The private chef for Euro 2024’s biggest stars: ‘I need to Google some requests’

Private chef to footballing stars Jonny Marsh, who has teamed up with Deliveroo
Jonny Marsh has worked with footballers such as Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan - Deliveroo/Baller Bites

There is one key rule to remember when employed by a top-level footballer. However cordial they are, do not make the mistake of thinking they are your friend. No selfie requests for private chef Jonny Marsh, which partially explains why he has worked for some of the biggest names in the sport. His cooking probably has something to do with it, too.

“You have the keys to their house, the code to their gate,” he says. “People think you’re best mates with them. Of course you become close but I always think it’s very important not to cross a line.” Marsh has worked for several players at Euro 2024, including England’s Luke Shaw, Kyle Walker and Phil Foden plus Ilkay Gűndogan and Kevin De Bruyne. Marsh does not have a bad word to say about any of his clients but stresses the importance of professional distance.

“They’re not buying clothes or shoes off me, it’s not like this exciting thing - ‘oh my god, I’m seeing Jonny.’ I’m just there to make their tea and that’s it. I’m staff. If you think that you’re on their level, you’re not. If you don’t have that mindset, you won’t go back.”

Yet there is a certain intimacy to his work and Marsh can often second-guess what his clients will want to eat. Currently he is working with Cardiff City’s Aaron Ramsey and is so used to his routine he can predict what he will order for his entire week’s meals. Gűndogan was less straightforward. “Every day was different. He wanted to try different things, he said, ‘if there’s anything you want to experiment with … as long as it’s not got coriander in’.”

De Bruyne requested stoofvlees, a Flemish stew of beef braised in beer. “They have it in takeaways with frites, so it was a cheat meal.” In these moments it is Google to the rescue. “I’m not having that any chef on the planet has heard of a niche Belgian takeaway dish until they Googled it.”

Despite the reputation for modern football clubs to control everything about their players in minute detail, in Marsh’s experience they have been hands-off. Sometimes a club nutritionist might ask for help with a player who has vitamin or iron deficiencies but “if a player reaches out to me directly, the club really has no control”.

Most can be trusted to eat healthily most of the time but cheat meals assume a heightened importance when living such a regimented life. Most have one or two per week, usually the day after a game or the day before a day off. We are speaking during a Deliveroo competition to win a visit from Marsh during an England group-stage game. For the fans who miss out, what would Marsh recommend as a healthy option from a delivery app? “Anything high in protein is a pretty safe option. When I get a Nando’s I get spicy rice, tenderstem broccoli and butterflied chicken breast. I don’t think you can go wrong with that.”

Jonny Marsh during Deliveroo's Baller Bites for Euro 2024
Marsh says top-class footballers have a surprising amount of autonomy when it comes to their choice of food - Deliveroo/Baller Bites

Marsh trained at Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir in Oxfordshire - think La Masia with fewer rondos and more jus - then went private for a rarefied set, superyacht sorts. He attempted to start his own business which did not work out: “It was like Rochdale starting in the Champions League, it was never going to happen.” He responded by putting his name out, late nights messaging hundreds of potential clients on email and LinkedIn.

He had accepted a stage at three-Michelin star Noma in Denmark before he got a call from Manchester City. Shortly afterwards he was cooking Christmas dinner for De Bruyne. He is a United fan, but resisted the urge to make dodgy lasagnes for his City clients before derbies.

It is not the ultra-lucrative work some imagine. “People have this misconception that a private chef is absolutely swimming in money, which is not the case. It’s just a normal chef job except you’re not in a kitchen, you’re in someone’s house.”

So how can the average England fan eat like they have access to a private chef? Marsh is unconvinced by some current food fads. “The average person is very hung up on macros. I’ve never once done macros for a client in six years. The players eat well and move a lot and they’re the fittest people I’ve ever seen. There’s no need to overthink food. Move more and eat better, it’s just so simple.

“You never see an athlete on a particular diet, there’s no one on keto. There are vegans, vegetarians, pescatarians. But they all have carbs, they all have protein and they all have veg.”

Presumably there are some players who enjoy cooking and want to do it for themselves? “Of course. I just never meet them.”

Private chef to pro footballers, Jonny Marsh, has teamed up with Deliveroo to offer fans the chance to eat like an England player, winning an at-home dining experience on match days on June 20 and 25. Order from participating restaurants from June 14 to 16, to find out click here