Hoops veteran turns up heat on the court and in the kitchen

4 – minute read

Kierra “Kiki” Adams may wield a competitive edge over her peers when she follows her dream into the heated atmosphere of culinary school and restaurant kitchens after completing her master’s degree.


As a guard on FGCU’s high-flying basketball team, she is already conditioned to hustle, spend long hours on her feet and use all of her 6-foot height to her advantage.


“I would say my height is an asset, as I feel like it is in everyday life,” said Adams, who’s working on her MBA to add to her 2023 resort and hospitality management degree. “Being able to reach the top shelves (in a kitchen) is always a plus. I have good hand-eye coordination, and that does help with my ability when handling pots and pans.”

Adams has had lots of practice firing up sauté pans in addition to firing passes to teammates on the court. Amid the 2021-22 season ­– when the Eagles won the ASUN Championship and advanced to the NCAA Tournament’s second round – she shouldered added pressure to perform as a line cook at Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort & Spa in Bonita Springs.


The two-semester internship required for her degree had Adams jumping from four-hour practice sessions at Alico Arena to eight-hour shifts tossing fruit salads and frying calamari at the resort’s Tarpon Bay restaurant.

FGCU basketball player
FGCU basketball player
Kierra Adams interned as a line cook at Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort & Spa in Bonita Springs.

“It’s very fast-paced,” Adams said. “You have to have good communication with the people you work with. You want to make sure you’re on the same page when the tickets start coming in, and you have to get everything in the order out at the same time.”


A restaurant kitchen career seems like a recipe for success for someone who savors the pressure cooker of collegiate sports and watching Food Network competition shows. Jennifer McGurk, who coordinates internships in FGCU’s School of Resort & Hospitality Management, didn’t have to talk to Adams long to figure out a placement where the aspiring chef could hone her knife skills while fulfilling the 1,000 internship hours she needed.


“I soon realized that the Hyatt Regency would be ideal for Kiki’s personality and career goals,” McGurk said. “They brought her in for an interview and agreed that she would be a great fit. They loved her warm personality, interest in culinary, and that she was part of the basketball team.”

FGCU basketball player

Cooking has long been on the front burner for Adams. She grew up in Vancouver, Washington, and moved to Lawrenceville, Georgia, just before starting high school. Watching her grandmother and her father prepare Southern dishes as a youth inspired her to learn cooking.


“They make me cook quite often when I come home,” she said.


With a full plate of academics and athletics, Adams doesn’t have much time to cook for pleasure. Her go-to dish when she does? 

FGCU basketball player

Lately, it’s penne alla vodka or gnocchi with brown butter and sage leaves. Another recipe she picked up during her internship: fried Brussels sprouts with gochujang aioli and cashews.


“I’ve made them for my teammates,” she said. “Everyone’s like, ‘no, Brussels sprouts are gross.’ But if they try them, they usually like them.” Turns out Adams may have a bit of the food influencer in her game already – before she’s even started her formal culinary education.


Basketball and her master’s degree are her main course now.


“Last season I was playing more, doing whatever I needed to do to help the team,” Adams said. “I got to play a little more in the NCAA tournament and got more confidence in myself. I’m trying to be more of a leader this year since I’ve been here longer than anybody.”


And she’s going out in style her final season. Adams’ shot off the glass in the final seconds gave the Eagles a 65-64 home upset over North Carolina during November’s Gulf Coast Showcase.


Postseason and post-MBA, she hopes to see more of Europe. In summer 2022, she whetted her appetite for travel with a four-week study abroad program in Florence where she learned about Italian culinary and cultural traditions.


“We learned about the sort of food they make in different regions and climates,” she said. “I definitely want to check out schools there and see if any of them pique my interest. Going to culinary school is next on the agenda for me.”

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