Friday 28 October 2016

What I eat in a day: Irish ballerina at the Moulin Rouge Isabelle Cooke

Published 18/07/2015 | 12:10

To celebrate Three welcoming 1.5 million O2 customers to Three, Ballerina Isabelle Cooke from Sutton, dances on water at Dublin's Grand Canal Dock yesterday. Photo: Maxwells

Currently working at the iconic Moulin Rouge in Paris, teenage ballerina Isabelle Cooke gives us an insight into how her day shapes up on a plate.

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Isabelle Cooke, who hails from Sutton, North Country Dublin, recently took up the chance of a lifetime - to work as a dancer at the Moulin Rouge in Paris.

Isabelle Cooke (19)
Isabelle Cooke (19)

The 19-year-old ballerina and trained dancer moved to the French capital on the 20th June straight after completing her Leaving Certificate.

Now that she is dancing amongst the world’s most talented dancers at this high profile level, she has had to adjust her diet in order to cope with the intense training regime, including having to learn to cook and shop for herself.

“At home in Dublin, my parents did the weekly shop and I simply ate what was put in front of me,” Isabelle says.

On a typical day, Isabelle will start off with a simple balanced breakfast and an assortment of vitamins to set her up for a morning of rigorous training.

Behind the scenes at the Moulin Rouge
Behind the scenes at the Moulin Rouge

“For breakfast, I sometimes have Activia yogurt with muesli.  Otherdays I would have a soft boiled egg with brown bread soldiers (the inner kid inside me) or a poached egg with salmon on brown bread.”

“I also have a glass of pineapple juice every morning as I believe that in ancient times, it had a medicinal purpose and it's so good for you. I then have a supply of vitamins - a garlic capsule, omega 3, multivitamin, iron and sometimes a rubex if I'm feeling in anyway run down.”

“During the winter I sometimes eat porridge with honey, as it keeps me warm and gives me energy throughout the day. I'm not into topping it with berries or nuts though. I prefer it plain. At home I used to drink freshly squeezed oranges in the morning but at present in Paris it's more convenient to buy a carton of juice as I have no electric squeezer yet.”

Every day before training, Isabelle will stop off at a local cafe with good wi-fi for twenty minutes and order a coffee.

“I usually have a cappuccino frappuccino, or a caffe latte macchiato. Nothing too strong. I like a shot of caramel syrup with my drink too.”

Morning rehearsals at the Moulin Rouge are between three and a half to four and a half hours long. During a quick break, Isabelle will grab something convenient to keep her energy levels up.

“I bring a snack which varies from day to day. A banana or an apple, or tuna and sweet corn mixed with mayonnaise, or if I've cooked something the night before and have left overs, I bring that, like black olive quinoa with aubergine.

“Sometimes I don't bring food and get a chocolate bar. It depends on how busy I am. I always have some sort of snack between breakfast and tea/dinner though.”

After rehearsals and a catch up with fellow dancers, it’s generally time for a big and filling dinner.

“I enjoy a number of different salads, like a goats cheese salad with iceberg lettuce, bacon, tomato and bearnaise sauce with a bit of crunchy toasted French baguette. Or a salad with tuna, pear, tomato, olives, hummus, balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Other times, I like salmon topped with a thick layer of fresh pesto, breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese cooked in the oven.

“I make a lot of chicken dishes, such as chicken with vegetables in burrito spices and I also love prawns, scallops, squid, and Spanish seafood dishes like paella. I love aubergine too, a favourite oven dish of mine is aubergine layered with sliced portobello mushrooms, basil and tomato sauce and mozzarella. It’s divine!”

“I generally like meat with my dinner as a source of protein.  I consider myself easily pleased as I like a variety of foods, and I'm not afraid to try different dishes from all over the world.

“I am not obsessed with counting calories or measuring a daily intake of veg/protein/fat etc. Of course I try to ensure I have a balanced diet to meet my nutritional needs but generally I eat whatever is tasty.”

After dinner, Isabelle is busy again.

“If we’re preparing for a show, we study the casts’ movements, quick changes and line-ups backstage. Or we might watch the show or be rehearsing again.”

On the rare occasion that she has an evening off, Isabelle delights in being a tourist in the city of light.

“By the time I get back to my apartment I am hungry again. I then snack on carrots or small toast crackers and hummus, or left overs from dinner.”

“Sometimes I’ll have something sweet such as the wonderful cheesecake desserts they sell in the local French supermarket. I really enjoy the salted caramel cheesecake. Again, I eat what I desire in moderation. With the amount of exercise I do I can afford to spoil myself.  It’s great. I certainly don't deprive myself of treats.

“In a multicultural cosmopolitan city like Paris there are so many culinary delights to choose from. I'm still discovering all the wonderful new dishes.”

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