Episode 177 of the Institute of Performance Nutrition's "We Do Science" podcast! In this episode, I (Laurent Bannock) discuss "In the Kitchen with a Performance Chef" with Chef Rachel Muse (Talk Eat Laugh, UK).
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[00:00:00] LB: Welcome to episode 177 of the IOPN, the Institute of Performance Nutrition's We Do Science podcast. I am Laurent Bannock. And this episode is going to be something slightly different. It's new. It's not an experiment, because I've been wanting to do this for some time. But as you get into the recording, which I’ll unleash upon you shortly, you'll see where I’m going with this. But over the course of the history of this podcast, ultimately, the primary focus has been about talking to scientists, researchers, doing research on the topic that we discuss. I.E., they're the originators or people who have continued the body of knowledge in that particular field, whether it's in sport and exercise nutrition or related topics in sport and exercise science exercise, excise metabolism, etc.
Now, more recently, I have started doing podcasts, which we call In the Trenches. And the purpose there is to have conversations with practitioners at the very applied end of the practice of sport and exercise nutrition. And there's a great deal to be learned from talking to experienced practitioners who, yes, have all the appropriate scientific training and knowledge and so on. But also, have that added wealth of knowledge of actually applying this stuff into practice.
And for those of you that have listened to those podcasts, for those of you that are practitioners yourself, you'll fully appreciate that there is a big gap between science and practice, which is the entire mission, of course, of what we do at the IOPN, is to bridge that gap with this podcast in particular as one of the tools.
Now, I guess the sort of the elephant in the room though is if we're talking about science, if we're talking about practice, we still need to be talking about food, and in particular food that lands on the plate. And the engineer, the technician, the artist behind that process is the chef.
I’ve decided to interview a number of chefs or performance chefs who work in a variety of areas that are relevant to sport and excise nutrition, private chefs as well as team performance chefs. And the reason why I’m doing that is because, yes, ordinary folk will prepare food for themselves. But a lot of elite athletes, particularly football players, as we will discuss in today's episode, will actually have the means and the desire to hire in private chefs, for example, and/or will be exposed to team performance chefs, which may or may not be the same experience. And in fact, it is not uncommon as will be discussed today for there to be an interaction. Not always a positive interaction. Can be a clash that may exist but between the various community of experts, practitioners that exist in our clients' life, in a football player's life, for example, in this situation. Where they may have a team chef, performance chef, a team nutritionist, as well as a personal private nutritionist and a personal private chef.
I felt there would be a lot of value in having a conversation about performance nutrition particularly through the lens of the performance chef, a private chef and a team chef. You're going to get that over the coming months.
Today, this recording, which actually was recorded a little while ago. I had some technical issues with the recording. But I’ve managed to resurrect the recording. And thank goodness, I did. Because it was a gem of a chat with Chef Rachel Muse. She'll tell you all about herself in the opening segment of the recording.
But as you'll learn, Rachel is a very experienced chef, private chef, working in many different environments, from hotel kitchens, to exclusive private chef situations traveling around the world. And of course, working with football players.
Now, before you listen to that conversation, I just want to remind you that unlike perhaps how we might look at science published research and so, particularly from the chef perspective, there's going to be many different ways of approaching these things. It is incredibly unique to each chef, I imagine. And I think you'll find this particularly interesting. But of course, there will be more than one way to swing a cat in this situation, which is why I’m bringing you more chefs.
Anyway, before you listen to that, go to our website at www.theiopn.com where you can learn all about all of our other podcasts with scientists, researchers, practitioners and upcoming performance chefs in the sport and exercise nutrition field. You can learn about our specialist software for performance nutritionists working with individuals or in-group coaching sessions online or in-team settings. That is SENPro.
And some of the other things that we do, most notably of course, is our advanced professional diploma in sports nutrition. The latest version has just been released and will open up this November 2022. Go learn about our world-renowned program in sport and excise nutrition at wwwtheiopn.com. Anyway, that's enough of me talking. I hope you enjoy this conversation I had with Chef Rachel Muse. Enjoy.
[00:05:35] LB: Welcome to – I’m going to struggle with this one, because this is the first time that I’m approaching this particular topic. Normally what I would say here is welcome back to the IOPN We Do Science podcast. The Institute of Performance Nutrition’s podcast, which this is, of course. And I am, of course, Lauren Bannock. I haven't changed my name, or my voice, or anything.
Now, in recent past, I started to introduce a new sort of sub section of my podcast, where we traditionally have been focusing purely on science. After all, this is called we do science. And that's really important. And we keep banging on about how important it is to understand the science, the f theory behind everything that we're doing in sport and excise nutrition. It's extremely important.
And more recently, I’ve introduced this sub sort of series, if you like, called In the Trenches. Where what we're doing is going away from the classroom, away from the laboratory, but actually meeting with or talking with practitioners working in the trenches of day-to-day practice.
Now, today, we've got something similar. And this time now we are going in the kitchen. And in the kitchen today, I have the first of many chefs, performance chefs. We'll get into the titles in a minute. But most important is the guests themselves. And today I have Chef Rachel Muse. Rachel, how are you?
[00:06:57] RM: I’m very, very well. How are you?
[00:06:59] LB: I’m good. I mean, this is a new experience for both of us. This will be interesting. But something tells me that you're going to keep us informed and entertained, Rachel. Like I made it clear right from my beginning piece there, in the kitchen, In the Trenches, We Do Science and so on, these are all things that I feel are important areas within this podcast. But this particular area that I want to get in today, I guess we could say is not just bridging the gap between science and practice. Now we're taking this from bridging the gap between science and practice and ultimately what ends up on the plate so to speak.
And in previous podcasts, we've talked about how important this final part of that journey is. And for example, with Professor Michael Gleason, who you know well of course. I know you feature in his book, for example. Makes a point of it. But so many of my experts, whether they're scientists or practitioners all acknowledge the importance of this area. But this is an area that I feel has not really been addressed, at least not from my experience. That's why I wanted to bring you on board where chefs are involved at really the most important end of this, I feel. For reasons I hope to explore. Whether that's a chef in the home kitchen. A chef in the club kitchen. Or a private chef scenario bringing the food to a player's home, for example.
Anyway, look, I don't want to keep blabbing on this end, Rachel. Why don't you start this chat off today with me by giving just a little bit of an overview of who you are and what you do?
[00:08:38] RM: Okay. Well, very great introduction. Thank you very much. I shall aim to be like the BBC, which – and their remit is to inform, educate and entertain, or entertain – Those three things. The entertaining might be slight –
[00:08:52] LB: We'll make it work. Don't worry you.
[00:08:53] RM: We'll make it work. Yeah, I’m juggling. If you can see me now, if you can see me now, I’m jumping. Now I’m not.
My name is Rachel Muse. I have been a chef for – I always used to tell people it was 12 years. And then I realized, "Oh, yeah. It can't still be 12 years." It's something like 25 years now. Considerably more than 12 years. I didn't start off as a chef. I started off studying for a degree in mathematics, which I got. It was a rather unpleasant experience for everyone involved.
[00:09:24] LB: We can all imagine.
