How Smart Chefs Stay Slim
If you were surrounded by all of the
delicious food most chefs areâbaskets of bread, decadent sauces, fabulous
dessertsâyouâd weigh 400 pounds, right? Me too. Which is why food writer
set off to find the magic behind how so many chefs and people in
the food industry juggle delicious food and healthy bodies.
In her new book, Smart Chefs Stay
(Penguin, 2012), Adato writes: âChefs work long hours, eat irregularly,
and are frequently tempted by an abundance of rich foods. Who among us isnât
working hard, fitting in meals, and often tempted by the abundance of foodâboth
good and badâthat is everywhere? But the people who make their living with
butter or duck confit or chocolate and still look amazingâthey must know some
secrets.â After interviewing chefs from Wolfgang Puck and Tom Colicchio to Rick
Bayless and Cat Cora, hereâs what Adato learned:
Secret 1: They eat the food they love.
But, writes Adato, âthereâs a big
difference between eating only what you
love and eating whatever you like. Says Rick Bayless
host of Mexico: One Plate at Time and owner of Frontera Grill in Chicago, âWhen
you eat good food, it satisfies you and you donât have to be gluttonous about
it. Iâd rather have one bite of a great dish than fifty bites of a mediocre
That might seem obvious, says Adato, but start here: what did you have
for lunch today? Often, we end up grabbing whateverâs near our office, in our
kitchens, or available at a restaurant, just because we donât have any great
food handy. Her solution: surround yourself with the good food you love, and
youâll choose it every time. And when itâs not great, stop eating! Think of all
of those mediocre restaurant meals youâve forced yourself to eat, just because you
paid for it. Repeat after us: not worth it.
Secret 2: They donât feel guilty about eating.
Chefs donât ban foods or food
groupsâthey simply might eat some things less often, or in smaller portions. Alex Guarnachelli, celebrity chef on
Chopped and owner of Butter in New York City, used to have a sip of whole cream
every morning. The key here is that it was just a sipâand she didnât feel
guilty about it for one single moment.
Secret 3: They are picky eaters.
After speaking with the worldâs best chefs, Adato realized there was good reason to be a little snobbish when it comes to food: skinny chefs eat only the best chocolateâand
only the best food. âOnce I started thinking of myself as the kind of person
who eats only the best chocolate," she writes, âThe great wall of candy bars at
the grocery checkout became all but invisible to me.â
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Secret 4: They know exactly what they want to eat.
âWhen you deny yourself what youâre craving in favor
of something you believe youâre supposed to eat, youâre only left wanting,â explains
Adato. Pastry chef Jacque Torresâwho
lost 30 poundsâknows that if heâs craving, say, a baguette and cheese for
dinner, sometimes heâs better off just having it. Otherwise heâll eat a healthy
dinnerâand then go eat the bread and cheese.
Secret 5: Smart chefs are aware when they eat.
Food Network regular Chef Michael Symon estimates he consumes between 4,000 and 6,000
calories each work dayâmost of which come from tasting tiny, tiny bites of
sauces, desserts, and sides as he constantly checks that everything is perfectly
seasoned and delicious. But to keep those bites from turning into pounds, he has to constantly pay attention.
âItâs something you have to be cognizant of all day long,â says chef Michelle Bernstein of Miami. âIf the pastry chef comes in with three new dishes, you taste themâbut you remember you tasted them.â Later,
you can cut back in other ways. And even though we donât have to taste like
chefs, explains Adato, we do still have to be mindful of all of those little
bites, snacks, and on-the-go tastes we eatâat cocktail parties, while prepping
dinner, or samples at the grocery store.
Secret 6: They donât avoid the bread basketâthey make it breakfast.
One of the favorite little tricks
Adato stumbled up involves that diet buster, the bread basket. Television chefs
Marc Murphy and Naomi Pomeroy both avoid filling up on bread before dinner. But in a good
restaurant, that bread can be rather delicious. So they (and now Adato) always
ask to take it home for their breakfast the following morning. This helps them
avoid the temptation to chow down, since they know theyâll try it later (and enjoy it more, when itâs the centerpiece of the meal).
Secret 7: They know you never enjoy those last bites as much as the first.
Thomas Keller, the culinary star behind fine-dining
meccas the French Laundry and Per se, believes that âItâs best to stop eating a
dish when you still want more of it. The most compelling portion of a dish is the
first three or four bites. With the first bite youâre getting into it, by the
second you start to realize it, and it is at the third or fourth bites that you
get maximum appreciation and pleasure from that dish.â Adato compares it that
tenth spoonful of ice cream or umpteenth tortilla chipâfine, but
never as good as the first few.
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Secret 8: They donât always have three square meals a day.
Chef Andrea Reusing, of the Lantern in North Carolina,
was always tasting and trying not to snack during the dinner service. But she
finally just decided to give inâtaste and eat what she wantedâbut not sit down
to dinner afterwards. The tasting became her dinner. Chef Marcus
Samuelsson echoes a similar ideaââThere are a lot of people in the
world who donât eat breakfast-lunch-dinner âbreakfast-lunch-dinner,â he says,
âAnd theyâre in great shape.â
Secret 9: They donât snack.
Top Chef regular Eric Ripert, who grew up in France, says that he never saw
people snacking until he moved to Americaâthere was no popcorn at movies,
chicken wings at football games, or doughnuts with coffee.
âAfter talking to the chefs, I realized that
snacks (including coffee and tea) are not accessories!â says Adato. When she
focused solely on meals, they were more memorable: âMeals stand out in starker
relief if they arenât indistinguishable bumps in an all-day food graph.â
Secret 10: They stop eating after 20 minutes.
âSit down to a meal and savor it and
eat for 20 minutes,â says Iron Chef Cat Cora. âIf
youâre still eating after that, youâre no longer hungry. Itâs really about
other things. Maybe your palate wants more, or you think youâve got to finish,
or other people are still eating.â Not that you shouldnât sit, enjoy, converse
for longer than 20 minutesâyou should! But just stop eating.