Cooks at Home: Ian Beckles
Ian Beckles spent nine seasons in the NFL, seven of them playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and he is currently co-host of Tampa Bay’s exceedingly popular sports talk radio show “The Ron & Ian Show.”
We meet Ian on one of his sojourns to Sarasota, where he is planning to join forces with Edible for a fantastic food festival, and we score an invitation to his legendary Sunday football-viewing party. When we arrive at Ian’s family home in a tree-lined neighborhood on the water, we’re greeted by Ian’s ebullient bulldog, Rudy and the unmistakable smell of bacon. Ian is clad in red sneakers and a backwards baseball cap from his “lid” collection, a collection of hats that would rival Imelda Marcos’s stash of shoes. Ian ushers us into a homey, airy kitchen and seats us at a long wooden dining table before proffering us a plate of the aforementioned bacon with a big grin, proclaiming happily “You can’t say no to bacon.”
Ian was born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, but he learned to cook from watching his Guyana-born mother. Ian has prepared a traditional spicy Crawfish Étouffée for today’s party and he bustles around the kitchen with the always-surprising grace of an ex-football player while the dulcet tones of another famous Canadian, Michael Bublé, fill the air around us. Floor-to-ceiling bookcases overflow with cookbooks; pictures of Ian’s three teenage children smile out at us.
Ian is a consummate host, engaging us all in conversation, as a seemingly endless parade of friends begins to filter through the kitchen and upstairs to Ian’s man cave. The guests stop for bacon and a chat as they pass us bearing beverages and side dishes and stories about Ian and his wife, Dayle, who is hailed as the world’s best cookie maker.
The guest list is comprised of several football players (Ian’s former teammates), a brewmaster, a personal trainer (Ian himself is a spin class instructor), and a dog kennel owner, to name but a few. Ian explains that there is no set invitation list. Friends and family are welcome every Sunday and some come religiously while others function as guest stars, keeping the gatherings fresh and fun.
Bowls of steaming Étouffée arrive before us and we wander upstairs to the ultimate man cave, complete with a red and black velvet bar, giant TV, comfy chairs and couches, and a vaulted ceiling painted in riotous colors with murals depicting the likes of Stevie Wonder, Jimi Hendrix, NWA, and Tupac Shakur. Crosses of every shape and description adorn the walls along with trinkets reflecting Ian’s Trinidad-born father and Guyana- born mother’s heritage.
Ian settles onto a stool and surveys his surroundings contentedly: food, friends, and football—what more could you ask for?