It always seemed tough on Andy Murray that he had to inherit Henman Hill to make a spot of the All England Club his own. But, as of The Championships 2013, Murray can claim not just the re-named Murray Mound but a genuine initiative: Murray’s Maki Bar.
In response to the British No.1’s love of sushi, the Competitors’ Facilities now feature a take-away Japanese food hatch – where you can glimpse two local trained itamae dressed in the traditional white chef’s coat and black hat rolling out vinegared rice, seaweed and raw fish slices to create more than 200 pieces of nigiri and maki rolls a day.
Murray’s favourite is spicy tuna. “Yes, Andy loves his sushi and we’ve introduced the sushi bar by popular demand,” confirms Greig Milne, Players’ Catering Manager. “When he’s here to practise or play, he tends to call in and we make up a huge platter of 30 pieces. It’s a big box, 12 inches by 12 inches, which we deliver to him in the dressing room.”
Sushi, with its ideal mix of easily digestible protein and carbohydrate, is popular with players as post-match food. Not only is it freshly made to order, but the rice is the magic ingredient in the process of delivering replenishment of lost protein and energy in the vital hour – or ‘glycaemic window’ – after intense physical activity. “I don't know a single tennis player who doesn't love sushi,” Serena Williams tweeted last week.
The Competitors’ Restaurant has a warm, visual appeal with its strings of red chilli and garlic bunting, decorative pots of herbs and shelves of artfully arranged cookbooks, piles of exotic fruit and bottles of oils and condiments. Much thought goes into the food to please all nationalities and to celebrate the event. This year, De Cecco have supplied a limited edition racket-shaped dry pasta, Racchette n 90, which is cooked for pasta salad recipes, ideally with peas and mint to achieve a ‘racket and ball’ theme on the plate.
The atmosphere may be homely for players’ family and friends, but the caterers supply every conceivable superfood and refuelling substance required by a top athlete. The Smoothie Bar offers whey protein shots. The salad bar – undressed mushrooms, spinach leaves, cucumber, red onion, tomatoes, peppers and so on – displays doses of Brazil nuts, walnuts, sunflower and pumpkin seeds. Gluten-free pasta is available.
The staff reckon a typical player’s portion is four times the size they would serve a regular adult. The quantities consumed per day are thus immense. Players go through nine gargantuan boxes of bananas in the dressing rooms alone. “We actually hold five or six times that amount a day in order to select bananas that are exactly the right colour for players,” says Milne. The ideal banana is yellow with green tinges on the ribs of the fruit. Greenish fruit contain resistant starch which is better for controlling blood sugar levels.
At the start of the fortnight, the players collectively perk up their mountains of plain pasta with an entire 10-kilo wheel of fresh Grana Padano Parmesan a day. The hard Italian cheese offers good protein, calcium, phosphorus, selenium, iron, magnesium and its saltiness is an essential sodium top-up for athletes after excessive sweat production.
On Day Two Milne reports more than 300 bowls of strawberries were devoured – “just in the restaurant, and not with cream. The players tend to have them straight” – and an excess of 400 smoothies whizzed up. Of the 1,000 plus meals cooked to order, about a third were fresh pasta, a third grilled chicken or salmon with salad, and a third the hot roast.
Any notable individual requests? Head chef Raphael Holzer – known as Rafa, of course – reveals one player who is idiosyncratic in his tastes. “Djokovic. He only likes plain rice, white fish and lots of broccoli, and every day,” he says.