[00:09:25] RM: Well, I could talk forever about mathematics. It's lovely. But for me, I ticked lots of boxes. But it didn't tick the ultimate box of being fun. And I thought to myself if I’m going to be earning my living, then it needs to be something that – I don't even know how to say it. But I feel connected to. And I give it energy. And it gives me energy, positive energy. It's a symbiotic relationship. That it's not just me giving something to something and it being dry and dead. I need something that is – that is a connection. There's a balance. Is reciprocal. I give it joy. It gives me joy. That's what I need. And that's why I chose to retrain to become a chef, because food would always give me joy.
And I was brought up in the 70s when there wasn't really packaged food. There was no Uber Eats. There was no Deliveroo. There was no real takeaways actually. Well, not in the world that I grew up in. And so, if you wanted to eat, then you cooked. It was basically that simple.
And so, I grew up in and out of the kitchen. Also, I grew up in a world where children didn't have things done for them. I mean, at a birthday party, you maybe – I don't know. You went to the swimming pool with five of your mates. That was it. That was a big deal. There wasn't like a Saturday jumping in the pool thing and then sliding down the same thing and then a face painting thing. That wasn't a Saturday in the 70s as a child, which I’m imagining you had a sort of similar experience?
[00:11:05] LB: Yeah, I’m a 70s child. Absolutely. Yeah.
[00:11:07] RM: Yeah, exactly. You're in the house. You're bored. What are you going to do? You're going to rummage around to see what's happening. You're going to to end up in the kitchen. Someone puts a potato peeler in your hand and says, "While you're here, don't make a noise. Peel this." So you do. And then you think, "Oh, what's that?" And then you slowly, slowly get sucked into it. And then you're making cheese on toast and people are giving you a round of applause. And then you think, "This is great." And that's – I always had an interest in cooking. It wasn't something that was ever separate from me being me. It was always, if you want to eat, then cook. And you do eat three times a day. I was cooking three times a day, isn't it?
Anyway. I graduated with my shiny new degree in mathematics and thought, "Hmm. Yeah, I don't really think this is going to work for me." And so I retrained and became a chef. And I would like to put it on record. I became a chef before it was cool to become a chef. I became a chef because I liked food and I liked the process of feeding people. I didn't think I’m an actual certified feeder. But I like that – Yeah, the symbiotic thing. That it gives you pleasure, but the the pleasure is reciprocated. I like that.
Yes, I retrained. Became a chef. And then I quite quickly realized that just being – just having that first level of qualification was only really like the entry level. And you should have another qualification on top of that. I did another level, and that was to become a pâtissière chef, a pastry chef, which I can – and that was two years. Day release. I was working in a busy full-time job as a chef. Having one day off. Well, two days off. One day to go to college and the other day to do all your homework from college. This was before the internet. I don't know if that means anything to –
[00:13:01] LB: It did exist, folks, our younger listeners. There was a time.
[00:13:06] RM: There was a time when we used things called books and they lived in a place called a library. And every single time I went to college, I had a 70-liter rucksack. And that was full of books. Because no one had written a book to cover everything we were covering in college. There was like in one big book that was – I don't know. 150 pages. There might be two paragraphs in that which were gold. The rest of it is just la-la-la-la-la. And another book. You're just taking this.
And that's how it was when I started out being a private chef as well. I would take four or five big books with me and go and work on a boat, go and work in the Caribbean. Go and work with it. And then the internet came. And I was like, "Wow! That just completely exploded my mind." Because then there were recipes on the internet. But anyway, that's not the story. That's not what we wanted tell you.
Then I started working in big hotels in London, which is – Oh, yeah. And I should say that if ever you think to yourself – if you wake up one day and you think to yourself what should I do with my life? Should I get a degree in mathematics? Or shall I do a pastry chef course. Then do the degree in mathematics. It's a lot easier. It's so much easier. Doing the pâtissière stuff with such high levels of stress, because it's not just about thinking, "Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. You've got to make it. And you've got to make it in a very shorter band of time. And it's got to be perfect. Otherwise, your Austrian professor, who was the UK's first professor of pâtissière, looks at it with disdain. Cuts a tiny slice off it. Eats a mouthful of it. Then takes your great big tray of it, walks over to the bin, and just very gently tips it into the bin. And you're like, "Okay, that's quite a clear signal."
Yeah, that's how we worked. That's how we were taught. But the good side is I do understand all of food science. I do understand why this doesn't work. Why that doesn't work? How you need to adjust this with that? This is that – or something quite frankly. I might have forgotten. But I know exactly what the problem is. And I know exactly what to Google to remind myself that this is that and that is this. It's not just like, "Oh, well, it's broken." It's like, "No, no, no, no. This is to do with the yeast being that. Isn't it? Rather than this." And then, yeah, you might have to Google and sort that out. But it was an extremely good education.
[00:15:27] LB: I want to keep diving into your pathway. Because there's all sorts of things you said there that I don't want to forget about. And to mention, one of which of course was you mentioned the fact that cooking food can give joy to the people that you give it to and to yourself. That's actually part of the reason why I got into this myself.
My mother was French, hence my name. I grew up in a French household between France and the UK, mainly in the UK, hence my accent. And I went to a rather traditional English boarding school from the age of six. Let's get the therapist around here. But let's not go there.
But I do remember those experiences of being wholly unimpressed with the food either at school or when I would go and be with friends. It would be very British dishes. Go back in the 70s, 80s, 90s. Even if you went to restaurants and so on, it was hardly something that people weren't coming to London specifically, for example, where I was living at the time, to eat.
It's more recently that – well, in the last 20 years in particular, from what I can remember at least, the food became of higher quality in London 20, 30 years. Like you, I think I’m losing track of time. But this idea of joy.
Now, when we're learning nutrition science at school in the university, you'll see these charts, diagrams, bespoke textbooks. We don't have to carry rucksacks, we're quite lucky. We have well-designed, well-thought out textbooks. And they'll talk about food is energy. Food is sources of protein. Food helps the immune system and so on. But you pretty much never see the word joy.
There are some aspects of that, and there are classes. I remember doing classes on cultural nutrition. How important it is from a cultural perspective. But that's missing particularly in sport and excise nutrition. They didn't talk about that stuff at all. It's very much about macronutrients, and energy, and protein, and so on.
And the idea of – like I started this conversation of actually thinking about what this stuff looks like on a plate. And does it give joy? Yes, I know we're supposed to be fueling and refueling the athlete and supporting their training adaptations and so on. But they've got to actually want to eat this food, which is a real big issue having spent quite some time being in a situation where I’m watching athletes not wanting to eat certain foods because of that very problem. And maybe not having had an upbringing where they actually had amazing food put in front of them. Therefore, they tend to be more comfortable with really basic children's food.
You said children earlier. That's kind of what it is, is the way that we're approaching them. But obviously, we're trying to do something here, which is where we use two words in particular, which would be health and performance of course. There is a certain thing there.
