Interview with Jermain Defoe: A food and football revolution

International football star Jermain Defoe swapped the pitch for a pinny when he visited Jamie’s Ministry of Food Stratford at East Ham Leisure Centre, E6, to mark Food Revolution Day.
Jermain Defoe cooking with Newham pupils

Interview with Jermain Defoe

The acclaimed England, Tottenham Hotspur and former West Ham United striker was joined by children from Rokeby School, E16; Nelson Primary, E6; Brampton Manor, E6; Carpenters Primary, E15; Manor Primary, E15; and the Shipman Youth Zone, E16, and Councillor Richard Crawford.
The young people joined Jermain to work up an appetite on the pitch before tucking in to a cooking masterclass. Griddling chicken for his fajitas, Jermain said: “I’m a local boy and coming back here is really special for me. A lot of my family still live in east London and Newham. It’s my roots and you can never forget that.”
“My favourite memory is probably the five-a-side pitches in Beckton. I actually grew up in Canning Town, but then we moved to Beckton, and yeah, I always used to spend my time over on the five-a-side pitches at the Newham Leisure Centre, playing football with my friends, I have memories from down there that I’ll never forget.”
Jermain also has fond memories of school and says that is how he got into football: “My primary school was St Joachim’s and then I went to St Bonaventure, that was my secondary school, and was scouted at a really young age. Then I trained for professional clubs and it just went from there to be honest. So it was really playing for my primary and secondary school.”
He also praises his teachers for helping him with his schoolwork and kick-starting his career as a footballer: “Mr Barrett was my maths teacher, away from football he used to speak to me and help me concentrate in school, but if we are talking about sport and football it’s Mr Lee and Mr Skelton. They played a massive part. You know, picking me for the football team. They played a part my helping me with my development to be honest, so I hope they see this, it’d be nice.”
We also asked who his football hero was from his school days. Jermain does not hesitate to answer: “Ian Wright. Wrighty was my hero. We’re good friends now. He is an unbelievable footballer. He has great passion for the game. And the goals that he scored were fantastic.”
Jermain made his professional debut for the Hammers when he was 17. He
said: “I remember it like it was yesterday. It was against Walsall, in the Worthington Cup as it was called back then. Towards the end of the game it was still nil nil, and then with five or six minutes to go Harry Redknapp just said, ‘You’re going on, just get warmed up.’ I remember it was pouring down with rain. I came on. I had one touch and being 17 I was a bit nervous, so my first touch was a pass back. Then on my second touch I just hit a shot on the volley with my left foot and it went in and we won the game one nil. It was my debut. It was unbelievable.”
Although he had an amazing debut, that was just the start. Jermain said: “The highlight of my career was playing at the world cup. It was something that as a kid I always wanted to do. I always wanted to play for my country – and actually going to South Africa to play and score in an important game against Slovenia in 2010 was something special.”
Jermain’s family love to cook so when he met Jamie Oliver, supporting his campaign for a healthier diet was something he was keen to get his teeth into. He said: “All my family cook, but my mum is a fantastic cook, and I wanted to support this campaign. Jamie Oliver is someone who I look up to, you know, what he has done is fantastic and what he is doing for the kids is amazing. I remember meeting Jamie a few years back and he taught me how to make a sea bass dish. I’m not too sure if he remembers, but yeah just seeing great chefs doing their stuff just makes you want to get in the kitchen and especially doing stuff like this today with the kids to encourage them to eat the right things. I meet a lot of kids and they say ‘I want to be an athlete, and I want to be a footballer’, But I think that maybe they don’t understand or realise that the food and what you eat is just as important as playing.”
“If you’re an athlete, whether it’s a footballer, a runner or a basketball player, whatever it is, what you eat is so important. Eat your vegetables. Your parents always say that, but it’s important because it helps you perform. Something as simple as making sure you’ve got a lot of different colours on your plate is really important to help understand what to eat.”
“Everybody knows I’m a local boy and coming back is really special for me, because like I say I remember it like it is yesterday, when I was a kid just walking around east London just trying to fulfil my dream, playing football on the streets with my friends and I realise that I’ve been lucky in life to be where I am now and so to give something back is important.”
Finally we asked Jermain what he likes to eat the night before a big game. He answers: The night before a game – pasta, with some pesto sauce and a nice piece of salmon and a little bit of broccoli and then that’s me – done.”
Jamie Oliver’s Ministry of Food Stratford will be at the Mayor’s Newham Show this year.

Make Fajitas Like Jermain

Serves 2



1 red pepper
1 red onion
1 skinless, boneless chicken breast
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 limes
olive oil
a pinch of salt, black pepper and cumin
2 large, fl our tortillas
150ml low-fat yoghurt
50g cheddar cheese
Griddle pan
Microwave/frying pan


1. Put the griddle pan on a high heat.
2. Deseed the pepper and cut into thin strips. Peel, halve, and finely slice your onion. Slice the chicken lengthways into long strips.
3. Put the peppers, onion, and chicken into a bowl with the paprika and cumin. Squeeze over juice of half a lime, drizzle some olive
oil, season with salt and pepper and mix well. Place to one side to marinate for five minutes.
4. Using a pair of tongs, place the pepper, onion and chicken into the griddle pan. Cook for six to eight-minutes until the chicken is golden. Turn regularly to avoid burning.
5. Warm your tortillas up in a microwave or on a warm, dry frying pan. Once heated, place on individual plates.
6. Squeeze the remaining lime over the chicken while in the griddle pan.
7. Divide the chicken mixture between the two tortillas, sprinkle over the cheddar and wrap each tortilla.
8. Serve with salsa, guacamole and yoghurt and enjoy.



1 red chilli
15 cherry tomatoes
small bunch of coriander
black pepper
1 lime


1. Finely chop your chilli. Roughly chop your tomatoes.
2. Put the chilli and tomatoes into a bowl with the salt and pepper and the juice of the lime.
3. Roughly chop your coriander
4. Stir in your chopped coriander.



a small handful of mixed-colour cherry tomatoes
1 fresh red chilli
a few sprigs of fresh coriander
1 ripe avocado
1 lime


1. To make the guacamole squeeze a handful of cherry tomatoes on to a board and finely chop up the flesh with the chilli and coriander.
2. Halve and stone the avocado and squeeze it over the board so the flesh comes out of the skin.
3. Discard the skin.
4. Squeeze the lime juice and chop everything together until fine and then mash together.

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