The man cooking up Premier League titles, Wimbledon championships and more

To mark the start of the new Premier League season, Ziyad Broker speaks to Jonny Marsh, a private chef who’s cooked for the country’s most talented footballers

Friday 05 August 2022 16:51 BST
Jonny Marsh has become the go-to chef for top Premier League talents
Jonny Marsh has become the go-to chef for top Premier League talents (Chef_jonnymarsh/Instagram/Getty/The Independent)
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What do Kevin De Bruyne, Ilkay Gundogan, and Phil Foden have in common?

They are all Manchester City players. They are all Premier League champions. And, they’ve all used the same private chef: Jonny Marsh.

Marsh has always had a talent and passion for cooking. “I started cooking when I was really young, like 18 months old,” he tells The Independent. “My mother would put me in a chair and I used to help her bake cakes … I think that memory has really inspired me along the way.”

Soon, Marsh began to understand his unique talent. “After a while, I realised that I had knife skills within me, a natural ability to understand different cooking techniques, styles and dishes.”

Evidently, the legendary Raymond Blanc agreed. Marsh managed to land a job at Le Petit Blanc, where he was able to hone his craft and learn the ropes of being a professional chef. His performance was so impressive that Blanc wasted no time in offering Marsh an apprenticeship at Le Manoir – his two Michelin star restaurant. But after only a couple of years, Marsh became hungry to build a reputation for himself.

“I always had that drive of wanting to do my own food. I felt freed by the idea that I could cook my own dishes – I really couldn’t wait to get out there and do it myself, ” Marsh says, adding: “Being a private chef gave me the opportunity to travel and to see parts of the world I’d never even imagined.”

I got invited to cook for Kevin De Bruyne over a week at Christmas. It was a surreal experience and I was very proud at the time

Marsh’s later foray into sports nutrition happened naturally. He had always been a big sports fan, watching a lot of football and rugby in his youth. When Manchester City came calling, he didn’t think twice and grabbed the opportunity with both arms. “I got invited to cook for Kevin De Bruyne over a week at Christmas,” he explains. “It was a surreal experience and I was very proud at the time.”

De Bruyne loved Marsh’s food, even asking him to cook permanently. From then on, his stock rose: “Things just kind of exploded … I cooked for Ilkay Gundogan, Kyle Walker, [Oleksandr] Zinchenko, Leroy Sane and even players from other teams, like John Terry and Paul Pogba.”

Marsh thinks his cooking style is what attracts so many footballers. He believes that sport is undergoing a shift, reflected in the culinary sphere too – a movement towards healthy but delicious dining. On an almost weekly basis, Marsh sits down with people like Tom Parry, Manchester City’s dietician, to tailor his cooking to the health and performance demands of each player. “Over the years, Tom and I have worked closely together to design individualised diets for Manchester City players, whether that be gaining or losing weight, increasing protein intake or anything else.”

Having cooked for so many successful footballers, Marsh believes his vast repertoire of food has been essential. “Throughout my career as a private chef, I have understood that we always need to adapt and learn. Even with just my football clients, I have cooked vegan chilli con carne for John Terry, Thai green curry for Troy Deeney and pomodoro pasta for Luke Shaw.”

Delivering a balance of nutritious and flavourful food is vital to Marsh. In the pockets of free time he has, Marsh is sure to explore new flavour combinations, tweak dishes for the better and master any unfamiliar cuisines. But he doesn’t embark upon this process blindly – he makes a conscious effort to understand his client’s specific taste preferences. As he puts it: “No matter who I am cooking for, I always make sure to get their likes and dislikes. To me, the best way to discover someone’s palate is by asking them about their favourite and least favourite dishes.”

One particularly memorable experience for Marsh was cooking for five-time tennis Grand Slam champion Jamie Murray (chef_jonnymarsh/Instagram)

Marsh has been lauded for his keen attention to detail and ability to transform unhealthy dishes into nutritious favorites. “Lots of clients tell me that they love a good burger and chips, but there’s no way I could serve that everyday: it would be too unhealthy. That said, why can’t I do a lean turkey spicy cajun burger with guacamole, a homemade tomato salsa and polenta fries?” For Marsh, it’s all about leveraging tastes and preferences for culinary innovation. With a wild imagination to match, it’s no wonder he’s become such a popular chef.

In fact, it’s this adaptability that has caught the eye of other celebrities – tennis stars, actors, fashionista billionaires and more. One particularly memorable experience for Marsh was cooking for five-time tennis Grand Slam champion Jamie Murray. “I will always remember working with him at Wimbledon. It was great to play even just a small part in his success. Tennis is a game of intensity and endurance – I can only see healthy diets playing a bigger role in the future,” he says.

But as much as Marsh cooks for A-list celebrities, he also appreciates the opportunity to cater for everyday clients – creating memorable experiences to treasure for a lifetime. He has had the pleasure of working on birthday parties, Christmas celebrations, New Year’s dinners and even Bat Mitzvah celebrations. For him, the benefit of working on these events is clear: “There’s something so fulfilling about seeing the gratitude and appreciation that others have for your efforts. I love the idea of creating lasting memories and these events help me do that.”

Like it or not, Marsh’s “garden to plate” philosophy is here to stay. He says: “My cooking is all about recreating that pure childhood memory of picking vegetables in your garden. It’s about harnessing healthy, fresh, nutritious resources to the best of my ability.”

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