Video: Learning to cook with the chefs at Cafe Football
- Credit: Archant
If I were to draw up a list of the 10 things I was best at, cooking would not be on it.
It’s not a skill I even claim to possess, let alone have in reality.
But it’s always been a case of “won’t cook”, rather than “can’t cook” – after all, who has the time or inclination to hone their skills before a hot stove when there’s a microwave to be used?
So the chance to learn from two top chefs at the new Café Football restaurant in Newham’s Westfield Stratford City was simply too good an opportunity to miss.
The brainchild of celebrated footballers Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville, the restaurant is not only a haven for footie fans, as the name would suggest, but somewhere for the foodies as well.
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There are no soggy pies or dodgy burgers here, or the type of themed gimmicks that could have seen the place carpeted in Astro-turf with punters forced to eat from football bowls.
Which was a shame, because had expectations been low, I might have had a reasonable chance of not disappointing.
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Thrust into chef’s whites and a slick brown overall, I certainly looked the part, maybe even felt the part, but it wasn’t long before I was looking and feeling like neither of those things.
Luckily for me, two- Michelin-star chef Michael Wignall and Café Football’s executive chef Brendan Fyldes were on hand to give me guidance as I made a hash of chopping and dicing.
They were both an integral part of creating the terraces-inspired menu that I was now being asked to help prepare.
Michael, Café Football’s creative director, said: “The inspiration behind the food here is dishes that you remember from your childhood memories – like things you got from the corner shop going to the football match.
“But it’s food that’s cooked really well with first-class ingredients.”
I’m halfway into doing my best to ruin some of those first-class ingredients when I’m suddenly entrusted with a blow-torch to finish off the flamboyant desert, the Melting Chocolate Football.
Like every dish on the menu, from The Half Time Orange to the Starting Eleven Platter, it has a nod to the sport beloved the world over.
“We wanted to have an experience that brings people together to talk about football through food,” explained Stuart Procter, managing director of GG Hospitality, which runs the restaurant that opened last December.
“The match you go to for 90 minutes is only a little part of your day. It’s meeting your friends and going to the pub after.”
Fingers slightly charred, I hung up my overall and left it to the experts, who by now had a burgeoning crowd of hungry punters to feed.
I was just in time to catch up with the day’s football before the final whistle and, modestly, set about updating my skills list.
Number 10. Cooking.