What would you say qualifies anyone to open a restaurant? Indeed, what more should you need other than that great if-all-else-fails standby, passion, as well as money (lots of) and a personable manner? It probably helps if you've got a bit of a name in the industry and a hopefully good reputation. You might, if you're being really thorough, have a 'concept' that you feel the world is missing out on and a fabulous set of contacts that should furnish you with excellent front- and back-of-house.
So what can we make of the recent spate of footballers who, having decided their talents lie in directions other than kicking a ball from one end of a bit of grass to the other, have decided to 'explore other options' and make their (partial) living in the hospitality industry? What is it about restaurants that make professional sportsmen believe that if they can make it there, they can, so to speak, make it anywhere?
We've got Steven Gerrard and his co-owned "uber-cool" Warehouse Kitchen + Bar in Southport; Rio Ferdinand and his restaurant Rosso in Manchester (God knows what he would do if he transferred to Man City); Ashley Cole perhaps letting his ego have a little too much free rein – again – with his plans to roll out a restaurant/club/meat market in London with ol' pal Jay-Z; and Gary Neville looking to launch a 100-cover, two-storey joint in Swinton, open all hours seven days a week, to the joy of local residents. And don't forget Frankie Dettori's forays into restaurant-dom with MPW or even Lee Chapman. The list continues.
Far be it from us to suggest that perhaps fine dining isn't the first thing that seems to be on a footballer's mind when he goes out of an evening, but we're interested to know if it even makes the list. After all – and forgive us as we can only speculate – when do you ever hear of a sportsman going out to eat – really eat and enjoying the best food this country can offer? We can see two possible obstacles to their appreciation of fine food: first, they are on extremely strict diets, so we can't see Heston's triple-fried chips going down a treat; second, they are pretty much playing year-round and don't have the time to pig out once a week and if they do, their ankle tags go off and pin them to the floor or something.
To come back to the original question: what – apart from great contacts and the grease of celebrity oiling the doors – can they bring to an already bloated industry? And would you go? Would you think their sporting prowess equals hospitality prowess? Or do you think, just leave good food to the professionals? Talking of which, Wolfgang Puck opens The Cut on Park Lane, London soon. Yay!