But just to come back to that. Because I know from my own upbringing, just my own personal upbringing, just how important food, preparation of food, is. My mother was a quintessential French woman. Food was everything. It was also important about bringing people to the table. The social aspects of it. There's just so much to it. But the joy of cooking and preparing food as well, which is interesting. Because in this topic we're going to get into, when you're being a chef you are providing food as a service to someone. It's not necessarily something that they're engaging with the actual food preparation process themselves, and all the pleasure, and the learning that can come from that.
You have already shown that there's a great deal to becoming a chef already. And you've only just started on that path by the way of telling us from the easy mathematics degree to the very difficult and challenging process. I’ve done a few bits here and there at various chef schools. Only short-term training stuff. And what you've just said, yeah, I found it frightening.
I can only imagine with my own students or my fellow teachers, researchers, professors and so on, if we treated our students that way by dumping their coursework into the dustbin, would possibly come back with some legal issues with the student and their parents or whatever.
But for you, you went through that experience. And you kept going obviously. You said, it was stressful. But you kept going. What was the main ambition for you to go, "Actually, no, I’m going to use my math degree and become a rocket scientist, or a teacher, or whatever." But you kept going with the learning how to be a chef.
And I imagine you're going to tell us that that wasn't a process of you got your qualification. Maybe you did patisserie. People do CPD. I got another certificate on the wall. You have to evolve a lot, don't you, in your work?
[00:20:11] RM: Yes. Yes. And that's really – Was there a big plan? No. I’m not a planner. Even with a business, I’m not. I am for I plan my week. I plan the things I can see. I plan those things. But I’m fortunate, and when I started the business, which was by kind of by accident, I didn't need to borrow any money from anybody. So, I didn't need to do a business plan. And there is still no formal business plan. There's been no plan in my career.
If I’d have had a plan, then I think I would have missed out on a huge amount of opportunity, because I was always presented with a lot of opportunity. Whenever I got to a crossroads, or not even crossroads, whenever something like naturally had run its course, opportunities would be open to me. People would be asking me to do things.
And because I didn't have a business plan or a career plan, I would look at each thing, and with the knowledge and understanding I had of myself and of the world at that time, I would make a decision about which thing to choose. And I did make some mistakes, of course. Everyone does. But that was okay. And I didn't feel that, "Oh, well, now I’ve planned it." Because it literally – it wasn't following a map. It wasn't following a route.
I still do not have a final destination in my mind. I am making good decisions, hopefully, from the information I have and the opportunities that present themselves to me. There wasn't a plan. The only real plan – Well, I did – As part of training to be a chef, and that would have been in the 90s, it was kind of expected that if you were any good, you have to go into the Michelin system and blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah. I tried that. It was very much not for me. I was in an environment where I was bullied for being female. And was basically told to do the hours that you need to do, you're going to have to do recreational drugs. But not for recreation. To keep you going.
And I thought, "Well, hello, my body is way more important than this." I’m not being particularly judgmental about people who choose to do whatever they choose to their bodies for whatever reason they choose to do it. But I’m not going to do something like that just so I can do my job. That seems spectacularly wrong to me.
I was like, "You know what? That is just – Okay there must be environments. There must be Michelin environments which are not like that." But that just so revolted me it so repulsed me, scared me, that I was like, "No. Okay. No."
And then I started looking for a way to be creative, to learn, to be in good environments, which weren't that. And so, I kind of, out of that, found the way of being a private chef. Because this was also in the 90s when being a private chef was not a thing. It was not a thing.
And then I didn't know anything when I started. I mean, I knew how to cook. And I had had a couple of four or five years working in big hotels and restaurants. I knew how to – whatever the expression is. Cut my whatever. Or earn my stripes. I didn't know it all, but I knew like the system of cooking in big environments and just dealing with craziness. Because when you work in a big London hotel, there's craziness. And it's not drug-fueled craziness. It is just –
[00:23:54] LB: Rachel, I think a lot of people probably have seen these crazy Hell's Kitchen and all these sorts of things. And actually, they're not entirely unrealistic, are they, for what lots of people go into? Is that right?
[00:24:08] RM: I don't have a television.
[00:24:10] LB: Oh, okay. Good for you.
[00:24:13] RM: One of the reasons I don't have a television is because a lot of – There's a lot of food on telly. And it's done for show. It's done for telly. It's done to – No. It's supposed to be inform, educate, entertain. It's done to entertain. A lot of it is just so wrong, so misleading, such a load of nonsense. People who can't cook but look pretty. Glance about. Spill cream into their cleavage. Batter their eyelids and think they're special. We know who we're talking about, I think. Yes, that person.
And that's great. They've made a business, a career out of being absolutely clueless. But being apparently eye candy. And then people try those recipes, they don't work. And then they're all upset with themselves. They think they can't cook. That recipe was never supposed to work. That recipe was just there to sell a cookbook. All nonsense. It's also like mirrors. Nonsense.
Which if you're a member of the police and you're watching police drama, you're like, "That's nonsense. That's nonsense. You don't do it like that." Or anything, anything you know about and you see it on the telly. You're like, "That is nonsense." That's is dangerously not how it is.
Anyway. I know people who have been involved with the Hell's Kitchen set up. That's the Gordon Ramsay thing, where it makes everyone –
[00:25:31] LB: Yeah. No. I’m merely saying that people have this idea of what they think being a chef is. Mostly people who can't cook themselves anyway. Or they have some degree of intrigue in what is a popular thing. I mean, there are many different types of shows related to craziness in a kitchen, all the way to bake-offs and this that and the other. And what I mean by that, for one reason or another, it's entertaining, it's popular.
[00:25:59] RM: It's cheap to make as well.
[00:26:00] LB: It's cheap to make. Yeah, I’m sure that is. But where I’m leaning with this is that despite the popularity of that, there is a relatively small number of people who actually take that through to being themselves. Engaged enough to be actually spending time in the kitchen either to feed themselves, their family, their friends or whatever. And of course, obviously, we're talking here particularly in the environment of sport and exercise nutrition athletes and so on. Particularly in football, almost none of them are engaged at that process.
And you also talk about us being from the 70s and so on. Back then, more people I think may have engaged in the kitchen possibly because they weren't playing computer games being on TV or whatever. The kitchen had an aspect of fun and learning to it. God! I sound like an old fogy now. But, I mean, it is true. It is true. I think less happens in the kitchen. But either which way, we're more disengaged with cooking, preparing food and so on.
And of course, we become more and more dependent on seeing recipes or, of course, takeaway foods, or going to restaurants. I mean, the emergence of fully prepared foods has exploded in the last few decades, hasn't it? Which I guess segues us into really what we need to be talking about here, which is the emergence of the private chef. And you were one of the first ones. At least within the realms of this conversation, you're certainly there when all this sort of thing started to happen before it was a known thing in the same way.
[00:27:36] RM: Yeah. Well, it was a thing.
[00:27:38] LB: Yeah. Anyway, you had your – you flirted a bit with going down sort of mainstream chef pathways, big hotels. Potentially the whole Michelin thing. And there's a certain direction that that goes right or wrongly. We certainly have performance chefs that have been down that path. And it might suit some particularly those in a team setting. But very specifically, this conversation is with you as a private chef, because I have some other performance chefs who are going to come and talk on who are primarily working as team chefs or club chefs in different sports and environments.
