Collingwood cooks up a storm in face of bad-boy chef's barrage

After Warne's sledging, Marco Pierre White's kitchen should have been as easy as pie.
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It probably does not require a total rewriting of sporting history to substantiate the claim that professional cricketers, and what is and is not in their job description, have changed rather radically over the years.

Legend has it that on the day England would embark on tour in the Thirties, fast bowler Harold Larwood could be found with his feet soaking in vinegar, vowing to bleed for captain and country. Yesterday, before flying out with the squad to Sir Lanka, Paul Collingwood, Ian Bell and Alastair Cook could be found in aprons, wearing little hats in the kitchen of a trendy Chelsea eaterie, vowing to peel for Marco Pierre White. It was not bodyline they were fretting about so much as their pastry lines.

The trio were there because of contractual obligations to the national team's sponsors, Vodafone, and not because of any burning, or even "slightly caramelised", desire. The venue was Marco, the new restaurant at Stamford Bridge which White swears was named after his son (who, OK, was named after his dad) and not, as first thought by the Blues' faithful, after Marco Ambrosio. This promotion was cleverly called "Bell's Kitchen", although they could, obviously, have used one of the other surnames to this end – "Ready, Steady, Collingwood" has a ring to it.

In the event, it was England's one-day captain who was the star of the show. It was his banter with the original badboy chef that lit up proceedings.

As the man who famously taught Gordon Ramsay everything he knows – even, it must be assumed, those naughty little phrases – White can be some taskmaster and Collingwood arrived "expecting knives to be thrown around and lots and lots of insults". He was in for a pleasant surprise. "Marco was actually very nice to me," said Collingwood. But then, when you're used to having Shane Warne barking inside your ear about the MBE you earned "for scoring 10 at The Oval", it must be all too easy to shrug off the odd criticism about the consistency of your Béarnaise sauce.

Not that the accompaniment to Collingwood's rib-eye steak deserved to escape censure or, for that matter, the bin. Twice White instructed the all-rounder to throw it away and start again. Why? "You're not whisking hard enough," came the retort. "In fact, you're stirring, not whisking."

"What's the difference?" cried Collingwood.

Thankfully, he eventually got it and mighty complimentary White was, too. But as we were essentially talking steak and chips, cottage pie (Bell) and fish pie (Cook) perhaps it was not the glorious debut of "Twenty20 cooking" we had just witnessed. Saying that, Cook did have every right to feel proud of his exquisite mash piping.

It was not all backslaps and Michelin stars, though, as there was a worrying trend by the ovens. "It's too bloody hot in here," said Bell. "I know, my top's sticking to my nipples," said Collingwood. "I'm sweating buckets," said Cook. Lads, you're going to Sri Lanka. In their summer. Don't do this to us.

White probably won't be watching. Do you like cricket, Marco? "I like watching the village green variety, but I don't like Lord's and all that corporate stuff," he explained, as he sat in the restaurant that has replaced the fish and chip shop at the Bridge and where you can buy a two-course lunch before kick-off for £39 (wine not included). Yes, irony was on the menu in west London yesterday. So long as you didn't have it with the Béarnaise sauce.

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