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Chef opens lid on cooking for champions

Bernhard Reiser's cooking has fuelled the Germany team in the last four years; as they prepare for this evening's quarter-final with Italy the chef gave UEFA.com his recipe for success.

Germany team chef Bernhard Reiser gets a flavour of the local produce in Vaxjo
Germany team chef Bernhard Reiser gets a flavour of the local produce in Vaxjo ©Bettina Lenner/Sportschau.de

Napoleon Bonaparte reckoned armies marched on their stomachs, and the same could almost be said of football teams. In the quest for optimal performance, the food consumed by players needs not only to taste good, but do them good, keeping energy levels topped up to allow natural talent to then make the difference on the pitch.

Germany team chef for the last four years and a lecturer at Wurzburg's University for Nutrition and Sport, Bernhard Reiser told UEFA.com how he ensures Silvia Neid's squad remain on the move.

UEFA.com: How do you become a chef with the German Football Association (DFB)?

Bernhard Reiser: There are two factors: the first, I lecture at the University for Nutrition and Sport. Everyone knows now that nutrition and psychology can give an extra couple of percent to performance which can barely be gotten physically. I came into the DFB thanks to [former team psychologist] Arno Schimpf, who's written a lot about nutrition, which is something young players still know nothing or very little about.

UEFA.com: What's the most important factor in that?

Reiser: The first mistake is that already many don't know how their body is made up. How high is their body fat, their muscle mass, and how many calories do they burn? That's the basic formula you need to know. It's then important to know how long it takes to digest food. If I eat a salad with an oil-based dressing three hours before a game for my pre-match meal, that's not good as the oil has a lot of calories and it won't be digested in time to play.

UEFA.com: What should the players eat ahead of the game against Italy on Sunday?

Reiser: For the pre-match meal, simple carbohydrates such as pasta, pancakes and simple sugars such as chocolate spread, marmelade or honey, no full grain products. We make sure that the balance between carbohydrates and egg whites is right, and that there are some shrimps and chicken. If there is a game on Sunday, you lay the basis for it on Saturday. I prepare their favourite food on a Saturday as it's good they eat a bit more.

UEFA.com: Do you cook yourself here in Sweden?

Reiser: I send a list of requirements to the hotels before the tournament, but I'm always in the kitchen when they're cooking. I'm also responsible for the emotional component of it. In a tournament and after a long build-up, players might just simply want something, some sausage and bread, salted cashew nuts or something Asian, for example. When someone wants something special, I do it myself.

UEFA.com: Are the players also allowed to come and ask you for chips, a kebab or pizza or something like that?

Reiser: You can't just base everything on discipline, you sometimes need to appeal to people's emotions too. It's not all bad if someome eats a burger, or chips or a pizza. It would only be bad if they ate like that all the time. The emotional aspect of food is often neglected. It's more fun eating together. When I enjoy my food and I'm eating with other people, I definitely feel much better.

UEFA.com: What are the favourite foods of the German players?

Reiser: You cannot say in general. But when I make mashed potato and there's some spinach and salmon to eat with it, most of the players will eat that. But there are some players who don't like fish, so I try to offer a wide variety of dishes.

UEFA.com: Do all the players readily accept your advice?

Reiser: The players are very interested, but it's clear that an 18-year-old approaches nutrition in a different way to a 30-year-old, who knows more about her body. You have to guide young players step-by-step. Even though I'm a cook and have a Michelin star, I wasn't only interested in food when I was 18. My concept is to present things in a fun way.