The Art of Moderation
What the world's most seasoned chefs can teach the rest of us about developing a healthy relationship with food.
Chefs whip up extravagant dishes on a daily basis, are constantly surrounded by food and work endless, unforgiving hours; all reasons why the restaurant biz can be decidedly un-body-friendly (case in point: earlier this year the Food Network debuted a new reality series, Fat Chef). That said, years of navigating life in the kitchen, with all its temptations and pitfalls, has given many chefs unique insight into how to develop a healthy relationship with food. Which is exactly what Allison Adato, a senior editor at People Magazine set out to learn when she spoke to over 40 top chefs for her new book, Smart Chefs Stay Slim, which hits shelves today. “If you meet a chef who is fit and working with delicious food, there’s this curiosity of how they do it,” the author says. “And you can learn from them because they care so much about flavor. They’re not going to compromise for diet.” Here, she offers a taste of the healthy living secrets that five restaurant masters swear by.
Tom Colicchio, chef-owner of Craft restaurants
and Colicchio & Sons, head judge on "Top Chef"
Advice: Order appetizers for dinner.
Small plates, big payoff. “Appetizers are usually portioned better and can be more interesting or adventurous,” Adato explains of Colicchio's strategy. He recommends getting two to three depending on the size.
Donatella Arpaia, owner of Donatella in New York City
and judge on "The Next Iron Chef"
Advice: Eat only what you love and don’t settle for anything less.
“The idea is not to waste calories or fat grams—or whatever you’re watching — on food you don’t like,” explains Adato. “It sounds obvious, but you tend to eat a lot of things you aren’t really excited about, and ultimately you go for the thing you wanted anyway.” Translation: choose the small piece of really delicious chocolate (Arpaia favors Payard), which will always be more satisfying than the extra large (and less tasty) low-fat cookie.
Thomas Keller, chef-owner of Per Se in New York City
and French Laundry in California
Advice: Make breakfast a part of your daily routine
Despite their long, late hours, many health-conscious chefs are serious about their morning sustenance. Keller, for one, never foregoes the most important meal of the day, and he rotates his breakfasts (scrambled eggs; Fiber One; a protein shake with low-fat Greek yogurt and a banana) to steer clear of dull mornings. “Have a couple of go-to things so you don’t have to start your day by making decisions,” says Adato.
Naomi Pomeroy, chef-owner of Beast in Portland, Oregon
Advice: Save restaurant fare for dining out — cook differently at home
Her restaurant's name, Beast, conjures images of steak, chops and charcuterie — a meat lover’s dream. But Pomeroy makes a point not to take her work home with her. In fact, she eats vegan most of the time and admitted to making a batch of quinoa several times a week for her staff. “I think most people would be surprised to find that the food chefs make at home looks a lot like the food that anybody makes at home — it is not the food served at a four star restaurant,” Adato explains.
Alex Stratta, chef-owner of Bigoli; former executive chef-owner of Alex at Wynn Las Vegas
Advice: While cooking, taste, don’t eat
There are many perks to being a chef, and the one food-lovers envy most is getting to try unlimited grub. When it comes to staying healthy, however, that license to taste can be trouble. Stratta, who has lost close to 100 pounds in the course of his culinary career, has perfected the art of using a spoon to taste mindfully. “There is a difference between checking to see if something is seasoned the way you want it and eating the whole thing entirely,” Adato says.