Ever wondered what Chris Froome, Geraint Thomas and their fellow star riders at Team Sky eat on the Tour de France? Vélochef, by Henrik Orre, provides some of those answers, as well as giving a fascinating insight into the workings of a top racing team, while offering no less than 80 nutritious recipes for you to recreate at home.
Orre’s background makes interesting reading; hailing from Norway, his father and brother were cyclists, competing at both national and international level. Although Orre had no desire to race himself, he has always had a love for the sport, cycling for pleasure and the beauty of the bicycle itself. From the age of 15 he was determined to become a chef, working his way up to assisting the celebrated Trond Moi for four years in Oslo, before moving to Stockholm where he worked as Head Chef in a restaurant with two Michelin stars. In 2011 he branched out on his own, and one of his first jobs took him back to the cycling world he loved, as chef for the Norwegian Cycling Federation. Then in 2013 he was invited to visit Team Sky’s training camp in Mallorca and has been working with their permanent chef Soren Kristianssen ever since.
We know, as endurance athletes, professional cyclists have to consume a huge number of calories - meaning that they can get incredibly bored with healthy eating. This presents Orre with a few challenges so that, “I don’t just have to cook tasty food – that goes without saying – I also have to spend time thinking about presentation, colours and how it’s served. Not unlike how it’s done in a restaurant.”
Orre’s love for bikes and cycling is borne out in Vélochef with a whole chapter on that most classy of all Italian bespoke bicycle manufacturers, Passoni. He explains how the craftsmanship involved in creating the world’s most beautiful bikes is similar to his job: “we are both craftsmen creating everything from scratch… and sourcing local ingredients.” There are some great shots of him admiring the wonderful titanium frames in the factory in Milan, no doubt dreaming, like the rest of us, of actually owning one, one day.
The book, which is arranged as pre vélo, vélo and après vélo, also includes chapters which provide a fascinating insight into the behind the scenes world of the pro riders and their specialist diets. I learnt that Team Sky doesn’t have its own catering vehicle and that the chefs must double up in hotel kitchens en route. “But sometimes there’s resistance. Some of them will just say no, we’re not allowed into their kitchens.” He goes on to say, “working with the best cycle team in the world isn’t exactly glitter and glamour. On the contrary - it’s hard work. But I love it!”
There are some delicious and healthy recipes here for cote du bouef, mussels in beer and tiramisu, as well as many more savoury and sweet dishes that had the Ride Velo household dribbling, although we weren’t so keen on the breakfast ideas of broccoli salad with brown rice and pomegranates – yuck! However, the chapter on DIY energy bars really inspired us. I bet you’ve completed a long sportive and felt physically sick afterward having consumed litres of disgusting energy drinks and, even more offensive, gels. How refreshing to see a variety of tasty energy drinks and snacks minus the chemicals and preservatives and, not to mention inflated prices, that manufacturers charge. Even better, savoury and protein filled bars and sandwiches to eat on route. I don’t eat much sweet stuff at the best of times, so savoury snacks are a rare treat on a long ride.
The recipes are uncomplicated and easy to follow, not intimidating like most offerings from top chefs. They do call for the kind of ingredients most of us don’t regularly keep in our kitchen cupboards, like date syrup and coconut palm sugar, but there are great recipes for family favourites such as lasagne and mushroom risotto too.
The photos are one of the highlights of this surprising book – taken by Patrik Engstrom, a photographer with a special interest in cycling. What’s interesting about Vélochef is the way the metallic elements are presented in the photographs – knives and metal pans juxtaposed with titanium and steel bike parts, harking back to Orre’s Passoni passion. Vélochef is a beautifully presented cookbook, which is also a great read in itself. The 80 highly nutritious recipes are almost an added bonus!