WHEN planning for a life after football, maybe it’s best to think with your stomach rather than your head.
That’s what ex Charlton and Liverpool star Paul Konchesky, now 37, did when he took over a cafe in Brentwood, Essex in 2015.
The former Premier League left-back renamed the site Konch’s Kafe, and started selling traditional East End grub like pie and mash and hasn’t looked back since.
And making sure he’s keeping it in the family, Konchesky has got his mum Carol in to run her son’s operation.
An experienced chef, she used to cook in the kitchen of the Royal Oak pub in Essex.
LOVES HIS PIES
Pie and mash is something that reminds the two-cap England international of his youth days as a trainee with the Addicks, even if his food-intake wasn’t quite fitting for a wannabe pro footballer.
“There was this pie-and-mash shop next to our school in Dagenham,” Konchesky told the Daily Mail.
“Every Tuesday we’d all have mash and liquor for a pound in a takeaway cup.
“Every Friday it’d be proper pie, mash and liquor, with jellied eels. And a cream soda. Without fail.
“I used to be a right dumpling with a big fat face. I was quite tubby when I had my first fitness test at Charlton.
“I was in the first team at 16 with John Robinson and that, getting crates of beer on to the team bus. And on the way home we’d stop for fish and chips.”
There was this pie-and-mash shop next to our school in Dagenham. Every Tuesday we’d all have mash and liquor for a pound in a takeaway cup. Every Friday it’d be proper pie, mash and liquor, with jellied eels. And a cream soda. Without fail.”
Now a picture of health, recently completing the London Marathon in three minutes 51 seconds, Konchesky resists the temptation of chowing down on pies.
But he often pops in and greets customers, who love to quiz him about his football career.
Occasionally, he’ll chip in in the kitchen, making teas and coffees for his clientele too.
WHAT’S ON THE MENU?
The menu at Konch’s Kafe is vast, and offers everything you’ll need for a decent price.
Cockney favourites – pie ‘n’ mash start at a reasonable £3.90, while if you want to add some jellied eels to the dish with a bit of liquor, you’ll pay £6.40.
But if you don’t fancy that, there’s breakfast options, including the Mega Feast with two eggs, sausage, two bacon, black pudding, mushrooms, chips, beans or tomatoes for £6.25.
For lunch, there are jacket potatoes and various sandwiches, and recent specials have included beef stew with dumpling and creamy potato for just £4.75, as well as a chicken curry with rice and naan for a fiver.
However, it’s the pie and mash that’s getting customers through the door and keeping them happy.
A boyhood West Ham fan, Konchesky fell in love with the Hammers and that East End delicacy thanks to his grandfather, who settled in England from Poland during World War II.
I used to be a right dumpling with a big fat face. I was quite tubby when I had my first fitness test at Charlton. I was in the first team at 16 with John Robinson and that, getting crates of beer on to the team bus. And on the way home we’d stop for fish and chips.”
And anyone who visits Konch’s Kafe will be taken by their surroundings – framed shirts from various opponents Konchesky has faced during his action-packed career.
A West Ham No 3 shirt with his name on takes centre stage, there’s a signed sketch featuring his hero Julian Dicks, a signed England shirt, as well as a photo of tough defender taking on Teddy Sheringham.
“I’ve always collected shirts: Henry, Vieira, Gazza, Ravanelli, Ronaldo, Scholes,” he said.
“I’ve got an England shirt from John Barnes, who gave it to me when we were together at Charlton.
“He signed it, “Remember me when you’re famous”. They’re all dirty. I’ve never washed any of them.”
Clearly with his fingers in many pies, you’ll be thankful that Konchesky’s hands aren’t as dirty as his shirts when you pop in for your next pie fix.
THE REVIEWS ARE IN
Although there’s only six reviews on TripAdvisor for Konch’s Kafe, you won’t be surprised to know that it’s scored five out of five on their site.
Mandy R wrote: “Love this cafe not just because of the pie and mash but all the food is yummy and the staff are always helpful and a good laugh. They look after everyone, no ones ever alone at Konchs.”
While Samuel A declared: “Very nice staff, very nice atmosphere with the pictures on the walls of ex west ham players and football history! The pies are a must! superb value!”
And wendybrooks07 called Konch’s ‘best pie and mash in Brentwood’, adding: “Traditional Pie and Mash and liquor is just great from here – delicous and worth trying – my favourite.”