Talkin’ Food With…Dennis Smith Jr.: Mavs' Rookie Star on Mac and Cheese and His Love of Bojangles’
As NBA All-Star Weekend kicks off, SI Eats caught up with rookie sensation Dennis Smith Jr., point guard for the Dallas Mavericks, to get his take on some very crucial food-related topics. Smith Jr., who’s been selected for Team USA in the Mountain Dew Kickstart Rising Stars game on Friday night, weighed in on his appreciation for mac and cheese, the best cook in the family, and Dorian Finney-Smith's eating habits.
Karl Bullock: Are you a big Mountain Dew drinker?
Dennis Smith Jr.: I used to be growing up. My pops would get a lot of Mountain Dew for the crib. We would drink that. I haven’t been drinking it as much in season.
KB: Were you big on dieting in college?
DSJ: Not at all. I was never into that my whole life.
KB: What would you eat during the season in college?
DSJ: In college, you know that’s the first time I could actually get me something to eat. We were on scholarship, so we had scholarship money. I had a debit card for the first time in my life. I would get some Waffle House, Chinese food. Then eventually it would run out, so I’d grab campus food. Whatever was on campus, I would eat that.
KB: What was the biggest adjustment you had to make to your eating habits coming into the NBA?
DSJ: Just not putting too much junk food in my body. I like chocolate a lot. That was the biggest. Just cutting down on candy.
KB: What’s some of your favorite candy?
DSJ: [laughs] It’s a lot of ‘em.
KB: Was it difficult giving them up?
DSJ: I wouldn’t say it was too difficult for me because I understand what was going on. Once I stopped eating it for like a week or two weeks, I’d get over it.
KB: Do you still have those days where you cheat and eat candy?
DSJ: Oh yeah, 100%. Anytime the opportunity arises, I take full advantage. [laughs] I will not lie.
KB: Do you cook your own meals?
DSJ: Naw, I don’t do too much of that. My grandma’s up here now. So, I’m expecting to have some dinner tonight. My bro cooks sometimes. That’s about it. I don’t do too much with the kitchen work.
KB: You mentioned your grandma. Does anybody else in your family cook?
DSJ: Mostly everybody in my family cooks. All the adults.
KB: Who’s the best cook in the family?
DSJ: I’ll say grandma. [laughs]
KB: What’s the dish grandma cooks that you just gotta have?
DSJ: Potato Salad. Yeah, ‘cause you know you can’t eat everybody’s potato salad.
KB: Which teammate has the worst eating habits?
DSJ: I’ll say Dorian Finney-Smith. Main thing being that me and him are so similar. We grew up kinda similar so we eat a lot of the same things. I mean once you’ve been eating a certain way your whole life, it’s hard for somebody to convince you that ‘hey this ain’t good for you’ or anything like that so I’ll probably say Do. It’s really me and him, but I’ll say him.
KB: Do you two indulge in bad habits together?
DSJ: Every now and again we’ll get something that’s not necessarily the correct thing to eat, but it is what it is at that point.
KB: Give me an example.
DSJ: Let’s say we go get us some crab legs or something. You know all the butter that go on crab legs. Stuff like that.
KB: Which teammate has the best eating habits?
DSJ: Harrison Barnes, definitely.
KB: Has he given you any advice or taught you anything about dieting?
DSJ: Yeah, he’s been giving me some pointers on it [laughs] I’m just learning. Some of the stuff I’m doing and some of the stuff I’m not doing. It’s gonna take time. Nothing happens overnight.
KB: What’s the best food you’ve had on the road?
DSJ: Truth be told, I get a lot of room service. I don’t go out all the time. So, I mess with that room service. A lot of hotels have some pretty good salmon, believe it or not. I’ll order some chicken wings and some salmon.
KB: Is there a specific city where the hotel had memorable food?
DSJ: [Oakland], when we were playing Golden State. It had some mac and cheese and some salmon. I killed that, multiple times.
KB: Do you have any irresponsible pregame meals?
DSJ: Naw, I don’t. The team picks out some food and they have that meal for you at the gym.
KB: What do you like to eat before a game?
DSJ: It’s mac and cheese, salmon, broccoli and asparagus.
KB: There’s a theme here. You’re a big mac and cheese guy?
DSJ: Back home I used to eat so much. Every week, I know two or three nights out of the week I was getting mac and cheese with bacon bits. Then it’ll be cabbage and I’d get pork chops or fried chicken. I use to love that growing up. Mac and cheese is something that stuck with me.
KB: Who’s the biggest eater on the team?
DSJ: Probably me. [laughs] You ask anybody on our team they’ll probably tell you I’m the greediest on the squad.
KB: Is that how you’ve always been or are you trying to get as much fuel in your system as you can?
DSJ: It doesn’t have anything to do with nutrition purposes. It’s more of how I was raised. I’m a country boy for real. I’m used to eating a lot.
KB: Bojangles’ [Charlotte-based restaurant] sent you a gift in return for the shout out on Twitter after the team tried their food. Had you ever done that before?
DSJ: No, I haven’t. I do want to get to a Bojangles’ in Dallas at some point. That’s something that I look forward to in the future.
KB: Did you ask for anything specifically?
DSJ: Truth is I didn’t ask for anything. The team was in Charlotte and there were so many guys that never had Bojangles’ on the squad. Sometimes a couple of the vets will go somewhere on the West Coast and they’ll order some In-N-Out after the game. I was like, well we’re in my neck of the woods now so I’m ordering Bojangles’ postgame, let ya’ll try that, and see what ya’ll think. When that happened, [my teammates] smashed everything. Everybody ran through the menu. They left no food, no sweet tea none of that. I just tweeted out to Bojangles’, showed them some love and let them know I rock with them and they showed love back.
KB: What should first-timers at Bojangles’ order?
DSJ: Just try the chicken. They have really good fried chicken, sweet tea, bo-berry biscuits, mac and cheese is good.
KB: I read somewhere you’re a big fan of Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen on Oak Lawn [in Dallas]?
DSJ: Yes, suh
KB: Do you eat something different each time, or is your mind set on what to eat when you get there?
DSJ: I know what I’m going to get. [laughs] Every time I go in there, I know what I’m getting. They kinda know me around there too. It’s all good now.
KB: Have you tried the alligator there?
DSJ: I get that every time I go.
KB: Tastes like chicken, right?
DSJ: Hey man, it might taste a little better. I ain’t gonna lie to you. The sauce [Creole dipping sauce] they got with it is just, man.
KB: Dirk talked about his favorite restaurants in Dallas [Steel, Howard Wang’s etc.], what are some of yours?
DSJ: I like a little spot on McKinney called Shell Shack. Shake Shack is pretty good too, a little burger spot. I like Truluck’s [seafood] too. Oh, you know what other spot that be hittin’ though? It’s a spot called Del Frisco’s [Steakhouse] on McKinney. I like that spot a lot, a lot. It’s a steak spot that has some seafood, too. I forgot to mention Ruth’s Chris Steak House [North Carolina].
KB: All-Star weekend is in L.A., any place you have in mind to eat with friends and family while there?
DSJ: Honestly, not really. I never ventured out a lot on the road. I was always there for business. Since I’ll be there for an extended period for fun activities, I might try my hand at a couple different places.