The afternoon was slowly fading into evening on Valentine's Day in 2013 when Dean Harper's phone began to buzz.
On the line was a frantic voice in desperate need of some help. It was a football agent, the voice said, and he had a client who was in trouble.
"This footballer," Harper says, "really wanted to impress his missus. He wanted to show off, I think, but he had really ballsed things up. He was trying to cook her a three-course dinner with some lamb, but had bought the wrong lamb. It was all chewy and he really panicked."
Before he knew it, Harper was playing Cupid in the home of a UK Premier League athlete.
"When I got there, there were things all over the kitchen and he just looked really distressed," he remembers. "He was panicking about the table, and I think I really saved him."
Harper, a private chef in the north-west, set about clearing up the mess and quickly crafted a five-course meal for the increasingly peckish lovebirds. "He started spraying perfume around the dining room," he says. "I don't know what that was about. He just said he wanted to spray a few scents."
It was, it is safe to say, an eye-opening experience. And for Harper it was also the beginning of a new business.
"That was the start," he says. "He was one of the first footballers I ever cooked for. From there, the word started to spread and I started getting calls from different agents."
Now, Harper can count around a dozen Premier League footballers in the north-west as regular clients of his business, Dean Harper Fine Dining, through which he provides personal chefs across the region.
The service has traditionally been used for dinner parties but, in recent years, the demand for regular meals from footballers has soared.
"I have some clients who we send a chef five days a week," he says. "Sometimes seven days a week. It is footballers who really struggle to get vegetables, different greens and the right carbs. Basically, they need telling what to eat and when to eat. Some of them just don't have a clue."
It is fast becoming the norm for top-level athletes to hire a personal chef.
Tottenham Hotspur and England striker Harry Kane revealed in October that his private cook had been one of the keys to his goalscoring success this year, explaining how he had been "blown away" to learn about the importance of eating the right foods at the right times.
He is not alone. Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan employ a Michelin-star trained chef, while Manchester United's Paul Pogba is reported to have flown a private cook into the country from Italy.
"It has really grown in the last few years," says Yuda Galis, the founder of London-based personal chef services company Galor.
"It is mainly Premier League footballers, although we do have others, like boxers, runners and dancers."
It makes for a curious lifestyle for these highly-trained culinary experts, many of whom have spent their careers working slavishly in restaurants.
The preferred choice for footballers, Galis says, is for the chef to work full-time for the sportsman's family, to learn their dietary requirements and prepare the food in the client's home.
These chefs therefore need to be of a certain character and possess the somewhat unique sort of charm that would endear them to a tired, hungry footballer and his young family.
"It is very bespoke," Galis says. "It is not just about sending any chef. They need to be discreet and private."
They also, Harper adds, need to be fun.
"Some footballers might want a laugh with you after training. You need to come across as a normal guy and not ask him 50 questions about his career. The food has got to be good, the chef has got to have an excellent personality, because you can be a really good chef but if you have not got the personality to go and work in a house then it's pointless. A lot of chefs are amazing, but they have no people skills."
Some of these footballers, it will not be a surprise to learn, can be both brash and pernickety.
"You might spend a lot of time on a menu for them," says Harper, "and they will just say they don't want that. It is hard work because they might not have certain ingredients in the fridge, so you need to go out and get whatever they want on that particular evening. But we have to give them what they want. They are paying a premium so we have to be flexible."
The exact cost of such a service does vary, although as a rule it costs between £300 ($570) and £500 ($950) per day.
That does not include the price of the food, which is all organic and can easily come to another £500. The chef keeps a receipt and an invoice is then sent back to the player's agent. If the role is full-time, Harper says, a separate rate will be negotiated.
Jonjo Shelvey, the Newcastle United midfielder, issued an advertisement for his own personal chef in 2015, when he was a Swansea City player. The annual salary on offer was £65,000 ($123,700), which both Harper and Galis says is roughly the standard pay for a permanent role.
The menu never deviates too far from what the club expect the player to be eating. There is, though, one clear exception. "Footballers tend to let themselves go at Christmas," says Harper. "Not with the drink, obviously, but with the food. They are so good throughout the year that I think some of them really look forward to the Christmas dinner.
"They ask me to provide everything. Canapés, champagne, a four-course lunch. I usually start with a soup and then I'll move on to a fish and seafood course, before the main affair of roast turkey and all the trimmings. Then there's two puddings: a traditional Christmas pudding and a hot chocolate option. They really want the full works."
Healthy appetite: How to eat like a footballer
- The ideal footballer's dinner is eaten early, at around 4pm or 5pm, Harper says, because carbohydrates cannot be eaten too late in the evening.
- It would have a good source of protein, such as a grass-fed fillet steak that has been aged for two months.
- Alongside that, serve organic sweet potato mash and greens such as broccoli and kale.
- For a pudding, think outside the box. No sugar is allowed, at all. Fresh berries with yoghurt can work, as can a flour-free cake. Alternatively, you could make a sugarless brownie with chocolate that is 95 per cent cocoa.
- Estimated cost of meal £35 ($66).