There are various reasons I wanted to talk to you about this. Because as a nutritionist myself, I interact occasionally, more than occasionally, with chefs. I mean, it's an essential part of my work in team sport. One of the closest relationships I have with anyone is with the chef. But also, in my private practice periodically, I have players who will work with a private chef. Sometimes that chef, like yourself, will integrate with other people like the club nutritionist or a nutritionist. Sometimes it goes the other way, though. I’m discovering that the client has a chef who's got their own ideas and maybe mixes their skill sets in the kitchen with their skill sets in picking up misinformation and combining the two. They're not quite getting their boundaries right either in that process, which can be an interesting issue that I want to talk to with you. Because although we didn't talk about it yet in the preamble to this that I’ll record after this conversation, I will point out the sorts of areas that you've worked, which I’d like to bring you to now.
You're not just a chef, though. You're a private chef. And now, nowadays, not always, because you've worked in some pretty impressive different environments as a private chef. Maybe you could just quickly talk about that, a transition from the path that wasn't so enjoyable to you to clearly what has attracted and intrigued you to this day for – what is it? How many – A while.
[00:29:38] RM: Decades now. Decades. Yeah, decades. Yes, becoming a private chef. My first few employers, because I was an employee at that time, were people who just – not just. People who wanted fresh, healthy food. And for whatever reason, they weren't interested. Not interested. They were – well, the fact of the matter were they were happy to pay someone to be in their kitchen cooking fresh, healthy food for them and their family. That's always the crux of the commercial arrangement, the agreement.
And then from then, it – and I worked for various people, business people, a lot of people in the music world, which is interesting. Because music to me – I think like quite a lot of chefs – chefs are interesting because some people who are not chefs who aren't really foodies, music is very important to them. Music is mood. Music is da-da-da-da. It really means something to them. Their first dance on their wedding is like really important.
And I’m like, "Yeah, music gives me energy." Or it doesn't give me energy. I listen to it. I don't listen to it. I listen to the radio. I don't own music. Because why would I – I don't even know the names of people. I couldn't go and ask. Or I didn't even know – Like, on my phone, my phone has no music on it, because that's of no interest – It's not of no interest.
[00:31:06] LB: You're more unique than I imagined, Rachel.
[00:31:09] RM: I have the radio on all the time. If there's a song I don't like, I don't listen to it. If there's a song I do like, I listen to it. It gives me energy. When I’m driving, I listen to music or spoken word. Because it gives me energy or it keeps my mind going whilst I’m driving up and down the N6, which I spend a lot of time doing.
Anyway. A smell – a smell, and that lights up my entire brain. My entire brain. Or just seeing something that I know smells. I can see a rose, and I have taught myself to stop and smell the roses. But for me, it's also Rosemary bushes from the south of France, the lavender bushes, da-da-da-da. I’ll see one. I can smell it. My brain tells me what I’m spelling before I sit, before I’m in smelling distance. I’ll go over, I’ll smell the rose, or I’ll rub the – go up to the Rosemary or the lavender bush. Rub it to my fingers, smell my fingers.
And that is like, I think, for a not "normal person". That's like their favorite tune. But to me, that smell is – I can't – it makes me emotional. Just thinking about a rose. Just thinking about the Rosemary brushing my garden. Just think about smelling that, it makes me all happy and excited. That is fact.
[00:32:26] LB: But these old factory things, I mean, that's entirely relevant though to what we're trying to talk about here, which is why would we even bother having a private chef? Okay. We just get something from the freezer section, stick it in a microwave. I think even the challenging of clients can manage that, but they don't because there's something missing. They may not even realize it right. But they may not have been brought up a certain way. They may not have had a certain level of training, education or whatever. But what they can see, what they can smell, and ultimately what they can taste, that combination of factors, it just breaks boundaries, doesn't it?
I mean, people go out of their way to go to restaurants on a special treat out. Or not everyone obviously. But people do. But the whole next level is this thing of you as a private chef coming in. Now, I understand you've done this for business people, people in the performing arts. And people will go, "Oh, they've got loads of money. They can do whatever." I mean, it's within the realms of affordability or whatever, whatever. Okay? But specifically, athletes.
You work with loads of, for example, football players, which I guess is the segue from thinking about film stars and music players and whatnot. We think of football players at least in the Britain, Europe sort of set up. I’m interested to know how you went from being a private chef to private performance chef. How did that segue occur?
[00:33:53] RM: That segue, well, that was very interesting. I was working – I’ve been living in France for quite a while. And that job came to an end. And I came back to the UK and almost felt I had my tail between my legs because I’ve been so fabulous and so international. And I’d run out of road on where I was because I was working for a family and they were getting divorced. And it was not pretty. Very not pretty.
And then I started working for a French family in London. And that was – I’ll just say highly educational. And leave it at that. I did more miles in that job than in any other job. And I have done a lot of miles. A lot.
And then they started to get divorced as well, the French family. And I was like, "Maybe I’m cursed." But I’m not. But I was just like odd. And at that point, somebody rang me up and said, "I’ve got an amazing job for you." Which when I was a part of that word, that would happen just all the time. Without being arrogant, that would happen all the time.
[00:35:06] LB: It was word of mouth literally, isn't it? It's the word, eyes and mouth in your case.
[00:35:10] RM: Yeah, exactly. Because I think – well, that's how the story – We'll get into that. But I’ve got a lovely job for you Rachel was cooking for a player who was playing for Southampton. And my base in the UK is in Salisbury. With a player, with a client based in Southampton, I could actually go back to my own bed at night and not have to have my passport in my back pocket, which I did have to for the other – Well, for most of my life, I’d have my passport in my back pocket. And just like be constantly ready to go. Not even have milk in the fridge in my own house, because that would be pointless, wouldn't it? That's just going to go off before you get a chance to make it into coffee. It's going to be good.
Anyway, I started cooking. And I knew nothing about football. That's not exactly true. I knew very, very little about football. And probably most of what I knew about football is when football players were on the front page of the newspapers. Because they've done something, which they probably weren't particularly proud of.
And so, that's kind of what I thought footballers were, which is very ignorant. And that's not what I think now. But that's the only experience I had had of knowing footballers' names was because of –
[00:36:40] LB: Yeah. Just a client. It was a client.
[00:36:42] RM: Yes. So, I thought, "Well, football. What's that going to be like?" And so, I went and met him, and I realized that he was an extremely – I don't know how to put it. Proper. Polite. Very well brought up. I was going to say very well educated. He wasn't very well educated. He wasn't unintelligent. It's just he hadn't spent very much time in school. The two things are completely different.
He would ask me lots of questions. He once asked me, "Was there a war before the Germans?" It's like, "Okay, we can break that down." And it's not like, "Oh, okay. I’m gonna laugh at you, because that's a bad way to phrase a question." It's like, "No. Was there a war before the Germans?" Well, yes. I think when you say the Germans, you mean the war that was some kind of called the Second World War. And okay – And you'd start talking to him he'd ask very sensible follow-up questions. Not unintelligent. Poorly educated. And that would happen a lot with him.
And he trusted me to ask the question. And could then expand it into selling the space of knowledge that he found that he had. Because history is not my subject.
