Hayden Groves on the three tour challenge and what we can expect from his new cookbook
Portrait: Dave Hayward
Food images: Adrian Franklin
I’ve just got back from meeting up with Anthony Hodgson from Face Publishing. He handed over a book—not just any book; a fine-looking publication with my name on the front cover. Although I had read and re-read, edited and questioned every element, I was still nervously excited to hold it and turn to the first page. It was everything and more than I expected. But we need to go right back to the beginning.
Early February, the publisher was lined up: we were lucky to have Anthony leading the project, who has a great pedigree in producing top end books with a difference, and this was exactly the plan for ours. Photographers were booked—Adrian Franklin, someone that I've enjoyed working with in the past, and Dave Hayward aka ‘Digi Dave’—and lined up to join us on the three Tours.
The finance behind the book was there: BaxterStorey, my employers, were very generously supporting the project which would see the proceeds from the sale go back to the charity Cure Leukaemia. I even had a venue for the food photography, the Borough Market Cookhouse—the ever-supportive Market were again assisting me. Because of the short turn around, Back in the Saddle would be printed in Verona, Italy.
So, 28 weeks to complete a book and have it returned. I knew we had some strict deadlines throughout and there were three glaringly obvious ones—namely, the Giro d’Italia, Le Tour de France and La Vuelta, each three weeks long and the toughest races on the pro calendar, that would see me tested mentally and physically, away for three periods of three weeks, riding through seven countries across 10,500km, climbing the height of Everest almost 15 times over.
But where do you start. I’ve written long and expansive blogs and on many occasions, these were well received, but they are that—a simple blog, which can be edited, reshaped and refreshed with content and images many times over. A book, as you know, is very different: once you have pushed that big red flashing GO PRINT that’s it, your recipes, ramblings and images are forever frozen in time and kept on record in the British Library. You’re an author, a title that I could never have imagined associated with my name, especially when you read my school English reports.
Back in The Saddle is rather different: a mix of food, stories and amazing cycling photography. It isn’t a collection of favourite recipes from my career, and it’s certainly not a myriad of restaurant dishes that take a brigade of chefs three days to cook. The food is simple, delicious, and driven by the landscapes of Italy, France and Spain. I’ve avoided ingredients that you can’t find in the Market and the recipes are inspired by every stage of our route through the Three Tours Challenge. These recipes are accessible at home and deliver on taste in a way that would certainly grace any top restaurant menu.
Researched, practiced, refined
Some of these recipes were new to me, and I’ve researched, practised and refined them. But I can honestly say that each one, no matter how simple, has been selected to offer one thing: deliciousness.
On 8th December, you can come and see it for yourself: I will be demonstrating a couple of dishes and offering some tasters, and you can hear from me and the team. There’s even an opportunity to purchase a personalised copy for Christmas. But don’t worry if you can’t make it, you can always order yours online. See you there: the best food comes from the heart.