Tyger Campbell made waves when he partnered up with Fat Sal’s Deli, a staple in Westwood with iconic, over-the-top sandwiches.
The UCLA men’s basketball point guard released a signature Fat Tyger sandwich as part of the deal, and it fits right in with the deli’s other sandwiches that approach 2,000 calories a pop.
“I have stayed away from the Fat Tyger because I don’t want to look like the fat coach,” said coach Mick Cronin. “I’d say the Fat Tyger probably should be trailed by the ambulance, or at least the number to the cardiologist.”
Lucky for Cronin, Fat Sal’s isn’t the only restaurant Campbell has paired up with.
Campbell’s more healthy alternative, when it comes to companies he’s endorsed this fall, is a new Southern California plant-based fast food chain called Honeybee Burger.
Striking a deal with a vegan restaurant isn’t just lip service either. Campbell’s mother, Jennifer Krekeler-Campbell, said her son goes down to Honeybee on the regular, often dragging his teammates along with him to try it out.
“When he discovered it, he instantly took to it,” Krekeler-Campbell said.
Their menu looks like any other burger place’s menu, on the surface. Cheeseburgers, chicken nuggets, fries, milkshakes – all standard fare, only vegan. Campbell, who enjoys a trip to Fat Sal’s every so often, said he likes switching it up by going a little healthier while still eating the food he likes.
“With Honeybee, their whole thing is they want to make food that isn’t exclusively for vegan people,” Campbell said. “So they want to make food that caters to people that still like eating ‘regular’ food and just like the taste of vegan food.”
Krekeler-Campbell homeschooled Campbell in middle school after doing some research on kids’ sleep cycles and learning habits. The same kind of research went into her kids’ diets, although it wasn’t as if she had much trouble getting Tyger to eat healthily.
“He’s not the tallest kid, so for him growing up, his diet was very important,” Krekeler-Campbell said. “He’s my kid that always gravitated towards plant-based. He was my salad kid, he was my vegetables kid. Those are the things he loved to eat.”
For artificial, plant-based “meat” like the patties at Honeybee, it initially wasn’t as easy.
Campbell’s oldest sister would trick him into eating Impossible meat without him knowing, Krekeler-Campbell said. Eventually, he caught on and actually decided he liked it.
Krekeler-Campbell said Campbell goes vegan two to four days a week, and that with attractive substitutes like Honeybee growing in popularity and direct access to UCLA’s team nutritionists, that could continue to tick upwards. Star NBA point guards like Kyrie Irving, Damian Lillard and Chris Paul all eat vegan, so there is already a well-trodden path paved for him to make it a more consistent part of his diet.
“I see that growing,” Krekeler-Campbell said. “Tyger’s very concerned about – obviously, being a high-level collegiate athlete – his health, what he puts in his body and how that is working in his body to be able to fuel him to do the things that he needs to do.”
So while that fuel may take the form of fried chicken tenders, grilled ham and gooey mozzarella sticks every now and then, Campbell said he is just as much a fan of the vegan alternative a mile or two down the street.
“They got a really good Honeybee burger, they got a chicken sandwich, their shakes are good,” Campbell said. “I just thought it would be cool to work with them.”