The first thing Daniel Davey admits is not being a chef. The performance nutritionist, who has worked with some of Ireland’s most successful athletes, won’t be opening a fancy restaurant anytime soon and chasing a critics’ award – which is good because it never has. is part of his argument. It certainly wasn’t on the blurb of his debut cookbook Eat Up: Raise Your Game, a 2020 publishing hit that spent 28 weeks on the nonfiction top 10 list and eight weeks at number one.
When Davey later tells me that he worked on the new follow-up book, Eat Up: The Next Level during the most difficult time of his life, there is clearly another motivation or inspiration. The Next Level is dedicated to his father Peter Davey, who died of a terminal illness last October at the age of 68.
“This [was] a very thoughtful and emotional period, when dad got sick,” he says. “I had already committed to the book. In this reflective mode, you think back to all the great things that have shaped you and the way you think, and it had a huge impact on me. You only really realize this when one of your parents is terminally ill. I did a lot of work while looking after him, when I was at home on Sligo Farm, and I’m pretty proud that something like this came out of it. I’m not particularly religious, so I also think it’s a way to keep his name alive and his influence on his family and on me.
The other part of the book is about getting people to cook, to take responsibility for their food…I try to make this as understandable and accessible to as many people as possible.
The subtitle of The Next Level is “do your best physically and mentally every day”. The relatively sudden loss of his father made me wonder if it defeats that purpose, but no, says Davey, it only reinforces it.
“I’ve been focusing a lot the last few years on mindset, presence and mindfulness, this idea of living in the moment. Athletes and players talk about it a lot. My dad really went through that too, [he] would say things just thinking about today, even when staring at the barrel of a terminal illness. It takes incredible mental strength and resilience… No matter how hard you live, you don’t know what awaits you. You just have to do your best with the life you live.
In The Next Level, Davey once again draws on his vast experience in sports nutrition. After playing senior football with his own native Sligo, later winning an All Ireland club football medal in 2016 with Ballyboden St Enda’s, he was a performance nutritionist with Leinster Rugby and the senior football team of Dublin for a decade, during some of their greatest hits. seasons, before retiring this year to focus on his own nutrition business.
“I feel really privileged to have spent the last 10 or 12 years in the sport and to have learned from some of the best coaches and players,” he says. By branching out into writing cookbooks, he wants to emphasize how eating for performance “is also accessible to you, in your world.”
The first section of the book is “about giving people this information to live healthy and perform better, and the extra levels of nutrition for performance, recovery, injury and immune support,” he says. “The other part is getting people to cook, to take responsibility for their nutrition…I try to make that as understandable and accessible to as many people as possible.”
The book is almost a third of its 312 pages before the first recipes appear. They range in complexity, from supercharged caramelized banana porridge, espresso smoothies, and black pudding and avocado toast for breakfast, to kimchi toast for lunch, and a chicken healthy korma or chorizo beef burgers for dinner. They are broken down not only into meals for the different times of the day, but into recipes that are higher in carbohydrates for exercise days, and lower in carbohydrates for recovery days, whether sporting or not.
There are recipes suitable for vegans and vegetarians, as well as people with intolerances. Most are simple to make and will appeal to the whole family, with plenty of healthy treats included, like chocolate mousse made with almond milk and maple syrup, and peanut butter and banana cookies. .
“I am very frank about the fact that I am not a chef. I have this sport experience, but also a two-year-old who could eat any of these recipes,” says Davey.
As with all things in life, balance is key, he believes. “You have to move every day, you have to have mostly nutritious foods in your diet, but of course there should always be room for dessert.”
Eat Up: The Next Level is published by Gill