The past two years have seen the TSG first team make regular trips abroad for both Europa and Champions League fixtures as well as training camps. It was through these trips abroad that Walter Grözinger became the team's personal chef. Chef Harald Maier and his team are responsible for providing the everyday nutritional needs at the club's training complex, but given that business must always go on in Zuzenhausen, regardless of whether or not the first team are present, TSG regularly look to the services of the seasoned globetrotter Grözinger. The 53-year-old knows just what it is that athletes need to prepare and recover from high-level competition. But above all, he knows what it is they like. For the man from Swabia, that's the most important thing of all. ''The main duty of every chef is to ensure that his or her food tastes good,'' says Grözinger. ''Otherwise, you can't call yourself a chef.'' Grözinger also has first-hand experience of the physical demands required for top-level athletic performance.
Grözinger doesn't just have an education in cooking; he also spent 12 years playing for a football club, became a top triathlete during a spell working in Bermuda, and then evolved into an expert on nutrition. After successfully competing in the 1994 Iron Man World Championship in Hawaii (a gruelling three-part challenge consisting of a 3.86km swim, a 180.2km cycle and a full 42.195km marathon) and completing it in under ten hours, Grözinger became more and more interested in how athletes should go about providing themselves with the perfect diet.
During his training and the Iron Man qualification process in New Zealand, Grözinger became aware of just how difficult an issue nutrition can be for athletes. ''25 years ago, there were still a lot of deficiencies in the field of specialised sports nutrition. I really noticed the effect of diet on performance capabilities, I worked intensively on this issue and I came to the conclusion that there was a real demand out there and a lot that could be improved on,'' says Grözinger. He chose to dedicate himself to the field and became a chef for elite athletes. He was employed by the Bayer 04 Leverkusen first team, the German national swimming team, Magdalena Forsberg and her team of Swedish elite biathletes as well as the cyclists of the Telekom Team, including Jan Ullrich. His services are now highly sought-after in the world of professional cycling, and he's currently employed by the elite French team Cofidis.
''A chef also has to master different systems''
His ties to TSG Hoffenheim were first formed via injury prevention coach Christian Neitzert, who also used to work in cycling as part of Team Milram. It was through Neitzert that Grözinger found his way back to football, the sport of his youth. An opening for a temporary post as a chef in Zuzenhausen emerged, and Neitzert decided to get in touch with Grözinger. The response was very much a positive one. Following on from this initial spell, Grözinger took up the role of international chef for training camps and trips away in European competition. ''It was an arrangement that worked for both parties. I know my way around several countries and I speak good English and Spanish, which is always advantageous.'' Such is his passion for football that Grözinger draws certain parallels between the work of a chef and that of a coach: ''As a chef, you always have to be up on the latest developments, that's what allows you to always be able to respond when problems emerge. The biggest challenge, both in the kitchen for the chef and on the sideline for the coach, is how to master different systems in order to respond to the demands of the situation.'' Grözinger believes that a professional athlete should be viewed in the same way as a fund on the stock market: every day requires a new approach to ensure that performance is optimised.
It was through Grözinger that Robert Gorgos, a nutritional advisor from Bad Tölz who also works with professional cyclists, came to work for TSG. The two are good friends and meet up regularly in their native Upper Bavaria. As Grözinger is keen to to emphasise, the field of nutrition is in a constant state of flux, meaning the two friends always have new developments to discuss. The TSG chef believes that the trend towards vegetarian and vegan food is a logical one. He thinks that people should learn to show more respect to their food and where it has come from. A sensible and important guideline would be to eat less meat, and when doing so make sure to pick out high-quality products. ''What's important is having a balanced diet spread out evenly over the entire week,'' says Grözinger. ''But people shouldn't drive themselves crazy with the countless diet apps going around these days.''
Here's one of Walter Grözinger's personal recipes. It's tasty and healthy, contains fresh, mainly regional ingredients, and is easy to make.
Spring salad with vegetable bulgur wheat, cranberries, goats' cheese, walnuts, wild garlic and apples. Serves as a starter for two people (to make a main course for four people, please double the quantities of all ingredients listed)
- 50g carrots, chopped into 0.5cm chunks
- 50g radish, chopped into 0.5cm chunks
- half an apple, unpeeled, chopped into 0.5cm chunks
- 30g ground walnuts
- 30g cranberries
- 100g bulgur wheat
- 0.25l vegetable stock (or water with vegetable stock powder/without glutamate)
- one 150g rind of goats' cheese, chopped into 1.5cm segments
- 30g sunflower seeds
- 100g lettuce (or rocket), washed
- 5-10 kalamata olives
- seasoning: salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, half tsp turmeric, half tsp curry powder, 1 bay leaf, 1 tbsp chopped wild garlic
- oil: olive oil, pumpkin seed oil
- vinegar: white balsamic or raspberry vinegar
- half a lemon
- Look out a low-base pot with lid, a medium-sized saucepan and baking paper.
- Set out all ingredients.
- Wash bulgur wheat using a sieve.
- Place low-base pot on a medium-high heat.
- Add one tablespoon of olive oil.
- Add ground walnuts and chopped carrots and radish. Sweat briefly.
- Add curry powder and turmeric.
- Add bay leaf, cranberries and apple.
- Add a pinch of salt.
- Cover, bring to the boil, stir.
- Reduce heat, allow to simmer for approximately 15 minutes.
- When liquid has been absorbed, remove pot from the stove and stir. Cover and allow to sit for five minutes.
- Remove lid, add 1 tablespoon of white balsamic vinegar or raspberry vinegar.
- Add a pinch of cayenne pepper, salt and freshly ground pepper.
- Drizzle with one teaspoon of pumpkin seed oil.
- Place saucepan on a medium heat, briefly fry sunflower seeds and then remove.
- Lay out baking paper on saucepan, place goats' cheese on top and allow it to melt on both sides.
- Prepare lamb's lettuce, season with salt, freshly ground pepper, lemon juice and olive oil.
- Lay out two large plates and place a glass in the middle of each plate.
- Place the prepared vegetable bulgur wheat around the glass, then remove glass.
- Place prepared lamb's lettuce in the middle.
- Place goats' cheese on top of bulgur wheat.
- Disperse chopped wild garlic, sunflower seeds and kalamata olives on top of goats' cheese.
- Mozzarella can be used as an alternative to goats' cheese. If this is the preferred option, do not heat the mozzarella.
- Creative additions to the dish could include breadsticks and parma ham.
TSG chef Walter Grötzinger during the club's training camp in South Africa.