HE used to serve up crosses for the Chester City star strikers but now former Blues winger Andy Shelton is cooking up much more tastier treats as an award-winning chef.
Shelton, who played for Chester in the late 1990s, owns The Naughty Badger bistro on the Bridge Street Rows in the city after he and his partner, Teana Lynne, bought the quirky restaurant in November 2022.
Now 43, Shelton’s story is something no-one could have cooked-up.
In a professional football career that was salt and peppered with more downs than ups, Shelton’s determination has never been in doubt.
Picking up tips along the way in his bar work days at The Commercial and Abbotswell hotels to name a couple, Shelton’s cooking skills are all self-taught and after scooping a hat-trick of awards, he’s certainly got the recipe for success.
Let’s kick off with the starter - and Shelton’s early days as a footballer.
Taking the same course as his father, Gary - the former Chester player and assistant manager - Shelton had stints with Bristol City, Reading and Manchester City.
“They told me I was too small - and then they went and signed Shaun Wright-Phillips,” said Shelton, who had ex-Chester coach Dave Fogg to thank for being taken on as a YTS trainee at Chester.
“My dad had signed for Chester and I was in Bristol doing my GSCEs. Dave Fogg was youth coach at Chester and remembered me playing when he was at Oxford.
“I went to Chester for a two-week trial and they offered me a two-year trainee deal.”
Kevin Ratcliffe handed Shelton junior his debut - one of 38 games he played for the Blues between 1998 and 2000.
But the arrival of Terry Smith - the controversial American owner - saw Ratcliffe resign which was the start of the domino downfall of the club.
“When Mark Guterman sold the club to Terry Smith, no-one knew what to expect,” added Shelton.
“If Kevin Ratcliffe would have stayed and left to get on with things on the pitch and Terry took charge of things off it, we’d probably have been alright.”
But former American footballer Smith was hands-on and took over as team boss - something that Shelton, then a teenager, recalls of that doomed 1999/2000 season that saw Chester lose their Football League status.
“I remember him on the training pitch and getting goalkeeper Wayne Brown to roll it out to the defenders in (a) shadow play session and for them to pass it along the line,” said Shelton.
“They’re all doing that in the Premier League now. So perhaps Terry Smith was ahead of his time!”
Shelton was getting game time under Smith but that all changed under Ian Atkins, who took over just before Christmas in 1999.
“We had decent players,” added Shelton. “Shaun Reid and Nick Richardson were the experienced ones, Brownie in goal and then youngsters like me, Darren Wright and Darren Moss.
“But Atkins came in, brought in a new side; lost his first game 5-1 and we lost 7-1 at home to Brighton.
“He went after we went down and Graham Barrow came in. I think he gave me 10 minutes; then bollocked me and banished me to train with the youth team.”
Shelton moved on loan to Harrogate Town before a pulled hamstring signalled the start of an injury nightmare that saw him twice tear the ACL ligaments in his right knee.
His contract paid up by Chester, Shelton headed back to Yorkshire, working in a call centre in Leeds and playing part-time for Ossett Town and Ossett Albion.
Shelton thought his luck had changed when Chesterfield boss John Sheridan invited him for a trial at Saltergate.
“But I ruptured my ACL in the same knee again. I was 23, 24 and that was it with football,” said Shelton, who returned to Chester to celebrate his brother’s birthday and has stayed ever since.
“I got bar work in The Commercial Hotel and then the Abbotswell Hotel, and started playing football locally with Christleton - and we had a good team to be fair.”
As for his cookery skills, Shelton revealed it was a chance comment in the Suburbs bar in Hoole back in 2019.
“Teana, my fiancée was modelling at a charity fashion show and lunch there. I went to pick her up and the owner, Kingdom Thenga, said: ‘Do you know any chefs?’
“Teana told him I was a great cook, so he invited me to go in for a trial shift a few days later.
“Well, it must have been alright as he offered me a job!”
One of his happy customers was TV celebrity chef, Ainsley Harriott, who handed out special words of praise on one of Shelton’s burgers.
“He used to come in quite a bit and one night he asked for a burger - medium rare,” recalled Shelton.
“The waitress said we didn’t do medium rare burgers but I said if he wants medium rare, I’ll cook it. If Ainsley Harriott wants his burger pink, he’ll have it how he wants it!”
Word was getting round of Shelton’s kitchen prowess and he worked as chef de partie at The Yard until the Covid lockdown threw a spanner in the works.
He was back in the kitchen at the Old Duke’s sports bar, but working alongside Carl Moller at The Yard had given him the taste to look towards more fine dining than flipping burgers. He was at The Rake and Pikel helping a friend out when Teana was sent a message from a friend that The Naughty Badger was up for sale for £6,000.
“We met the previous owners at 8.45am, shook hands at 9.15 and handed over the deposit by 9.30. And we opened up with a brand new menu that I’d been working on, on November 4 2022. I’ll always remember the date.
“And we love it here. I’m in the kitchen and Teana is front of house.
“We’re only small. We have 18 covers but it suits us and we’re loving it.
“I strive for perfection with my food. The majority of people going into restaurants dine with their eyes so I like my food to look good.”
What the future has in store for The Naughty Badger remains to be seen but word is quickly getting round that Shelton’s got his paying customers eating out of his hands.
Having already notched up the Crème De La Crème Small Business Awards ‘Best Business Start-Up of the Year’ Award, Taste Cheshire’s ‘Best Casual Eatery’ and a ‘TripAdvisor’s ‘Travellers’ Choice’ award, naming them as one of the top 10 per cent of restaurants globally based upon customer reviews, as well as being named one of Small Business Saturday’s SmallBiz100s, the world really is Shelton’s oyster!