Serving up soup-er success at Burnley
THE Clarets are cooking up a storm in the Championship this season, and it is not just those on the pitch that Sean Dyche is keen to give credit to.
There are key players off the pitch too in the manager’s eyes, like Steve Howarth.
“The chef is relentless,” Dyche has said on more than one occasion this season, usually during pre-match press conferences when the gathered media are treated to a serving of some fresh, home-made soup.
It can be something as simple as tomato and herb soup; as hearty as chicken and vegetable broth or something as adventurous as smoked haddock and potato.
“It’s more of a chowder,” Dyche noted.
Whatever he serves up, Howarth has yet to find one that the Burnley boss does not agree with.
They are all winners in his eyes.
Yet Howarth admits he finds it odd when he comes in for public acclaim from “the gaffer”.
“It’s very strange,” he smiled. “I’ve never had that before.
“The way I see it, and I’m sure it’s the way that everybody sees it, they’re just coming in and doing their job and doing their part.
“But it is nice. It definitely makes you feel more appreciated and more wanted as part of the group because of the manager’s approach.
“Everbody, right the way through – not just at the training ground but through the club – feel much more integrated and much more a part of what’s going on.
“It’s a good environment to come to work in. It’s not a bad office either, it’s even better in the summer when the sun’s shining.”
Abiding by the ‘one club mentality’ Dyche spoke of trying to establish when he was first appointed, the Burnley boss makes a point of recognising the efforts of all club staff when necessary.
And Howarth is no exception.
The team chef is fuelling the promotion push, quite literally.
“I feed approximately between 60 and 70 people a day for breakfast and lunch,” he said, adding that his working day begins around 7.30am and only ends long after the players have left the building, the kitchen is clean and preparation is done for the following day.
“Breakfast is various different eggs – scrambled, poached, different omlettes. We use about 150-200 eggs a day.
“We have porridge and baked beans and all the different cereals and dried fruits.
“At lunchtimes I’ll do the soup, a salad bar and two or three hot dishes, variations on pasta or rice – just trying to mix it up and keep it interesting and colourful and as healthy as possible.
“You’ve got to give them a good, reasonable balanced diet.
“Closer to matchdays you cut out a lot of things. You’ve got to give them carbs (carbohydrates) for energy, try not to give them any red meat because it’s hard to digest.”
With increased emphasis on sports science and nutrition, Howarth is having to consider elements other than just taste and texture.
“Things high in Vitamin C help to stop muscle fatigue, the different fish and vegetables high in Omega 3 (which helps to prevent muscle damage and soft tissue injuries) and the different oils that it comes in that I use for cooking with,” he said.
“There are other oils that I put into things that help with the fat burning process to help keep them slim.
“Generally people think that fat is something that can make you fat, but in reality there are a lot of good fats which if eaten in the right way at the right times will actually help you to burn fat.”
Yet despite a wealth of knowledge and 18 years’ experience Howarth’s career path came about quite by accident.
“I didn’t really want to become a chef, it kind of just happened,” said the 36-year-old.
“I went to college to study a BTEC in outdoor and leisure, teaching kids to rock climb and other outdoor pursuits like that. It’s something I did quite a bit of.
“But when I was 17 or 18 I started working in a kitchen washing up for a friend of mine. Then he gave me a bit more money to help him prepare food and it went from there.
“My friend moved to a different place and asked me if I’d join him, so I then went on the side of a proper apprenticeship as a junior chef in Skipton, where I’m from.
“I did my training on the job at the places I worked. I’ve been to night courses to get health and hygiene qualifications, but I haven’t got any formal catering qualifications.
“I think that happens quite a lot in catering, it is very much an on-the-job training sort of thing because you’re working with different people and pick things up from them.”
Howarth arrived at Turf Moor seven years ago and has been stationed full-time at Gawthorpe since the training ground revamp under Eddie Howe three years ago.
He was fairly apathetic about football at first, but not now.
In fact, his job means that he is unable to watch as much of the action in home games as he would like, for on matchdays he prepares food for the Chairmen’s Lounge, among others, in the Bob Lord Stand.
This culinary Claret will hope that Roman Abramovich, Delia Smith et al are tucking in at Turf Moor again next season, should Burnley succeed in dining at English football's top table once more.
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