Cooking for England: an exclusive interview with England’s World Cup chef

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 11th July 2014
England may have gone out in the first round of the World Cup but it wasn’t due to lack of good food. The Staff Canteen spoke to England chef, Lee Maycock, about what it was like to cook for the England team in World Cup 2014 in Brazil. Could you outline your role as chef for the England team? My colleague Tim [De’ath] has got the full time role with England and I support on international duties like World Cups. Because there’s only two of us, we do everything together. The way that we split it is – if I use the last World Cup in South Africa as an example – I stayed with the players while Tim flew ahead a couple of days to make sure the hotels were ready, whereas this year we swapped that role over. It’s a complete 50-50 split how we do all the work. We’ve known each other 20-odd years so we’ve got a great working relationship and we know how each other work. How does menu creation work and how closely do you have to work with nutritionists and sports scientists? The menus are written prior to the tournament. They’re sent to the nutritionist of the FA and he makes any amendments that he feels are needed. But if I’m honest, we’ve been doing this a long time now and we understand the requirements of the team so very little changes are made. Could you take us through a typical menu during the World Cup? Christ_the_Redeemer_statue_at_CorcovadoWe set the dining room up almost like a grazing station, so there’ll be an option to get grilled fish, steak or chicken; they’ll have a carbohydrate bar where there’ll be different pastas and a selection of different sauces and filled pasta like a ravioli, cannelloni or tortellini; there’ll be a selection of potatoes and four or five different vegetables, all steamed; then there’ll be the salad table with quite an Italian theme, so they’ll have selections of Parma hams, mozzarellas and so on, almost like a selection of antipasti but all quite simple with no dressings. We also do a fruit station with every fruit you can think of as well as a selection of berries from whatever’s available and lots of different nuts and seeds. They’ll often have a bowl of yoghurt with some nuts, seeds and cut fruit which makes up their dessert basically.   Is that open all day for the players to graze on or do you have very strict mealtimes? Usually they have breakfast then go off and train, then have lunch. They’ll have an afternoon snack then dinner then a pre-bed snack. We slightly change the offer on a match day. It depends on the exact timing of the match but we tend to merge a breakfast and lunch together. If for example it was a midday kick off, between 8.30 and 10.30 they’d have the normal breakfast offer of porridges, yoghurts, fruit, omelettes, poached eggs and scrambled eggs, but we’d add things like spaghetti, penne and tomato sauces and give them those carbohydrates as well. So they might have a bowl of porridge and a spaghetti bolognaise for example and they’re really loading up the carbs three hours before a game.englandlogo Does each player have their own personal diet plan they have to follow? They each understand their own needs; they’ve been doing it long enough and they have the same eating habits day in, day out, which is why we set up the grazing station because everyone’s different and they each know what they need to take on board to get them through a game of football. They might be on the bench or they might not have been picked, so everybody’s eating slightly differently. With all the travelling the team had to do in Brazil, did that provide more of a challenge for you logistically? We went from Rio up to Manaus then back down to Sao Paulo then up to Belo Horizonte so there was a lot of travelling but because we were setting up in five-star hotels it didn’t really impact the sourcing of products. I think the biggest challenge in somewhere like Brazil was communication – making sure that what you communicate to the staff gets filtered through properly to exactly what we want. So you’re essentially taking over the running of the kitchen brigade in these hotels? A lot of it depends on if we’ve got exclusive use of it or not. If it’s a smallish hotel with no one else there then we get the full brigade; if it’s a large hotel then we’ll get some of the brigade; we might take over the banqueting department or something like that. How many people are you cooking for in total? We’re cooking for all the players and all the backroom staff so it’s about 80 people in total. How does it affect the morale of the whole camp when the team loses games and doesn’t do well? The players were obviously upset but it never got to the point where it affected the whole staff. world cup image What were the players like to work with? They were a great bunch of lads; a lot of them were a lot younger this time so it was quite relaxed and chilled out, but yeah, a great bunch of lads. What did you think of Brazil as a country? Amazing atmosphere, very much a party atmosphere, and electric inside the stadiums. It’s a wonderful place. I’d love to go back and have a couple of weeks holiday in Brazil because there’s so much to see and do; the food’s great; the people are great; the weather’s great. How does it feel as a top-level chef, cooking what is at the end of the day pretty basic, simple food? I think it’s an honour to be cooking for the England football team. Yes we’re only grilling fish and grilling chicken and making salads but it’s because of who it’s for that makes it feel special.
The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 11th July 2014

Cooking for England: an exclusive interview with England’s World Cup chef