[00:37:52] LB: He was hungry for information. And yeah, just showed an intrigue, an interest. Thirst for knowledge. Yeah. Good.
[00:37:59] RM: A thirst for knowledge, which I’ve had a traditional education. I might think, to ask, was there a war before the Germans? Well, it's a stupid question. It's not a stupid question. It's an unusual way of asking question. It's not a stupid question. There are no stupid questions.
And I think that that's probably – He was my first. And I was employed by him. He was my employer. And then he was my last employer. Because after that, started the business. Because I met this person – it not occurred to me when I started cooking for him that he would have a nutritionist. Not occurred to me. Because why would it? I didn't know. I knew nothing. But then I realized he did. And I thought, “Oh, I’d better go and find out what that's about."
I went and visited the nutritionist. And that was Mike Naylor. It was Mike Naylor who said, "You're a performance chef." I went, "Am I?" He went, "Yes." Okay then. I didn't know. I didn't know until Mike told me. There you go. And then I said, "Okay. What should I be doing?"
[00:38:58] LB: I should just mention, because not everyone will know. Mike Naylor is head of nutrition for the English Institute Sport. Absolute legend in his own right. He'll probably grimace if he says that. But he's a probably good guy. Head of nutrition for the last England World Cup, that sort of thing. He knows his stuff. He knows his business. We're not just talking about any old performance nutritionist. You connected there with the top bloke.
[00:39:22] RM: Yeah, absolutely. Had I had a plan for my life, that conversation probably would never have happened. Because I don't have a plan. It's just people say hello. This is where I am. What are you doing? How can I help you? La-la-la. And things happen because you haven't got this structure of like I must be doing this and I must – It's just like what's happening? Let's –
[00:39:45] LB: Yeah, it was a very organic process. It's very interesting. There's some parity here to some of the conversations I’ve had with other practitioners. How did they arrive where they are as performance nutritionists? And I would include myself in that. I didn't start out trying to be a nutritionist or a performance nutritionist. That's just sort of the path.
Anyway, you had this this Premier League player. You met with a proper, fully – not just a qualified, but a top-end performance nutritionist. Obviously, at that point, sparks started to fly a little bit. And presumably you enjoyed the process. You found it what? Challenging. A bit intriguing. And it opened up more doors and avenues I’m assuming.
[00:40:26] RM: Yes. Well, okay. Here in the interest of full disclosure, Mike said to me, "No. He can eat what he likes."
[00:40:34] LB: Well, that's true. That's important, isn't it?
[00:40:35] RM: Yeah. But we have that discussion. And that was the answer. Because there are some – I'm sure you've encountered this. There are some individuals. I think it happens more often with Elite athletes than otherwise. But how some individuals, you could present them with like an entire buffet of everything possible in the entire universe, and they will still pick out the right ratio of proteins, to fats, to carbs. They'll just do it. I don't know how they do it. But that's just somehow pre-programmed into them of what feels right, what looks right, what's right. They just do that.
And there are other people who just eat what they like. And if that's not a good – if that's not nutritionally sound to them, then there are consequences. Non-positive consequences for them. But some people, they just choose magically the right combination. And they have great body compositions. They've also – this is something that my neighbor said to me. They've won the genetic lottery.
[00:41:40] LB: Oh! Well, yes, of course, which is a big factor in certain sports, particularly like football genetics. And so, anyway, we could we could talk about that for ages.
I was also mentioned just being a nutritionist in similar scenarios, where what you've said is slightly controversial to some people. And I would back it up and qualify. I’ve said that many times to a chef. One reason why is because the athlete, the player, for example, would – If they were left to their own devices, it'd be a combination of they eat what they like, but they would eat a very limited number of foods, which would be very easy to acquire or access, which wouldn't necessarily be ideal for their overall health. They would still perform well combined with their genetics and so on. Frankly, yes, it isn't always that complicated. I’m sorry for everyone spending years and years learning about this stuff. But actually, there are some basic characteristics about this that just means it is actually more important that they eat quality food, which is a reason for yourself, of course. Because you will have upgraded that. Otherwise, they wouldn't have bothered. They would have just had packets of biscuits and pot of noodles and whatnot.
What was the difference for the player then? I mean, they employed a nutritionist not because they would – or were they told to buy the nutritionist? Or was it a case of they had somehow interacted with somebody who you'd work with? Your name was obviously recommended at that point. And they thought, "You know what? That's exactly what I need, is somebody to help produce this food for me."
[00:43:13] RM: That's a very, very good question. I’m thinking back, and I think it came through the player's agent.
[00:43:20] LB: Yeah, that's a common way.
[00:43:22] RM: Yes. And that agent was someone who was only agent to that player. They had picked them up when they were very young. And it was kind of a friend of a friend sort of a situation. That relationship broke down. And the player went with a much better known agent, whose name you would know. One of the big International agents, which is not a one-man band. Many large offices around the world. But that's how it came through to me. And it was because that player didn't want to cook. He shared his house with a school – Someone had been friends since school days. And he was living slightly away from where he grew up. And I think he was sort of rattling around in his plush apartment without – and in a way missed – I’m just joining dots here. I’m not certain I’m joining the right dots. Missed his mother's cooking.
His mother was – his mother who I went on to know really quite well, he missed it and the rest of his family as well. I think he'd been brought up into a house where there was someone cooking in the kitchen when you got home. And he liked that idea. He had the funds to replicate that. Didn't want his mother doing it, because he was a young man in his 20s. Behaving as young man in their 20s do. And so, maybe didn't want having mother there looking over his shoulder all the time. I can fully understand all of that. So, let's buy it in. Well, let's outsource this task, which great. And that's how that started.
[00:45:11] LB: Rachel, it's the outsourcing bit that's so fascinating. Because some people will be listening going, "Hang on. Presumably a football player." And we're focusing on football players just for a minute, because they're a good example of people who who tend – at least Premier League at least, tend to have the money for this. Yes, musicians, whatever. But we're talking specifically about performance nutrition. And there are of course some performing artists who I’ve worked with, for example, who had to approach their nutrition from a sport and exercise nutrition perspective because that was important for body composition and performance in the role for what they were filming, or dancing, or whatever, which is something we can expand to in a minute.
[00:45:48] RM: What we forget as people who watch musicians or sports people, is they do an awful lot of traveling. And they have to be on. When they're on, they've got to be on.
[00:45:58] LB: Of course. There are good reasons to outsource. And I think that's an issue here, is that it will be the spectrum of can't cook, won't cook scenario. To haven't got time to cook. And it's really a cost to benefit thing. They're traveling a lot. They're just busy, busy, busy, busy, busy, whatever, and all that you say. They're at a certain stage of life. And they don't necessarily want to be living at home, and for whatever reason. And although I’ve definitely forgotten what my twenties were like, there are scenarios where you don't want to be at home. Or at least you don't want parents from home in your home in those scenarios. Of course, you know.
