James Haskell Talks Food
Rugby ace James Haskell talks fit food, Fulham and why he’s teaming up with England football’s top chef
England rugby star and ex-Fulham resident James Haskell has teamed up with the man who cooked the England football team to (near) victory in the 2018 World Cup – Omar Mezaine, on his quest to create a no-nonsense approach to training and eating healthily. Together, the duo have created Cooking for Fitness, a 79-recipe cookbook for fitness enthusiasts.
Previously part of the creative team at Ralph Lauren Home for more than a decade, he branched out on his own and is known for his eye for detail and high-end glamour. One of his biggest to date was a Surrey Hills country mansion. “Because of its scale, it took a longer time to complete and took time to understand the client, the space and how to design each room with a unique style. The size alone of the property was a challenge but part of the brief was to reuse some of the client’s existing furniture in the scheme. It was so rewarding to see the house come together after more than four years of work and planning, but most of all to see the client’s reaction.”
While Omar has worked with the England football team, the GB Olympic rowing squad and Wasps rugby team, James has over 78 senior England Caps to his name and has spent his career eating to enhance performance. Recently married to similarly svelte, strong and fitness-minded Chloe Madeley, daughter of Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan, James’s home life also revolves around sport and keeping fit.
“Understand what you put in your body and stick to the science not the fads.”
What’s different about Cooking for Fitness?
People think diets are so complicated and there’s so much inaccurate stuff written around diet. People don’t understand the difference between eating for muscle gain and eating for weight loss, for instance, so I wanted to create a book that was really simple. I didn’t want people to be having to find stupid health food shops and weird and wonderful ingredients that cost a fortune and that they’ve never heard of. Our book focuses on quick, easy recipes, and uses honest uncomplicated ingredients, most of which will already be in your kitchen cupboard.
What are your golden diet rules?
My cardinal rule would be to understand what you put in your body and stick to the science not the fads. Track what you’re eating so you know exactly what you’re putting in your body. When you write it all down you’ll be amazed at the treats and things you didn’t even notice you snack on stacking up. The recipes in Cooking for Fitness are split into low-carb and high-carb meals, to reflect different training days. For those who track their fitness using the MyFitnessPal app the recipe barcodes can be scanned for easier and instant tracking.
Which food trends annoy you?
I think the waist training corsets are ridiculous and I’m not a big fan of the detox stuff and juicing diets. There’s a lot of research that questions if there’s even such a thing as having a body detox. One thing that really annoys me is people and celebrities on social media saying ‘oh do what you want’ and ‘eat what you want’ when they’ve had all the plastic surgery going to make themselves look so good or all nipped and tucked. It’s sending the wrong message – they haven’t got that body by eating exactly what they want. It’s great to be comfortable with who you are, and by all means do what you want to do and be who you want to be, but you can’t eat all the doughnuts and expect all the results.
We hear you used to live in Fulham
Absolutely, I lived in Parsons Green and three different places around Fulham and loved it. We had some really good times there. I liked the restaurants around Parson’s Green and used to go to the White Horse. When I was a youngster, I played in the annual Rosslyn Park Sevens near Barnes. I have a friend who plays for Rosslyn Park now so I go down there to watch sometimes. In the past I’ve also done community and schools outreach work around Richmond after playing England games at Twickenham, which is really great to do.
Any advice for budding rugby players?
I think the first thing you should do is play all sports as much as you possibly can. And enjoy yourself. I think it’s great to have a plan, to have a passion and want to be a sportsperson, but take all opportunities that present themselves as well.