Graduate Stories – The Cook of Champions


On Saturday 27th May, our local team, Exeter Chiefs lifted their maiden Premiership title.  Twenty years ago, Exeter would be found in Rugby Union’s fourth tier.  Their rise to champions has been nothing short of miraculous and celebrations no doubt ran long into the night.

Amongst those celebrating, would have been an ex-pupil of Ashburton Chefs Academy, Roger Hay, who trained with us in 2016 and is now the chef for Exeter Chiefs.  Before the excitement of the premiership final at the home of Rugby, Twickenham, we caught up with him to learn a little more about his role with the club.

Hi Roger, for a bit of background, what was your level of cookery experience before you came to Ashburton?

I’d always wanted to be a chef, ever since I was a little kid, but I didn’t go down that road initially.  I’d only describe my abilities prior to joining Ashburton as a passionate home cook.  I hadn’t done any professional cookery at all.

And what is your role in the club?

I’m the Player’s Chef.  I cook for the players and the coaching staff.

How did that come about?

It was actually advertised through Ashburton.  I got an email about the position from the Chefs Academy.  A few of us were shortlisted, and given a trial day each, and luckily for me, they offered me the role.

Here’s the obvious question Roger: Are you a fan of Rugby?

Well I am now obviously.  I’d played it in school, though I never had a great interest in it though.  But of course now that’s changed.  I’m part of the team now.

What’s your schedule like?

I cook for the team during the week on training days, breakfast and lunch, usually about 70 to 80 people.  On match days I get involved in the carvery for the spectators, and the players after the match, for both the home and away teams.

Do you have strict dietary guidelines to follow?

Well breakfast is usually a Full English.  They need the energy levels to sustain performance.  Though there’s a lot of healthy and balanced options for them as well, and they have more options over lunch.  The trick is to try and keep it varied and not to repeat meals too often.  They’re allowed a treat every now and then, but nothing deep fried.

How do you enjoy the job?

I absolutely love it, it’s brilliant.  It’s suit me down to the ground.  I get to cook things that I like, rather than working off of someone else’s menu.  It’s very demanding, but I’ve been here 8 months and I know what they like and what they don’t like.  I know I need to hide certain vegetables in dishes so they don’t know they’re eating it.

It must be quite exciting being in that environment with all the ups and downs you get in a season?

Well yes.  They’ve been winning quite a lot recently.  Which I’m sure is all down to my food.  Well, that’s what I keep telling them anyway.  And the training from Ashburton helps.

Since you bought us up, how did your training at Ashburton benefit you in your job?

The most beneficial part of the course for me personally was the Dining Clubs that we held at the end of the training.  It’s a lot of pressure and that certainly helps prepare you.

Do you set the whole menu yourself?

Yes I do.  Though I work closely with the sports and rehabilitation coaches.  But I’ve been here long enough that I’m really left to my own devices.

What’s your favourite memories of being at Sandy Park so far?

Serving 80 Pork Tenderloins that they absolutely hated.  They just keep ribbing me mercilessly for that, so it’s stricken from the menu forever.

It’s also great when you cook something they all love and keep asking you for it again.  I made a Moussaka which took a ridiculously long time to prepare.  I keep promising I’ll do it again, but it’ll have to be when I have the time.

Maybe that could be their bonus if they go on to win the Premiership?

Yeah, that’s a good idea.  Maybe if the boys can win it, I’ll make them Moussaka again.

So there we have it.  Now we know that the player’s bonus for winning the Premiership title was Roger’s famous Moussaka.  It must have been that which spurred them on.

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