Ben Foster

On the eve of the World Cup, England and West Brom goalkeeper Ben Foster talks about the ‘trip of a lifetime’ to Brazil – and his love of cooking

If life had taken a slightly different turn for Ben Foster he could have been standing behind the range in a pro kitchen rather than a wall of defenders in the England goal. The West Bromwich Albion keeper has more on his plate than being a supreme shot-stopper. He’s also a fully trained chef – and a real expert when it comes to finding the best places to eat in Birmingham. “I love everything to do with food,” he said. “I do all the cooking at home, and all the shopping. It’s something I really enjoy. I watch all the cookery programmes on TV. And as I prepare all the food, I know exactly what I’m eating and what’s gone into it – that’s pretty important in my job.”


After an exhausting season helping to keep the Baggies in the Premier League, you could forgive the 31-year-old for settling back and getting stuck into some serious calories. But as we spoke, Ben was in training getting ready to head to Brazil with his England team-mates for the World Cup (the team’s first match is on Saturday 14 June against Italy) – and anyway, pigging out just isn’t his style! “There’s nothing to beat eating out and having a great meal,” he admitted. “But I have to be a bit careful. It’s something we do as a treat once every couple of weeks or so. We are so lucky that Birmingham is such an amazing city for great cuisine and there’s a huge variety of really great places to dine out. “My favourites include the obvious Michelin-starred restaurants like Simpsons, Purnell’s and Adam’s. But I don’t need anywhere grand to have a wonderful meal. Somewhere like Fumo is great, quick and easy.” Born in Leamington Spa, Ben left school at 16 and started working in a local restaurant after a desperate call from a mate to help him out in the kitchen. “I really enjoyed working in the kitchen and then went to college in Stratford until I was 18, got trained and qualified as a chef. But then football intervened, and the rest is history.”


June and July are shaping up to be particularly stressful months for Ben not just because of the World Cup, but also because he and his young family are due to move house from Leamington to Stratford. As his culinary skills reveal, Ben is anything but your typical footballer. He’s a family man through-and-through, and admits that while going to Brazil is “the experience of a lifetime”, he’ll miss his wife and his four and five-year-old children. When he’s not playing football, he’s out playing with them and takes them to all the ‘normal’ family places. “There’s loads of things to do in Birmingham, attractions, museums, the Sea Life centre. We get lots of leaflets and things coming through out letterbox, just like everyone else, and if we see something we like we take the kids there. My spare time is my family time.” Ben’s down-to-earth outlook is summed up by his attitude to ‘being famous’ – it doesn’t bother him. In fact he positively loves the fact that more often than not he can go about doing the family shopping without being recognised. “I go into Waitrose in Kenilworth all the time and just get on with it. I’m not that famous that I can’t do the food shopping, which is just the way I like it.”


So, what about the World Cup? Any predictions? Ben’s too savvy to reveal how well he thinks England will do, but he’s hopeful the team will have a time to remember in Brazil. “Unfortunately there’ll be no chance to sample the local food out there,” he said. “When you’re travelling with England you can’t go out for a meal or anything, but I’ve been around the world to places like Asia, South Africa the Far East and of course across Europe and picked up plenty of foodie tips and styles.” Who knows, maybe one day when he’s hung up his goalkeeping gloves, he’ll turn his love of food into a business? “Hmm… having my own restaurant? Yes, that’s not a bad idea…”