Olympic champion and Riverford’s new ambassador Greg Rutherford tells Wicked Leeks why an athlete’s mindset helped him win MasterChef, his plans for retirement and why he loves cabbage.
When did you start getting interested in cooking?
I started cooking when I was 16. Really basic foods, chicken and rice etc. But it sparked a desire to open a restaurant, until I worked in one and realised it’s incredibly hard work.
What is an example meal you ate when you were training as an Olympian athlete, compared to your diet now?
I lived off meat and veg or salad. Most of the time, even in winter I’d use the BBQ to cook. So either steak, chicken breast and pork chops with any seasonal veg I could get my hands on.
What was it like on MasterChef, did you get nervous, or stressed in the kitchen?
I utterly loved being on MasterChef. I’ve learnt so much and developed a huge passion for cooking. It’s nerve-wracking every time you step into the kitchen, but I used the focus I learnt as an athlete to get my head down and focus in.
What would be your last meal on earth?
A massive roast dinner. Christmas dinner is a big deal for me. I cook multiple meats and all the trimmings. Homemade Yorkshire puddings (I’ve been developing the ultimate recipe to make sure they always rise), lashings of gravy and I’d be happy.
Do you miss elite sport, and what hobbies have you replaced it with (other than cooking)?
I was completely ready to retire. I had so many injuries it wasn’t fun anymore. I’ve replaced it with mountain biking, mudlarking (you’ll have to Google it) and cooking. I’m also around my family a lot more which is brilliant. I love being retired as I get to reinvent myself.
What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?
I have a huge passion for history. I always dreamt of being the presenter of Time Team with Tony Robinson. The aim is to work a lot more around history-based shows.
What’s your favourite vegetable?
CABBAGE! I utterly love cabbage, green in particular. From a young age it was always something I looked forward to.
How do you feel about being an ‘influencer’, and someone who has a platform through both food and sport?
I enjoy it. I’d like to think I generally put out positive posts and fun posts. You have to be careful though. It’s important for me to be a good role model, especially for the younger generation.
What issue are you most passionate about?
Child poverty in the UK is something that as a wealthy nation we shouldn’t be seeing. Everyone deserves a good meal and fruit and veg, but there are children out there who live off next to nothing.
Why did you choose to work with Riverford?
It’s important we maintain traditional farming methods, something that Riverford is doing incredibly well. We need more companies to take note and do the same.
Where are you happiest?
In the mountains. I’m obsessed with skiing and the fresh air. If I can’t be in the mountains, then a woodland with my family and dogs. I do my best thinking and totally switch off. I love it.