice would help you recover from a workout.
The climate began to change when John Harbaugh was hired as coach after the 2007 season. Harbaugh made an early point of meeting with Moore and the rest of the team's food staff. If nutrition could be weaponized, he wanted to do it.
In 2017, the Ravens' cafeteria — gutted and redesigned last winter — is a realm of kale shakes, baked fish and venison jerky. Chicken pot pie is topped not with the buttery biscuits of yore but with croutons made from whole wheat bread. Desserts are scarce.
"Now, it's all performance-based foods," Moore said. "It's nutrition and feeding the players several times a day so we're giving them energy throughout. That was all unheard of 10 years ago. … You wouldn't have found hummus on the deli bar. "
This is still a mass-service operation that feeds 200 people a day, many of them hulking men who burn hundreds of calories in the course of a few hours work. Executive chef Casey Donovan, Moore's chief collaborator, might run through 80 pounds of watermelon, 100 pounds of pasta, 120 pounds of fish and cases upon cases of eight-cut chickens in a typical day.
"You just have no idea how much they're going to eat," Donovan said of the players. "We have to be prepared for anything."
Until the team recently added a walk-in refrigerator, Moore had to keep a truck outside the building, stocked with food. There was nowhere else to put all of it.
Nonetheless, she sounds like the chef of a new farm-to-table joint, talking up the cafeteria's array of fresh, seasonal produce and its dependence on local providers. Thai, Mexican and Caribbean influences are apparent — anything to avoid a drab presentation, given that some Ravens employees eat three meals a day in the space.
The players didn't welcome these changes overnight. Moore had to sell them on the virtues of farro over fries. She even created an "action station" by the grill so they could watch their meals come together.
In describing how she coaxed certain items onto the menu, she sounds like a parent who finally convinced her first-grader to eat broccoli.
"This place prepared me for being a mom, no question," Moore said, grinning. "If they see something, and it doesn't look appealing to them or they don't know what it is, if you just talk to them and explain why this is good for you, they'll usually try it and like it."
The wider culture of the game has begun to back her up. Many college programs now employ nutritionists and health-food chefs. So it's not uncommon for young players to show up with stricter or more exotic diets than their predecessors.
Wide receiver Griff Whalen, who was with the team for most of the preseason, was a full-on vegan. Moore's staff made side trips to Wegmans to stock up on chickpea noodles so they could accommodate him.
As if to prove her point about how much the job has changed, quarterback Joe Flacco wanders past, toting a blender packed with spinach, bananas, peanut butter and protein powder. It's his favorite post-workout concoction.
This place prepared me for being a mom, no question.
Tenille Moore, Ravens director of food services
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There are still bedrock parts of the daily menu that Moore would dare not change.
For instance, she better have a heaping plate of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches ready for the players when they come in from practice. The peanut butter has to be smooth and the jelly has to be grape, always grape. God forbid she try to slip in strawberry jam one afternoon.
Players have actually stormed the kitchen after detecting a jelly change. Oh, and the bread must be sliced diagonally, no rectangles.
"I do draw the line at cutting the crust off," Moore said.
One Saturday morning, Moore had some fresh, tasty bell peppers, so she figured she'd stuff them with scrambled eggs and a little pico de gallo. Nice change of pace, right?
Few players touched her creation. They wanted their eggs, bacon and oatmeal — period.
"You don't screw with breakfast," she said.
It's not like Moore is a nutrition dictator. She actually misses those big cookies, and joy floods her face when she talks biscuits. But she has evolved to keep up with the progressive diet concerns of the modern athlete.
The 38-year-old mother of two was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis two years ago. But she feels healthier than she ever has, in part because the job has taught her so much about nutrition.
Moore grew up in Hanover, Pa., with a brother who played football and a dad who loved it. But she never gave the sport much thought and certainly never expected her career to come anywhere near an NFL team.
She planned to become a restaurant chef after she graduated with a culinary degree from Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island. She eventually moved back home and took a job with Classic Catering People, which — unbeknownst to her — handled food service for the Ravens.
"I had no clue what I was getting into," she said.
Though she proudly wears her team cap and windbreaker, Moore still shakes her head when she thinks about Terrell Suggs ducking into her office to deliver a hug or her boys, ages 3 and 6, running around with the players' kids on Saturday mornings.
The team's schedule — long hours, sudden shifts and the weekly build to game day — is probably the least understood aspect of NFL life, Moore said. Her job is to fit food neatly into that ever-rumbling machine. Even her husband, Steve, who operates a shop for runners in Westminster, does not always grasp the peculiarities.
"You don't get it," she'll tell him. "You're not in football."