Kitchen Training For Rugby Squad

The Saracen players don aprons to learn new skills


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It may have been the heat of the ovens, but it wasn't only the staff at Leiths cookery school who looked a little pink in the cheeks when former international rugby players from the first team squad of the Saracens turned up.

The squad were completely newcomers to the kitchen. They might be able to tackle brawn on the pitch, but could they learn to whip up a souffle? Would they be able to cope with donning a pinny and comparing brownie recipes?

But the members of the team, including legendary players Matt Stevens and former South Africa captain John Smit, rose to the challenge every Thursday night for five weeks as they learned how to interpret recipes, use culinary terms and produce mouth-watering dishes.

Every week they embarked on a new challenge, from essential knife skills, which included filleting fish for a healthy fish en papillote dish, to trimming a rack of lamb for an impressive pistachio crusted lamb rack. The budding chefs even tackled baking as they whipped up cheese soufflés, decadent sour cherry brownies, lemon meringue tartlets, and an olive oil enriched Italian bread.

The cookery classes were part of the Saracens personal and professional development off the rugby pitch. According to NZRPA (New Zealand Rugby Players Association), who conducted a Retired Player Research Project, the average career span in professional rugby is 9 years and the average retirement age is 32.  

" Almost one-third of players said they were unprepared and struggled during their first three months post retirement. However those who studied and/or undertook work experience during their career had a smoother retirement transition,"according to the research published in August 2011.

“I was looking for something different to do having finished my degree and I’ve always had an interest in cooking,” explained back row forward Jackson Wray. “To be able to prepare and cook a nice meal is a great skill to have and it also gives a lot of satisfaction and pleasure to both yourself and others, so it was fantastic to be able to do the course. I really enjoyed it and I learned a lot… it helped having a great teacher at Leiths.”

“It’s also a great deal of fun,” added prop Carlos Nieto. “I really love my food so to be able to learn new skills that involve making food has made it really enjoyable for me. Not only that, but it’s also been great to socialise with some of the boys in a different environment. The course was fantastic with really helpful and friendly teachers at Leiths. I really learned a lot.”

Those who attended the course included John Smit (ex South African Captain), Matt Stevens (ex England International), Jackson Wray, Carlos Nieto (ex Italian international), and Nic Auterac (ex England under 20’s)

Camilla Schneideman managing director at Leiths adds, “We have seen an increased interest in bespoke courses for sports teams in recent months. Whether learning to fend for yourself or part of a career option. We hope more sporting clubs will follow Saracen’s lead, cooking is an essential skill that will last you for life.”

Leiths School of Food and Wine

16-20 Wendell Road


W12 9RT



November 16, 2012

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