This week I took part in an unusual event in association with McLaren and its partner Hilton, where we had to judge a chef competition.
It was a bit like Masterchef and I got chosen to judge because I’m very interested in cooking.
And it really got me thinking about what F1 drivers eat.
The competition was looking for the chef who would cook the drivers’ food at the Italian Grand Prix, bearing in mind the nutritional balance that drivers need. I was asked to be a judge alongside some food professionals including Lindy Redding, who runs Absolute Taste, the McLaren catering company. I’ve known Lindy since the early 1990s when she got her first job as a cook with the Leyton House team.
She’s now married to Dave Redding, one of the McLaren engineers and Absolute Taste has become a huge business in its own right, even doing the back end work for Gordon Ramsay’s catering contracts.
It was fascinating to listen to Lindy talking about what drivers should and should not eat. Actually it turns out that they don’t have to be as obsessive as cyclists or footballers, they eat more or less the same things anyone would eat, which is a good thing as they are often dependent on hotel and restaurant food. But of course they have to avoid the bad things and avoid overeating.
Fish and chicken are the standards; protein and vegetables being the target for any meal.
Stamina is very important for drivers as is weight management. Dairy is to be avoided as is too much sugar, although Lewis Hamilton has a sweet tooth – I once observed him putting sugar on a bowl of Sugar Puffs! Mind you he’s not alone in that. Michael Schumacher also has a sweet tooth. In the Ferrari days he had access to a Carpigiani ice cream machine in the motorhome – his guilty secret!
Pasta is good on the day of a race, but it’s not a good idea to have tomato sauce as the after-taste becomes metallic and very unpleasant when racing!
Japanese food, sushi in particular, is very popular with the drivers, especially Jenson Button.
The winner of the competition we judged was Franz Conde from the Hilton in Amsterdam. He did a kind of carpaccio of salmon trout followed by a short-braised fish dish.
If McLaren win in Monza, it’s sure to be down the grub!