Food has always been important to me, a necessity being such and active little kid with adventure on his mind. Dad claims I was born with a knife and fork in my hands! I can’t argue, many of my memories are set around the table whatever the occasion. The first time I put the ‘Baggy Green’ on, we had Triple Mushroom Carbonara with freshly grated Parmigiana Cheese, garnished with parsley.
It was my Grandmother who really gave me a love and passion for cooking. She’d raise an eyebrow at meal time if there was shyness in her guests. She whipped up magical culinary delights from her home-grown garden and taught me the value of taking time to enjoy my family, experiencing together one of life’s simple pleasures – food! She loved anyone who enjoyed food. Luckily my wife Kellie, also a foodie, received the blessing from Grandma. I enjoy eating good food but I love cooking just as much!
PASSION FOR COOKING
My career as a professional athlete gave me so many opportunities to fulfil my passion for cooking. The doors have been enthusiastically opened for me, inviting me to experience so many incredible food and cooking experiences. I’ve been delighted to meet so many wonderful people and culinary experts from such a range of different cultures.
I’ve befriended chefs from world-leading restaurants and hotels and watched, listened and learned. I’ve been invited into the homes of the very rich and poor and taken an interest in acquiring recipes, sharing experiences and picking up cookery tips from all over the globe.
Food is a powerful reminder of the various roads I have travelled. Whether it was the ‘Meat Packing District’ in down town New York, the famous Chai Houses and street stalls of Mumbai, Bria’s, deep in the heart of the Maasai Mara Nature Reserves or Villers-Bretonneaux near Amiens in France… the list goes on but the truth remains, food reflects a town’s or city’s soul. Along with religion it sits at the corner stone of its culture and its people’s way of life, which fascinates me to no end.
The greatest benefit of travel to the individual, is that it opens you up to possibility. This open minded approach to life leads you to unique situations like the one I experienced in Sri Lanka. When training finished, everyone else went back to their hotel rooms in Galle. Had I not decided to go fishing beside a local Sri Lankan fisherman – who sat precariously on his cane fishing pole, eyeing off my carbon fibre fly rod and flashy hand tied flies – I would never have learnt how to cook in true Sri Lankan tradition. “Come back to my village,” said he.
Little did I know that when I entered into the realm of possibility, I would find out, as luck had it, that he turned out to be Head Chef at the famous Galle Face Hotel where we were staying for our Test Match against Sri Lanka. That night the cricketer disappeared and I entered the fascinating world of culinary explanation as he shared his great gift of knowledge with me. I have hundreds of such stories from all around the world.
I have never been backward in talking to people or simply watching them as they go about their lives. There is so much to be learnt. I often say that need more than one life here on this earth, such is the boundless possibilities of life in general and food more specifically. Food has been the fuel that helped me reach my potential as an athlete.
‘Knowledge is power’, so learning about my diet and modifying recipes to suit my needs has been key. It has helped recovery from training regimes, attaining peak energy levels for competition days and keeping my weight in check. The focus more importantly for me, always remains on living an active & healthy life, which naturally promotes a strong appetite & healthier eating choices. Food for me is not a competition or a regime but rather and opportunity, a gift of life.
There are two kinds of cooks: those that cook out of need, typically following recipes and those who cook to exercise their creative instincts, following their senses and life experiences to create something unique. These are soul Cooks who are often referred to as ‘cooking with love.’
Cooking is one of my passions, I love to share my foodie experiences and journey, inspired by characters I have encountered during the fabulous life gifted to me. I plan on building on my repertoire of food publications (Matthew Hayden Cookbooks 1 & 2) as it is something that really makes me happy.
When family & friends are gathered around the table for a home-cooked meal and I see the look of anticipation and delight on each face, I lovingly recall my grandmother’s advice, “Take the time to enjoy one of life’s simple pleasures – food!”
Here are a couple of delicious recipes which are as simple to make as they are delicious. Enjoy!