But we are talking about the really rather fascinating situation where you've got these elite athletes and they do have certain requirements or demands from their food even if it's just actually eating rather than not eating, or at least eating proper food rather than junk food. But also, for the most part, there will be a club that they go to. There will be a nutritionist. Although, as we've discussed on this podcast many times, it's mind-boggling that still there aren't nutritionists at every club. And/or they're very part-time. They don't have time to work with players one-on-one. In fact, that's frighteningly common, which is why players will outsource not just for a private chef. But they'll also outsource for a nutritionist, which is a bit of a gray area. And I know that that can be a frustration for the club nutritionist.
But the fact is that there's a demand there that needs to be satisfied one way or the other. And when you're a well-paid football player, you will get what you want one way or the other. For you, you're being hired in for your professional expertise, your services.
I think what'd be interesting in this conversation is, obviously, we're moving away now from general population and specifically into, I guess, this area with football. I know you've worked a lot with football players, whether it's through their agents, or through club nutritionist, or a private nutritionist. Your role as the private chef, though, it's a fascinating place in that team, the team behind the team, or the team behind the player. Just tell us a little bit more about that aspect of your role.
[00:48:08] RM: Well, that leads on to multiple avenues we can go down. But in terms of what – I should just say that it's not just me doing this. I train people to do it as well. In my company, which is called Talk, Eat. Laugh. That's the joy thing, the laugh part. Life should be fun. But also, the work we do with all of our private clients that we can't talk about is discrete and delicious.
For discreet and delicious, I am training chefs who work one-to-one with a client. It's not just me. There's an army of us. But what is really important is this also feeds back feeds back into the Hell's Kitchen thing, is that as chefs, when we put on our whites, I always initially downplay all of that. It's important for me to be in my whites because I’ve earned the right to wear the uniform. And I wear it with a great deal of respect. And I’m a different person when I’m wearing my uniform. I’m not like Jacqueline Hyde, but I'm just like, "Okay, this is what we're giong to do, and da-da-da-da-da."
But people think people in chef's jackets going to be throwing knives, swearing. The one clip I do know about Hell's Kitchen is when the chef, who shall remain nameless, has two pieces of bread and puts it either side of someone's head and says calls them a stupid sandwich. That to me is a disrespect of my uniform that I earned the right to wear.
If a policeman was doing that to a member the public, then all police would be like shocked and embarrassed of their uniform, right? That someone seeing that on television, that is like that's not cool. Okay, it's done for a telly. But, I mean, it's done to get ratings. And so, that people like me will know that that thing exists. Brilliant at that. But that was done in a chef's uniform. That's not okay. That's massively not okay. Not cool.
Anyway. But I still wear my uniform because I’m proud of it. But when you go into someone's house, yeah, it's the very gentle, softly, softly. I don't know if you've ever fed a horse. But with a bit of [inaudible 00:50:29] that you've had in your hand, you put the bit of grass in your hand and you wait for the horse to come up to give you a sniff. See who you are. See if it knows you. And then goes, "Oh, you've got that grass in your hand. Oh, yes, I’ll eat that." That's what it's like. It's literally, you go in all gentle and let them come to you in case they think they're going to do the thing with two pieces of bread and call anybody a stupid sandwich. Because we're not doing that.
It's really about gaining people's trust. And the magic, the absolute magic of being a private performance chef is you build a relationship with the client, and you build a relationship with the nutritionist. And sometimes it can be the relationship between the clients and the – And it's an equilateral triangle. You've got the nutritionist in one corner. You've got the chef in another corner. And you've got the clients in another corner of your equilateral triangle. And so, you've got three lots of relationships going on as well.
[00:51:30] LB: You brought some mathematics back into this.
[00:51:33] RM: Yes, of course. Of course, we like triangles. Triangles tell us a lot about the whole world.
[00:51:37] LB: Tell us a bit more about that, though, because that is the trust. And you're saying things that are very much mirroring the things that I talk about that are important about being a nutritionist, is it's quite an invasive thing telling somebody what to eat, or what not to eat, or what to change. And therein lies some gray areas also that I feel are a weakness in some people in their practice, because they might be in a club setting and they sort of put up infographics and hand out charts but don't actually not just have that conversation or with a player individually, but get their trust by into the point that they are either in reality invited into their home or kitchen, or at least into their sort of their trusting circle at least actually listening to them.
[00:52:23] RM: There's no other way saying it. It's in a sanctum, isn't it?
[00:52:26] LB: It is in a sanctum. And it is a very difficult place to get into. And like you say, you've actually got to work at that a bit. But either which way, there is this sort of in a sanctum ecosystem of the player. In this case the nutritionist and a chef. There are three stakeholders there. You're not just cooking whatever you fancy. Although, that obviously is a scenario like you've said at the beginning. I’ve certainly had that. We initially just worked with a chef initially. And then we'll take you to the next level once we've got you into eating actually real food for once. And then we can tweak and perfect.
But obviously in the interest of time for the podcast, I think what's going to be interesting there is the dynamics beyond you and the player at this point. But between you and the nutritionist, but still incorporates the wishes, desires of the player. And chances are you're closer to the player than the nutritionist, because you're literally there all the time. The nutritionists might come in every couple of weeks sort of thing. That's the thing I’m super fascinated by.
[00:53:30] RM: Absolutely. There's always a lot going on. And there's only some of that that I will tell you, because –
[00:53:36] LB: Of course. No. Obviously.
[00:53:37] RM: Because a lot of it is private. So it can be that the relationship between the nutritionist and the client is quite fractious, because it has been a bit policy, and a bit body compy, and a bit the caliper thing, and a bit of the, "No, no, no. We'll have none of that." Kind of being like that.
And then the nutritionist says, "Why don't you work with a chef? Someone like Rachel or one of Rachel's team?" And so, then you're kind of tarnished with the no, no, no, calipers naughty boy thing. And so, you have to be very softly, softly then and go, "Look, we're not the police. A, we're not going to do this stupid sandwich thing. And B, we're not the police. We're here –" Who is paying you? The client is paying you. It's like we're here to help you. And so, you can be the mediator in all the relationships. And the calming influence.
I would say there's one really major, major thing we do, and that is we listen to the clients. And you know clients from working with them. But you probably seem much more of their public persona. You see them traveling. You see them playing. You see them after they've lost. You see them after they've won. You see their public facets of their character. At home, you see much more of their private facets of their character. And they are literally almost unrecognizable.
When I go and see the clients play, I can tell a lot about how they're feeling, their mood, by how they walk across the pitch. I’m like, "Oh, he's in a bad mood. What's happening there?" Because I know that's his bad mood walk from being in his house about his bad mood walk. Or just little things. Or his irritating gesture. Because he does that irritating gesture when he's at home. You see those things still. But it's the facets that you present are obviously different in different environments.
Anyway. It doesn't mean to say that someone can be – Well, someone can win the Ballon d'Or and no one listens to them in the course of a week. Everyone's telling them what to do or saying you did a great job. Or can you sign this for me? Or I want a selfie. Or I’ll sell you a car. Or I’ll give you this. It doesn't mean to say anyone has listened to them all day, all week.
We go and we ask the player, "What would you like to your dinner?" And we tell them, "Oh, your nutritionist says high carb today, low carb today. It's got to be really low fat today. It's going to be very high protein today." Whatever combination of whatever it is that the nutritionist has asked for.
