Noah Elliott still has unfinished business from the Paralympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018.
The defending banked slalom gold medalist and snowboardcross bronze medalist remembers discovering a newfound passion immediately after the Opening Ceremony. Venturing out of the Paralympic Village for a little after party with his teammates, he relished his first eyeful and mouthful of authentic Korean barbecue and the experience that came with it.
Now he awaits a moment when the requisite ingredients, free time, and skill set converge to let him replicate those recipes at home.
“Once I have all the stuff available,” he vows.
It is hard not to measure Elliott’s evolution as a foodie and chef alongside his rise as a world-class snowboarder. He became both in earnest while winning the battle for his life during and after the last Winter Games not to feature him.
“2014 is when I really wanted to focus more on how I was eating,” he said, reflecting on his years-long bout with osteosarcoma.
His victory and left leg amputation brought him to Para snowboarding amid a retreat with fellow cancer patients. Already intrigued by the sport and organization from watching the Sochi Games amid his treatment, the Missouri native soon made Colorado his new home.
Along with the move, Elliott made myriad lifestyle changes. His more protracted road back to normal dining — by his estimate, the process stretched between one and a half to two years — instilled thoughtful food prep as a new pillar in his routine.
Having undergone his surgery at age 17 — the homestretch toward legal adulthood — and already with a 2-year-old daughter, Skylar, in tow, he would not miss any opportunity for self-improvement or enrichment.
“I wanted to be as healthy as I could,” he said. “Now I have that second chance.”
When the game of life reset its clock for him, Elliott took to two new activities that hinge on mental rehearsal and time management. In snowboarding, his tricks combine for the sum of his competitive repertoire. They are the ingredients that can only blend properly after garnering a specific share of individual attention.
“I’m not gonna train the same thing over and over again,” he said of his practice on the slopes. And in the kitchen, “a chef is doing the same exact thing.”
As daunting as the bounty of components might be, the pressure going into the task augments the pleasure upon completion. For someone who “was a pretty picky eater” before he started traveling internationally, Elliott has gotten trendy by embracing his options. Asian-influenced dishes have won the now 9-year-old Skylar over, and taco Tuesday is a winning fixture on the household calendar.
“They’re super easy to make, they have a ton of different ingredients, and they’re really healthy for you,” he said. “You get so much out of something as simple as tacos.”
But if simple means unadorned, that is not what Elliott seeks when he has an engagement on the slopes. He is convinced his simultaneous discovery of the wonders of cooking and snowboarding have given him an edge in the day’s tone-setting meal.
Whereas a competitor might spring for an eat-and-run egg breakfast with few or no trimmings, Elliott powers up in the omelet neighborhood. To satisfy himself, he must scramble his eggs with a selected cheese, a spicy garnish, maybe some chili, and then pad the protein count with a meat. That last component can be as familiar as ham or as exotic as reindeer salami.
And there is more to come throughout his competition or workout. When he is on the road, let alone abroad, he makes like a mountaineer and keeps Colorado close with locally made energizers in his bag to refuel between reps.
By default, as much as he “would love to” cook for his teammates, Elliott has kept his culinary compositions to himself so far. That said, with another Paralympic cycle in full swing, sharing the wealth is getting more feasible compared to world cup seasons when every snowboarder’s mission is scattered.
“We’ve been much better about doing team meals at this time,” he said. “At a world cup, everyone’s trying to focus on their own thing, versus when you go to a training camp and you get more of a team atmosphere.”
Much to Elliott’s delight, the group vibe is carrying a common competitive streak over to the kitchen. He was certainly a key player when Team USA snowboarders bested their skiing counterparts in a friendly cooking contest. And everyone punctuated their latest training camp with a barbecue together.
That is a start toward building on the Korean kickoff from 2018. But as for Beijing 2022, Elliott wants to cap everything with a dish whose flavor screams victory.
Usually after he and his triumphant associates step off a podium, he noted, “ice cream is somewhat involved.”