Once I had wine and foie gras just before training. I was living in Paris, playing for Stade Français, and one morning I was warming up. Five minutes before training started, two players turned up with a pasting table, tablecloth and two shopping bags. They got out two bottles of red wine, some saucission, French bread and foie gras, then all the other players came out, put out their cigarettes and started eating. We necked the wine and went out training.
On an average training day, I eat about 3,850 calories. That’s split over four meals. I always start the day with scrambled eggs, oats, two cups of coffee, two litres of water, maybe a shake for extra carbs, and a bagel. For lunch, I eat at the club — the other day, I had fish skewers and sweet potato with vegetables. I’ll have something else later in the afternoon, like pancakes with Peking duck, and for dinner, it’s usually sausage pasta, steak and chips or chicken and rice.
There’s a lot of confusion about nutrition these days. It can seem very complicated and inaccessible, which is why I wanted to create a cookbook [Cooking For Fitness] with Omar Mediam, who was my old team chef at Wasps. It’s a guide for people who want to train, and also for those who go to the gym five times a week and can’t understand why they’re not losing weight, and why the food they eat
I wouldn’t go somewhere that didn’t have good food. For Chloe [my partner] and me, our downtime revolves around good wine, good whisky and good food. When we’re on holiday we let our hair down; we’ll probably still train for fun, but we eat everything.
I ate raw horse when I was living in Japan. I thought I was ordering steak tartare, but horsemeat turned up instead, and it tasted really nice. There were things in Japanese cuisine that I didn’t even know existed — and that was a massive eye-opener.
I’d love to go to the Deep South. I want to follow the programme Diners, Drive-ins and Dives [on the Food Network], where they travel around the US trying really over-the-top American dishes. I’d like to go to New Orleans and elsewhere in the region, to see what kind of food they have down there; it’s such a culturally rich area, too. I think I’d come back very fat, but fat and happy.
When it comes to cooking at home, I love barbecuing more than anything else. It’s great for big pieces of meat. Last summer, I got a Traeger barbecue, which is unbelievable — it’s idiot-proof, and good for rib-eye steak, spatchcocked chicken and salmon.
I hate mushrooms, but I love Japanese ones. I’d happily eat them, even though they’re some of the worst-looking mushrooms you’ve ever seen. I just can’t stand breakfast mushrooms — it’s the texture.
My portable coffee-maker comes everywhere with me. It means I can have a decent cup of coffee wherever I go while on tour.
James Haskell’s new book, Cooking For Fitness, is out now (£19.95, Haskell Publishing).
Interview by Farida Zeynalova, published in Issue 4 of National Geographic Traveller Food.