And we listen to the player. We listen to the client. And they tell us what they would like. We write it down. We listen. If they say something and it's not clear, we ask for clarification. And then we show that we've listened, because it arrives on a plate in front of them. And that is such a bond of trust. Such a bond of trust.
And it's really important. If they say peas, but not the little ones. They're saying not petit pois. Okay. But it's not like, "Oh, well, you have to use the proper language." No. You're communicating. That's great. Peas, not the little ones. We give them peas not the little ones. I will tell all my chefs write down what they say. If they specify a certain thing, you write that down. Strawberries not with the white ends. Okay. Strawberries not with the white ends. That's important. They've gone to the bother of specifying it. It's important.
And then the other thing I would say, the magic is, that I used to say that what we do is take the food, take the nutritional guidance off the page and put it on the plate. Then I realized that's not it at all. That's the first step.
What we do is we take it off the page and we get it the other side of their taste buds, because your mouth is a Rubicon. You've got to get it past that in your eyes as well in some sort of cultural stuff you've got going on in your head, which are all valid reasons for eating, or not eating, or liking, or disliking food. Not arguing with that. But we need to get what the nutritionist has asked for across the other side of their taste buds and into their body. Because your taste buds are like what percentage of your body? Like, 0.001% of your body?
[00:57:55] LB: No. I don't know that fact actually.
[00:57:57] RM: It's mini-mini-miniscule. And yet your taste buds make quite a lot of your decisions, don't they?
[00:58:05] LB: They help for sure. Yeah.
[00:58:06] RM: Yeah. And what's important actually is the body that you feed behind the taste buds. But you've got to get it through that letter box down the other side of the taste buds. That's what we really do.
[00:58:20] LB: Rachel, what I like about this aspect of the conversation is the humanizing of the client. I imagine listeners like myself thinking about this. And you're sort of either putting yourself into this context or at least in your minds are. You've got your player. He's come home and closes the door and it sort, "Oh. He's at home," in his tracksuit, whatever, or her track suit. And they've gone from being a player to I’ve just come home from work. And it's been a good day. It's been a shitty day, whatever. You got a human being.
And I talk about this a lot with people on this podcast a lot, which is why I’m so obsessed with being mindful that we just don't throw science, sports nutrition science, biochemistry directly into our strategies and recommendations in as far as how we present that to our players, our clients, and whatnot. Because it is completely ignores the human aspect of this. And they applied the practical component of this. But more importantly, the importance of the needs and preferences of the individual, which frankly aren't listened to.
Or what happens, like you say, is recommendations are given in the form of a meal plan, a nutrition plan. You mustn't eat this. It's a low carb day. Or you've got to do this. But the reality is the player needs to eat something and they need to want to eat. Be motivated to eat. And to continue to take that advice and recommendation.
[00:59:51] RM: And have pleasure in food.
[00:59:53] LB: Pleasure, exactly.
[00:59:54] RM: If you think food is a punishment, and you have to eat this. And if you eat this, then it'll make you run faster, make strong give, or it'd be good for your immunity, but you hate it. Then that's like how is that good? Then you've filled the thing behind the taste buds. But the taste buds, they're connected to your brain. They're the thing that'll light you up well, particularly in my case. Lesser with normal people's cases. But even so, you need to have the pleasure in eating. Otherwise, it seems like it's a task.
[01:00:25] LB: Yeah. No. Absolutely. And you know, it's interesting you said what you said being in their kitchen and experiencing that. Almost like the parent sitting there, but without the emotional buy-in.
[01:00:38] RM: I mean, I’m happy always – No. I’m always trying to – I know a lot about nutrition. I would not call myself a nutritionist. That's not my job. My job is to work with the nutritionist. It's like a relay race. The nutritionist hands the baton to me, and I run.
[01:00:55] LB: Then you take it from there. Yeah.
[01:00:56] RM: And then I hand it back to the nutritionist because they do all the body pumps again afterwards. And then run with it. And they hand it to me. And I hand it to them. And they hand it to me.
[01:01:06] LB: That's a great analogy. Yup.
[01:01:07] RM: I don't need to be the nutritionist. I need to listen and understand to what the nutritionist says to me. And I need to make that into living, exciting food that the client will enjoy, enjoy eating. And once you start to get that relationship with the client, it's just like it lights them up. They love it.
We had very recently a client who was – I don't know how quite you'd phrase it in nutritionist words. But in like ordinary everyday words, he was on the naughty step. He'd been on the naughty step for a while. And the relationship with the nutritionist was fractious. That's how I inherited it. And it was like, "Why don't you talk to Rachel?" They were like, "Oh, I really don't think. Oh, oh, oh, oh." But eventually, the resistance got broken down and they said, "Okay, we'll give it a."
It's okay. We'll give it a go. We'll just be very gentle. We'll be holding the grass out for the horse. Wait for the horse to come and eat the grass. Give you a smell and see if they want to have anything to do with anything you've got in your hand. Okay. That horse starts eating. Yeah. It was very gentle approach.
And then after a couple of weeks the client said, "I’d like a pie." All hell broke loose. You're not having a pie was what the nutritionist said. I was like, "Okay. Okay. All right." Had a little quiet word with the nutrition. I said, "Now, how about a fake pie? We get some stew," which we've got some stealth vegetables hidden in. And that was the lovely Graham Close who taught me the concept of the stealth vegetable. We've got the stuffed vegetables in the stew. And then make a little tiny disc of pastry. Cook it off separately. And then clunk it on top of the stew. Like the size of like a digestive biscuit of pastry. Just a little disc of pastry.
And I said, "How about I do that and we call that a fake pipe? How about we try that?" And the nutritionist was like, "Okay." We did that. And everyone is so abundantly happy. Everyone's like skipping about with happiness. There we go. Job done.
[01:03:11] LB: And it's great, because it's an adaptation, isn't it? It's a solution to a problem through the eyes of somebody who wants to make it palatable to the eye, to the nose, to the mouth, to the brain and so on. Yeah, I love all that. The creativity is there within the sort of more scientific side of sports nutrition or nutrition. It's a very rigid sort of area. And I think that's the issue. I think that's something that comes out of this conversation is the fact that it isn't going to be –
[01:03:41] RM: Yeah. It's about the –
[01:03:42] LB: But as Mike says, it's not necessarily important to be quite – You don't need to be a perfectionist from the sort of the grams or whatever perspective the ratio is. But what is important is the player actually eats it, likes it, enjoys it and wants more of it. And then actually that gives you a vehicle to improve and tweak in time, doesn't it? Hence the passing the baton back and back. And I think that's what's important particularly if you're a listener and you're thinking about working. If you're a nutritionist and you're looking to work with a chef. Or you're working with a client and maybe you're going to step back and think, "Actually, how is this advice coming across? Maybe it is a bit too policy." You're on the naughty step. And you just need to step back a bit and then maybe put yourself in their eyes through the lens of the recipient, which can be very difficult if you've not been in in those shoes before.
A lot of us are into nutritional science or whatnot, and we have a certain background or a certain upbringing or whatever. It is sometimes difficult to put yourself in the shoes of the person that you're working with. But certainly, making an effort to do so would certainly help.
