Maryland basketball’s Michal Cekovsky knew there was only one person he could trust to cook his meals when he broke his ankle this past February.
The 7-foot foodie turned to Josh Landsman, a high jumper on the Terps track team. Landsman substituted as chef while big man was bedridden. Cekovsky knew to trust Landsman after the two met in study hall this fall.
“We were always talking about food,” Cekovsky said. “I would send him what I made, he would send me what he made and … a good picture so I was like, ‘Damn my food doesn’t look like that.’”
By the time Cekovsky was able to cook again, he knew what had to be done.
“He kind of realized I was pretty good so we started making food together,” Landsman said.
Now, the two are almost inseparable. They haven’t eaten out once in the past two weeks simply because they cooked for themselves every day.
“We study together, we do almost everything together,” Cekovsky said. ”So we were like, “Yeah let’s cook sometime.”
When people learned of Cekovsky’s culinary chops, mostly through his Snapchat account, they started messaging him asking to see his food. He said students have stopped the big man around campus asking about his cooking more than his play on the court.
Cekovsky and Landsman decided to appease their fans and made an Instagram account to show off their mouthwatering masterpieces. Although they only feature their own meals right now, they plan on showcasing pictures of others’ food.
In just two weeks, they’ve amassed over 500 followers and that number is quickly rising.
Landsman said most of their ideas come from other accounts they see on Instagram. The pair usually tweaks the recipes to match what they want to make and push themselves to learn new skills.
One of their favorite culinary creations was double cheeseburgers, which they featured on their Instagram page.
“That was amazing,” Cekovsky said. “We were like so excited, we recorded everything.”
While the final product looks nearly perfect, tensions can still run a little high in the kitchen. When they cook together, they often yell at each other, joking that they had to censor themselves during the interview.
But they couldn’t hold it all back. When they were about to cut the chicken, Landsman mentioned he had to bring his own knife because of how dull and ineffective Cekovsky’s was.
“I have to [sharpen] it for him,” he said.
“That’s why I keep him around, he does the little things,” Cekovsky replied.
Thankfully, no big fights have broken out between the duo, but that may be due to Cekovsky’s inability to act because of his hurt ankle, he said with a laugh.
Neither one wanted to claim the title of the better cook, but Cekovsky admitted Landsman actually does more than just the “little things” for their page.
“I’m the veggie guy, I’m the breakfast guy, I’m the photographer guy,” Landsman said with a smile. “He does the meats but I mean, I still make a pretty good steak.”
Landsman also handles the plating for the group, something he admittedly doesn’t do when alone. While he normally just eats the food right off the cutting board, they are sure to plate the food perfectly when it comes to their Instagram.
“He’s sitting there drooling,” while we take the pictures Landsman added.
Cekovsky still takes the final step very seriously, even though it’s his least favorite part. He said he just bought a wood cutting board because it looks better in pictures. Landsman said Cekovsky is also quick to yell at him if there is a smudge or piece of food in the wrong place.
After the food is made, Landsman edits his pictures in Adobe Lightroom and then posts it to Instagram. Landsman writes the English hashtags and Cekovsky writes the Slovak ones.
But as any wannabe food critic knows, the story doesn’t matter if the meal doesn’t back it up. Cekovsky and Landsman cooked chicken breasts with steamed broccoli and mashed potatoes.
Landsman handled steaming the broccoli and mashing the potatoes, while Cekovsky seasoned the potatoes focused on preparing the chicken. He seared it before finishing it in the oven at 390 degrees. The big Slovakian chose chicken because it’s a quick and easy option for finals week.
“[You] don’t need that much [seasoning] for chicken … as long as it’s juicy,” Cekovsky said.
Once everything was ready, Landsman began plating the food. As he cut the chicken, he burned his fingers, but he powered through.
“It’s got to look good,” he said.
On the left was the boneless chicken, cut into inch-thick slices. Next to the chicken were mashed potatoes, garnished with homegrown parsley. Lastly, on the right of the plate, was the broccoli and a few tomatoes to add a splash of color.
The immediate star of the dish was the broccoli, which had a nice smoky taste that Landsman attributed to the rosemary. The chicken’s alluring aroma wafted throughout the kitchen from the moment it hit the pan until it laid on the plate.
Seasoned with salt, pepper, olive oil, rosemary and thyme, the juicy chicken breast was full of flavor and well-cooked. By searing the chicken breast, the 7-foot Slovak was able to seal in the juices and flavor without overcooking the meat.
Last, but certainly not least, were the mashed potatoes. The garlic salt and butter combination, combined with the light and fluffy texture of the potatoes, made for a heavenly combination.
While Cekovsky gave the meal a 7.5 out of 10, I would have to disagree. The Finals Week fare passed my test with flying colors. I would’ve guessed the meal was made in a professional kitchen, not in a college student’s apartment. It earns a 9 out of 10 from me. If given the chance, take a step inside the @foodcheck._ kitchen.
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