It Takes a Chef
April 21st, 2012 - By Lari Robling
Life in the kitchen means long hours, stress and plenty of opportunity for over-eating. We talk to local chefs Walter Staib, Brad Spence and Moncia Glass about their efforts to stay healthy amidst the temptation. And Allison Adato weighs in on what she learned while writing "Smart Chef's Stay Slim"
Life as a chef is high stress, long hours and plenty of opportunity for over-eating.
Allison Adato is a senior editor and writes about chefs for People magazine, covering high profile restaurant events. She also found herself suffering from the availability of too much good food. Adato went to the chefs and reveals some of their successful healthy adaptations in her book, “Smart Chef’s Stay Slim.”
She says, “If they go someplace where they are recognized the food come out and that’s a big problem. Of course, that doesn’t happen for non-chefs but I found a lot of opportunities throughout the week or day where you are faced with free food whether it is a birthday cake or donuts in the office.”
She notes, “The sad fact is, you have to decide is this something I was planning to eat and if not just ignore it.”
It was the era of food on TV that began to make chefs conscious of their public appearance.
“Sometimes I let myself go for a while, now that I watch my own shows and I can see where I get a few extra pounds, honestly its an on-going struggle,” says Walter Staib, chef proprietor of City Tavern in Philadelphia and host of the PBS series, “A Taste of History.”
The show centers around authentic Colonial cooking in historic settings — and that became his incentive to work out.
“Those iron pots empty can be up to 40 pounds,” says Staib, “so I want to keep the upper body strength. I have a trainer so I pump iron every Monday and Thursday night because you don’t want to go EHHHH on TV.”
For almost every chef the biggest challenge is the need to taste.
Says Staib, “I’m responsible for the culinary level. Well, how you going to do it? So you gotta taste it and tasting is tough you got to know when to cut it off. And I love to eat I don’t deny that.”
Brad Spence, Chef/owner of Amis Restaurant, agrees. He says, “At the end of the night you taste all of this savory stuff. Then you go over and have a little bit of ice cream, and then you have a little piece of something.”
Finally he says, “The next thing you know you had three desserts just by tasting a couple of things and it kills you.”
And even if you can mange the caloric intake, sometimes there are other health concerns that can impact the work. That was the case for Monica Glass, pastry chef at Fish Restaurant. Three years ago she found out she was gluten intolerant.
Telling someone who bakes for living they can’t eat anything with wheat in it could be career ending.
“Yes,” says Glass, “It pretty much flipped my world out that I had to be gluten free but I like to cook and I like to bake so what I tried to with my desserts is make the gluten free ones not noticeable that they are gluten free.”
About half of her dessert offerings are gluten free, the remaining menu she tastes as a wine professional would…take a bite, experience it but don’t swallow.
And in this climate of obesity awareness, Adato says a common theme she saw among the chefs was moderation…..
“Tom Collicio from Top Chef told me he will only order appetizers when he goes out,” said Adato. “Maybe two or three if they are small. Not only does he get to taste more delicious things, but the portion control is better with a starter than an entrée”
A fine tip for all of us….three always sounds like more even if it’s smaller!