I certainly found that in tournament football. Because unlike club football, where the nutritionist comes in to work and goes home at the end of the day, often just for a day, a week, maybe two days a week, rarely. But obviously, some clubs do a full-time nutritionist. And it's growing.
In tournament football in my case, I'd lived with them for weeks to months, particularly in World Cup years. I’m literally living with them. And I sit next to them and I see the things that you've just described, which made a big difference to me and how I approached this stuff.
Look, Rachel. Look, my idea here was to sort of as you and me having a cup of coffee so to speak, a fancy one, in the kitchen, just talking about what it's like. And we could talk for hours and weeks. And to be honest, we'd have to be a fly on the wall just to observe the thousands, millions of different scenarios you're going to find yourself in. But it's absolutely fascinating to get this glimpse of your journey to be a private performance chef. But also, some of those gems that you've come up with.
But just to sort of finish up here. From your perspective, from your experience – of course, everyone's going to be different. And it will depend on the player, the nutritionist, the club, the chef, the dynamics, the circumstances, the context, my favorite word, it's all going to vary. But from your perspectives to where you are now, what are some of the main areas that you think support the need for having a private chef? And also, the second part of that is much of what you've just said really. Just a couple of key points that you think are important for nutritionists or clubs or whatever to bear in mind as it relates to working with a private chef.
[01:06:27] RM: I would say – Well, everyone's an individual. You have to start from that point and not make any assumptions about anything and to see how people present to you, what they give you, what parts of their lives and parts of their information, their brains, they're going to interact with how they're going to interact with you.
Some nutritionists that I have worked with will write you recipes, will write meal plans. And I would prefer not to deal with that, because I think that is – I mean, if you're going to do that, then the nutritionist can be the chef, right?
I’ve got my talents about making food look and taste amazing and being reactive. We worked with one chef, or one nutritionist, who is based in the south of France. And I was cooking for one of her clients who was a French who was in the British Midlands.
And in the middle of January she suggested tomato salad. There was snow on the ground. She was in Marseille. No snow on the ground for her. It's just like, "Darling, have some empathy. Imagine what we're dealing with here. Also, imagine the tomatoes I’m dealing with. Can we not? I mean, I have the magic. I know how to make any tomato taste at least halfway decent. But could we have tomato soup instead?"
And because the plant was French, they were like, "No, no, no. We've got to follow these instructions exactly." I’m like, "A tomato soup and a tomato salad, one's a more appropriate version of the other nutritionally. Let's do the soup." "No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. We're having a salad." Okay. We'll have salad. Snow on the ground, tomato salad. Okay.
I think it's better if nutritionists trust the chef to do the chef work and the chef trusts the nutritionist to do the nutrition work. It's a great team. It's like an architect and a master builder. And the information is not just one way. It's backwards and forwards all the time. You set out to – the architect sets out the plans like this. The builder encounters a problem. Straight on the phone to the architect, "Yeah, I can see your drawing, and I liked it. But actually this has happened. What's your suggestion?"
It's a really close, really fluid relationship bouncing ideas off each other, learning from each other all the time. And the boundary does kind of move backwards and forwards a bit. But that's good. I always trust the nutritionist to do the nutritionist's job. And we work with lots of different nutritionists. Everyone treats us differently. But that's great, because we can interact in a different way and learn from everybody. But then I never stomp my big foot and say, "Oh, it must be like this. Nutritionally, I think you're incorrect." It's not my place to say that. It's just not my place to say that.
We all bring our talents to the team for the benefit of the whole team. And as you say, we are the team behind the team. We are there supporting and really valuing people as individuals and helping them be the best person they can be to bring that to the team that they're part of. We're all like different parts of different circles of teams.
And it's a really wonderful thing once the client, especially if it's a client who has been on the naughty step, begins to trust you, and begins to enjoy food, and begin to realize that they can have what they want. But we might have messed about with the ratios, the produce, the fats, the carbs. You want a pie? I’ll give you a pie and it will be okay with the nutritionist. And we'll take a photo of it just to show him or her what we're doing and how we're doing it.
That's a magical moment when the client realizes it's not a fight. It's not fight. And sneaking of anything past anybody. You can eat all the food, all your favorite food, but we will have messed about with it slightly so that you're ticking your mental boxes of this is all my favorite stuff. But the nutritionist is happy as well. And you'll start to feel better in yourself and perform better.
[01:10:47] LB: No. It's great. And I think it's appropriate that we have the food police. We have an informant, various other things. And that is completely the wrong environment. And I’ve seen that for sure. I have, without mentioning names – I know I’ve spoke to a performance chef who was working with a player that I was working with once who initially was like, "Look, I don't mean to be rude. I don't know you. But I’ve had such bad experiences with nutritionists who've treated me like an idiot. I really just don't think I want to talk to you." Unfortunately, we ended up working quite well together.
But I think just having that respect for the player and the people that are in involved as their stakeholders, whether it's the chef, or their personal doctor, or personal physio, or the team physio, or whatever. I think, yeah. That's why I like having these conversations, because it's from the other side. We're all in it for the same reason, right? We're all there. But we do need to learn how to work together. And part of that will happen by being aware of each other's perspectives, and ideas, and thoughts.
And I think for a lot of people to be fair, they just hadn't realized. Didn't think about this stuff. Didn't know. And of course, different people will have different experiences. But it's been invaluable, Rachel, to learn from you today, talk to you. I’m super interested in what you do and how you do it. It's been very kind of you to give up your time. I know, as a chef, it can be crazy days even in private chef world. But I wish you the best of luck with everything that you're doing. And yeah, thank you so much for today.
[01:12:25] RM: Well, thank you very much for asking me to talk. It's always a pleasure, I feel, that i'm here to share as much knowledge as I have. I don't think knowledge belongs to me. Knowledge is a communal resource. If there's knowledge that happens to reside in my head and in no one else's head, then I’m more than happy to share that. Knowledge is for – if I say for the good of mankind, that sounds very sanctimonious. But it isn't – I don't want to keep what I know locked up in my head. It's for everybody.
[01:12:55] LB: It's not dramatic. It's true. Thank you. I’ll put links to your website, some various other things so people can contact you and look you up and so on. I highly recommend. I know you have a great reputation in the professional performance nutrition field having interacted with a few people that work with you without telling you that I have. And you've always come up very highly recommended. Hence, we're having this conversation.
[01:13:17] RM: Yes. But also, I'm quite memorable. I’m a girl in sport. That's becoming less rare. But it used to be when we went to visit training grounds, people would come up their offices and look at us, like, "Girls? What?"
[01:13:32] LB: What's that?
[01:13:34] RM: They wouldn’t be rude enough to go, “What are you doing here? Who let you in?” But you could see them thinking, “There’s some girls in the corridor. What are they doing?”
[01:13:41] LB: I know. I know. Well, I think that's the perfect way to end this conversation. What's this girl doing on this podcast? Anyway, thank you Rachel. It's been a pleasure. You take care.
[01:13:52] RM: Yes. And you, take care. Thank you very much.
[01:13:54] LB: Bye.
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