Ex-footballer and TV pundit, Rio Ferdinand, has taken part in a unique food experiment that sees the superstar sportsman sitting in the hot seat and taking on the nation’s food fails
Rio talks life at home – unveiling wife, Kate, compares him to washing machine when eating and how his kids have to play music to drown out the noise during dinner time
Tell us about the ‘Ban the Bland’ campaign with Peperami! What made you want to get involved? Is there anything you were dreading or looking forward to as part of the experiment?
As a nation, we’ve got a bit of a reputation for our food being bland and boring. So, when Peperami asked me to get involved in the campaign, my competitive nature came out and I jumped at the chance to take part, eager to show people how we can do it better.
As part of the experiment, the crew had me try some of the nation’s food fails – which I was dreading! I wanted to see if some of the strange combinations could be wonderful, but on the day, they were just plain awful! Being an ex-footballer, the crew had me trying foods famous at matches – such as a ‘Wigan kebab’ and jellied eels, which weren’t for me.
My favourite part of the day was creating my snack solution – ‘The Snackadium’ – an edible football pitch perfect to tuck into when watching the Euros. The Peperami team gave me the power to go nuts and produce something really cool, that I can’t wait to bring out when watching games with Kate and the kids.
You’ve spent a lot of time over the years either playing or watching football matches – what is your go-to snack when at the match and go-to snack at home?
When you’re playing football, it’s really important to keep up your energy levels throughout the match, so high-carb meals such as pasta and chicken were always my go to before a game.
Now I’m on the go so much and I work as a pundit on live games for BT Sport, so I don’t need to be as specific about what I’m eating but still like to get the balance right- but the half time snacks are still important!
We usually get lots of options in the studio or I’ll take things with me from home. Something that is quick and easy that you can grab easily is good option. I always have a half time cup of tea or coffee and a biscuit, particularly to warm me up on the colder matchdays.
What food to you is boring Rio, what are your food or snack nightmares? Is there a food or snack you could live on forever? What is Kate always munching on? Are there any quirky food combinations that you, Kate or your kids have?
Basically, any food lacking in taste is an absolute no-go. I love big flavour combinations which is another reason I wanted to be a part of the ‘Ban the Bland’ campaign- I just can’t see the point of eating something tasteless. The main thing I don’t like is food or snacks being too plain or dry.
After dinner, we do have a sweet tooth, so we treat ourselves to a range of sweets to relax in front of the TV.
My favourite meal is chicken and rice- the key to it is the special seasoning, which is what makes the meal taste so good. We’ll often have that at home.
I have always been a fan of trying out foods, but I am an Italian food fan, that’s why I got involved in opening up a restaurant in Manchester called Rosso. I’m also a big fan of Pie and Mash! But you have to do it proper, with the liquor and all!
With food, it’s all about balance though, I like to enjoy my food but also make sure I’m keeping it balanced.
What is your biggest culinary pet peeve? Does Kate or your kids have any bad dinner table habits? What bad habit would they say you have? Is food the way to your heart? What would someone have to whip up to get your attention?
My biggest pet peeve is bad table manners. Leaving the table without asking and having your phone with you at dinner times are all banned in our house. The kids know what’s expected of them at the table and what I’m not going to stand for!
They’d probably say my bad habit is snacking in the kitchen before a meal-time. When Kate’s doing dinner I will always want to try it before it’s been plated up and I probably make a bit of a nuisance of myself in the kitchen.
I do think food is the way to my heart though, I love eating out and good home cooked meals as well. As I’ve mentioned anything with good flavour would get my attention and meals that take me back to my childhood are still favourites.
Meals like stir-fries and curries always go down well in our house too. I really love how food can bring you together, sitting down together at mealtimes or the effort of making a home cooked meal on a date night.
If I’m ever feeling down, Kate will make me a roast dinner. Honestly, her Sunday roast is unrivalled. We’ll do a roast most Sundays anyway and it’s always a special family meal. The kids usually get involved and help Kate and I prepare it- Kate does a mean roast potato!
How was lockdown for you and the family? Did you struggle? How did you, Kate and the kids entertain yourselves to stop boredom kicking in? Any memorable moments to note? Did you try or find a new hobby?
I’m really grateful though for the extra time it’s given me at home with Kate and the kids and to make the most of the little, everyday moments. It made me appreciate the NHS even more for the unbelievable work that they did and are still doing for us all.
I’ve got even more respect for teachers too. after having to home-school the kids throughout lockdown! I loved having them at home but I’m pleased in their teachers’ capable hands now! I think the whole period was physically and mentally challenging for a lot of people, learning to adapt and not being able to get out and about as much as we’re used to. As my schedule is so busy, it felt strange to be at home a lot. Things were still hectic though and we were able to adapt and do things online. At the start of lockdown Kate and I did our own live workouts on Instagram, which I really enjoyed, and I also did an online series for my YouTube channel, called The Locker Room, speaking to some footballing legends about their careers. I’m fortunate that football was able to return, even when we were in quite strict lockdowns, so I was able to carry on my work and watching the game that I love.
