Chef Brian gives our Euro heroes food for thought...
Spurs mad Brian Donaldson (30) was thrilled to be part of a special send-off at Belfast City Airport last Monday as the players headed to their pre-Euro 2016 training camp in Austria.
And Brian’s role as IFA Team Chef has been to plan the squad’s meals meticulously in preparation for the team’s Group C opener against Poland in Nice on Sunday.
Then it’s Ukraine in Lyon four days later before Northern Ireland take on world champions Germany in Paris on 21 June.
Cheering Brian on will be his proud mum Gwyneth McQuiston, manager of the Diamond Centre in Coleraine.
Executive Sous Chef in the Culloden Hotel at Cultra, Brian revealed that Michael O’Neill’s 23-man squad were anxious to have Brian on board for their first major championship appearance in 30 years.
“It came from me working alongside them when they stayed at the hotel and the backroom staff felt I would be a good addition to the team,” said Brian.
“It would ensure that the players who got used to me dealing with their food being able to see me with them in France - and that would take away any concerns or worries they might have.”
Thousands of Northern Ireland fans will take their holidays in France this week to cheer on the boys in green.
And Brian himself took annual leave from his job to become a key part of Michael O’Neill’s staff.
Educated at Limavady Grammar School, Brian underwent his chef training in the Roe Park Golf & Spa Resort in Limavady at 16 as a commi chef and then became a Head Chef by the age of 19.
He worked in a few establishments in Co Down before landing his prestigious job at the five-star Culloden Estate and Spa.
Alongside Executive Head Chef Paul McKnight, Brian is used to serving up dishes such as Thornhill Duck, Baronscourt Estate Venison and Comte Cheese in the hotel’s famed Mitre Restaurant - but his tournament brief will be to provide the players with healthy and nutritious options to maximise their performance.
He has received many plaudits from critics and reviewers over the years but he would love nothing better to see the players under his care thrive and succeed in France.
“I’m deeply honoured to be part of the staff in France and am looking forward to a great tournament,” he said.
While the Limavady man hopes that Northern Ireland can shock a few of the bigger names during the month-long tournament, there’s one person who will be cheering him on no matter what - mum Gwyneth.
“I was so proud to see Brian flying off with the Northern Ireland team as the Team Chef.
“He has worked incredibly hard to get where he is today and all of his family and friends are delighted for him.
“Brian’s two loves are cooking and football, so you could say he has landed a dream job!”