At around the time stars such as Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger or Franck Ribery first entered the world, chef Alfons Schuhbeck already had his feet well under the table at Bayern Munich. The born and bred Bavarian has worked for the German giants for 27 years, and he is on board for nearly every European match to look after the culinary needs of the stars on the road. He’s also been responsible for the catering at the club’s performance centre.
Schuhbeck has been among the finest chefs far beyond the borders of Bavaria for decades and has collected numerous international awards: on top of his Michelin star, awarded in 1983, he has 17 points and three toques in the Gault-Millau restaurant guide, and also has the Five Star Diamond Award.
Cooking may be the 63-year-old's vocation, but football is definitely his passion. FIFA.com spoke exclusively to the father of four about his beloved Bayern Munich, the FIFA Ballon d‘Or 2012 Gala, and the similarities between cooking and football.
FIFA.com: Alfons, cooking and football - are there any parallels?
Alfons Schuhbeck: If you put it simply then you always have the chance to start again in football and cooking. You can always put things right and quickly secure another win. It’s the same with cooking. If something goes wrong at lunch time, then you get back on track in the evening. If you want to achieve something in life, you have to be very disciplined and passionate in your profession, otherwise it won’t work. That’s true in football and cooking.
The FIFA Ballon d'Or for 2012 will be announced in January. Who do you think is the best player in the world?
It’s definitely Lionel Messi. He’s simply more flexible and agile than everyone else. He has an instinct for always being in the right place even though the ball hasn’t arrived. He also has a craftiness and very special charm. He seems to do everything easily. Not like someone who works so hard he starts puffing and panting. He’s always up to his tricks – or that’s what it looks like.
What would be your FIFA/FIFPro World XI?
I would put Manuel Neuer in goal; Philipp Lahm, Sergio Ramos, Nemanja Vidic and Jordi Alba in defence; Andres Iniesta, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Franck Ribery, David Silva, Cristiano Ronaldo in midfield; and Lionel Messi up front.
You always have the chance to start again in football and cooking. You can always put things right and quickly secure another win. It’s the same with cooking. If something goes wrong at lunch time, then you get back on track in the evening.
You have a close relationship with FC Bayern. Do you tell tales out of school?
Our job is to make sure FC Bayern always have food of the highest quality. I’m always involved unless it’s absolutely impossible. I enjoy going to work there just as much as I did 27 years ago. It’s always a thrill to experience the excitement and concentration before a game. Then there’s always the traditional post-match banquet. When I started it was difficult when you turned up somewhere and the chefs were perhaps more inclined towards the opponents. It’s all much simpler these days.
What were the happiest and saddest occasions on which you cooked for Bayern Munich?
The saddest is always when you lose, for example the Champions League final in 1999. You spend the whole evening with the players and nobody can really believe it. But life goes on. Nobody’s died or been murdered. Of course, the last time in Munich was terrible. The whole city was paralysed and almost deserted the day after. Everyone was down in the dumps. All the festivities had been planned and the defeat was a hammer blow. On the other hand, there was the final in 2001 in Milan, where Bayern won.
What are the key issues in cooking for professional athletes?
I believe it’s important for us to cook food in a healthy way so it benefits the players. The oil can’t be too hot, the vegetables should be steamed rather than boiled so they retain vitamins. There are techniques now which we didn’t know anything about in the old days. I think healthy food has to taste good. The Bayern players used to eat tomato soup followed by fillet steak and chips before a match – and they still won. Nowadays, food and football have both changed. Everything’s much quicker, there’s much more fuss and a heavier workload. The dining room is a quiet place where the players can relax. Food is very important for players as they need energy. But it has to taste right. Preparation is always crucial. You can make a mess of it all or do everything right. We serve up a good mood.
It says in the introduction to your FC Bayern cookbook that 'a good kitchen is like a good football team'. Can you explain that?
What we do is team work. One person can’t cook on their own. We’re a team as well. If you’re part of a chain, for example the person preparing the vegetables, then you can forget everything else. Nothing can happen if someone is missing. If a player isn’t well prepared, or hasn’t slept well, then he can’t perform either.
How would you add spice to football?
Spices are always stimulating, purifying, detoxifying, anti-bacterial and beneficial. You can’t achieve that with just one spice. As with a football team, you need several of them. You get a good mixture if you combine 11 spices. But it also depends on which spice you add. It has to taste good, be good and make you feel fit.