Kate, the kids and I managed to get out on plenty of bike rides and walks around where we live too. We’re always active and do things like this as a family together, but it was nice to have the opportunity to do it a bit more and reset a little bit from our busy lives.
A very memorable moment that happened for our family during lockdown though was the birth of Cree! It was strange welcoming him in these circumstances and not being able to visit friends and family or for him to see or play with other children, but we’re just delighted to have him as part of our family and I feel pleased that I’ve been able to spend more time at home following his birth.
Have you and Kate been able to squeeze in any date nights since welcoming Cree? What is the perfect date night for you both? Do you like to go out or stay in? What kind of movies do you watch on Netflix? Who rules the remote in your household? What kind of food do you tend to snack on?
Kate and I always try and find time to spend some quality time together and have a date night. We’ve both got such busy schedules, so it’s important that we make time for each other. Welcoming Cree has made things even more hectic but we’ve managed to find some time for ourselves too.
It’s been mainly nights in, at the moment, as we’ve both been so focused on looking after Cree and been tired from having a newborn, as well as all of the lockdown restrictions. We do watch a lot of TV series when we’re at home. We’ve really enjoyed Money Heist, Line of Duty, Peaky Blinders, that sort of thing.
I’m looking forward though to us heading out on a proper date night again soon, now that things are opening up again. One of our favourite places is Scott’s restaurant, which has a great atmosphere and the food is always incredible.
From Instagram, we can see you and Kate and very much into your fitness! What is your secret? How does diet play into your fitness journey? What kind of foods do you eat? Do you still enjoy treats? What is your guilty pleasure?
Absolutely, Kate and I are both very focused on our fitness and keeping a healthy diet. Obviously from my career as a footballer I was used to exercising daily and having a strict fitness regime and I felt it was important to keep that up following my retirement.
Now that I don’t play, I’m able to treat myself a bit more often, but in terms of mindset and mental health, it really helps me to have a routine. I think that’s the key to staying focused as well, having a routine. Knowing that every morning or twice a week, whatever it may be, that you’re doing a workout at that time- doesn’t matter if you’re feeling it or not, get up and get it done and you always feel good afterwards.
That being said, it’s all about balance and we do snack and have treats sometimes. We like to set a good example to the kids to eat healthily but we also want them to have a positive relationship with food and eating, so we’ll have things like biscuits and takeaways in moderation. My guilty pleasure is probably a Friday night kebab, can’t beat it!
Any plans for the summer? Are you excited for the Euros? How do you usually celebrate? Who will you be watching it with and how? Will you be getting together with the family or other famous footie faces? Do your kids have the same interest in football as their dad? Does Kate?
Yes, I’m so excited for the Euros and hopefully it’s coming home this summer! We’ve got a really exciting young squad and some unbelievable talent, so I’m excited to see how we do.
I’m covering the Euros for the BBC, so will be watching in the studio and on-site with the other pundits including Alan Shearer, Gary Lineker and Ashley Williams. Alan, Gary and I have worked together on a number of tournaments now, so we’ve got a really good relationship and there’s always lots of banter going on. We normally go out as a team for a meal after some of the matches. One of my favourite moments from the last tournament was Alan Shearer singing ‘All Night Long’ at dinner- although I’m not sure I want him to repeat it this tournament, I think we’ve heard enough! I know Ash really well too, so I’m excited to see what the tournament holds for us and how far England can get.
I’ve got also got lots of exciting features coming up on my FIVE YouTube channel over the tournament so if you want Football content head over to the channel, we will be on hand to keep you all entertained!
I’m sure if we get the chance around my work commitments we’ll get together as a family to watch a game or two, obviously my brother, Anton, used to play as well, so football runs in the family and it’ll be great to all get together and enjoy a match, if we can.
What is next for your career? Will your kids be following in your footsteps? Do you have any other exciting projects you’re working on? What else do you enjoy doing in your spare time? Have you set any goals for the rest of 2021?
I’ve got lots of really exciting projects coming up. I am really enjoying my punditry work with BT Sport and The Euros are just around the corner, so at the moment I’m looking forward to being part of the coverage with the BBC and hopefully to see England bring the trophy home! I will also have lots of exciting content going out across the tournament across my YouTube channel, FIVE, so make sure you subscribe!
My two older sons are really into their football- it’s great to see them enjoying the game and that’s the most important thing for me to see at the moment. It’s always been important to me that they play because they want to, not because their Dad did.
If they did get into football professionally, then great but I always remind them that it’s all about hard work and dedication! I’ll support them in whatever it is that they choose to do though. As long as they give it their all.
Campaign credit: Rio Ferdinand has been challenged by Peperami to take on the nation’s food fails and trial Britain’s saddest snacks. Calling for Brits to #BanTheBland, Rio offers a solution with his very own edible ‘Snackadium’ to be tucked into during a summer of sport. To watch the full episode, visit @PeperamiTV on Instagram.