The endurance, physical strength, determination and dedication required to become a competitive sportsperson are a unique set of qualities and there are a surprising number of people working in the culinary world today who started out as professional athletes.
From Slovenian skier turned skilled kitchen operator Ana Roš, to Peruvian skateboarder turned purveyor of Peruvian delicious Virgilio Martinez, we've rounded up a collection of world-famous chefs who were once competitive, pro-athletes.
We also spoke to Andy Cheers, a psychologist at MindMatters CBT, to understand more about why it is that so many sports stars seem to have what it takes to shine in the kitchen:
I think the correlation is their personality traits. It’s more about their personality and desire to succeed and be the best in whatever field they throw themselves into than the field they start in.
The type of personality it takes to be a top-class sportsperson is the same type of personality it takes to be a top-class chef. They are "Type A" personalities, willful, very strong, they tend to know what they want and go get it, generally.
Cheers agrees the adrenaline of a busy kitchen holds its attractions but he thinks the adrenaline of being a chef lies in a more direct link with the food being prepared.
The adrenaline is obviously an attraction. You can have the adrenaline in creating the perfect dish that looks great and is perfectly appetizing, or you can have the adrenaline of watching somebody eat that dish…Scoring a goal in the final is the same adrenaline release as creating an amazing dish. It’s the same hormonal response, the same physiological response. I don’t think to be a chef has quite the gravity of sports at this point but the food audience is very focused and it has the same effect.
I also think some sportspeople become chefs because of an interest in nutrition. As a sportsperson, you pay attention to the fuel you’re putting in your body, nutrition, how things are cooked and how to make a balanced diet. When it’s time to start looking to branch out into a new profession you’ve already got an interest. You’ve also already got a desire because that desire is innate, it’s in your personality to be the best. You have that tenacity and determination to be the best in the field that you pursue: you were successful as a sportsperson and you will be the best when you go into the kitchen.
Here are some of those sports stars turned top-class chefs. A collection of people who went from cycling, skiing, skateboarding and scoring goals to focus their razor-sharp attention on food.
1. Ana Roš the downhill skier
Ana Roš was a talented sportswoman as a teenager. A keen skier at the national level, she admits she wasn't a natural winner and gave up the competitive sport in her late teens. However, these days she's leading the field, being named the Best Female Chef in the World in 2017. A great stamp on gastronomy for the tenacious, self-taught chef from Slovenia's Hiša Franko restaurant.
2. Daniel Humm the cyclist
At just 14 years old his passion for the sport led him away from the classroom and into pursuing a career on two wheels. He competed as part of the Junior Swiss National Team, until being forced to give it all up after an injury some eight years later, embarking on a life in the kitchen instead.
Now the driving force behind some of the world's best restaurants, he attributes his sports training with fueling his culinary ambitions “The kitchen had this sense of athleticism. It almost felt like sport. To be honest, when I stopped cycling at 22 and really dived into this career fully, I feel like I made cooking my sport," he told the Mayfair Times.
3. Bjorn Frantzén the footballer
Photo Martin Botvidsson
The 42-year-old former football player and chef, Bjorn Frantzén, runs the first-ever Swedish restaurant to win three Michelin stars, Frantzén in Stockholm.
The Swedish chef played football for Stockholm-based football club AIK Fotboll between 1992 and 1996 before settling on his culinary career and honing his skills at restaurants like Chez Nico's, Dining Lettonie and Pied a Terre. His portfolio of projects now stretches as far as New York, Hong Kong and Singapore.
4. Gordon Ramsay the footballer
The outspoken British chef needs little introduction with his TV chef persona speaking volumes on either side of the Atlantic.
While the charismatic chef's string of Michelin stars and accomplished kitchen career speak for themselves, a degree of confusion concerns the validity as to his youth as a professional footballer for Glasgow Rangers.
A statement in the Daily Mail reads "Gordon Ramsay was a promising schoolboy who was monitored by Rangers over a three-year period during his school holidays when he attended their Youth Policy. During this time he played a couple of non-league matches as a triallist. A knee injury put paid to any further hopes of being signed by Rangers.'
5. Christian Milone the cyclist
From bicycle to haute cuisine. The 40-year-old Italian chef Christian Milone from Michelin star Trattoria Zappatori in Pinerolo in north-west Italy began his professional life in a competitive career, made up of diets, training and sacrifices as a racing cyclist, which also saw him compete in Giro d'Italia in 2002. At 25 years old, having competed for 10 years, he abandoned the bicycle and returned to his family passion and restaurant Trattoria Zappatori.
6. Virgilio Martinez the skateboarder
The groundbreaking Peruvian chef from Central in Lima wasn’t always found scouring the Andes for indigenous ingredients, but in a skate park training 15 hours a day.
With a dream of being a pro skateboarder, Virgilio Martinez invested every waking hour in training, even going to California to pursue his dreams of a skating career. However, an injured clavicle and shoulder eventually forced him to quit and return home where he began his incredible culinary journey and continues to be a driving force behind Peru's world-class food reputation.
7. David Andres the hockey player
Young Spanish chef David Andrés has already achieved more in his sporting and culinary career than many achieve in a lifetime. Named the best young chef in Spain and Portugal on three consecutive occasions in the S.Pellegrino Young Chef competition, as well as being listed in 2017 Forbes Magazine as one of the 30 young most influential young people in the world, he didn't step foot inside a professional kitchen until he was 20 years old.
The once European champion hockey player attributes the skills learnt in a competitive team sport as fundamental in giving him the spirit and grounding to embrace a culinary career at a high level.
Mentored by Jordi Cruz at ABaC restaurant in Barcelona he went on to open his own restaurant Somiatruites, aged just 25, with his brother. He continued to work both jobs in unison when starting out "something that would not be possible if I did not understand the restaurant trade as a sport" he told La Moda.
These days he wears a distinctive pair of green trainers to remind him to keep his feet on the ground!