Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Toughest Diet.(Life; Food)(a chef's diet). USA, LLC

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Maybe this is how the obesity epidemic ends: by giving chefs TV shows. Because people on TV don't like looking fat. And perhaps when chefs start to worry about their own weight, they'll start to worry about their customers'.

At least that's how it worked for Food Network host and best-selling cookbook author Alton Brown, who one day saw himself on TV and noticed he was a doughy 213 lb. Then he started noticing the size of his fans. "I'd go to appearances and see an audience of very heavy people. And I thought, 'What role do I have in that?," says Brown, who is thinking about writing a book about the 50 lb. he has lost since March. "Celebrity chefs are the high priests of the food craze that is partly responsible for the fattening of America. We helped people get into this mess. I don't see why we shouldn't help get them out."

These days so many chefs are losing weight that Brown says even Mario Batali, the cultural signifier of joyous lardo-spread excess, has knocked off some pounds. The methods used by the chefs I talked to are pretty simple and should work for anyone if they've worked for people who spend their long working hours surrounded by amazing food they're forced to keep tasting, people who talk, think and read about flavor all day long, people who--forget about a carton of ice cream in their freezer--have a pastry chef in their office.

"There's an argument, 'How can you be a chef who's skinny?'" says Michael Psilakis, the chef at New York City's Anthos and Bon Appetit's 2008 Chef of the Year. "It's an excuse we've used to eat," says Psilakis, who went from 280 lb. to 200 lb. before putting a few back on recently. "If I'm opening a new restaurant, I always gain weight, partly from the stress. For people who love food, they use it as a form of therapy. It's the same thing for people who smoke."

Many chefs, including Brown and Alex Stratta, of Alex at Wynn Las Vegas, think of their eating habits as addictions they needed to kick. "You don't cut back on heroin, you don't cut back on smoking; you either quit or you don't," says Brown, who now snacks incessantly on avocados, sardines and almonds, having given up almost everything bad for him. "I decided there were foods I was just not going to have. I've probably had three tons of French fries in my life. I don't need any more French fries."

Change did not come easily for Stratta. "That carton was the perfect portion of Haagen-Dazs," he says. "Serves eight? No, it serves one guy who really likes ice cream." Stratta decided to get off sugar, fatty meats and carbs after his suit wouldn't fit for an awards reception, sending him into a big-and-tall shop. "I was a size-20 neck. I was mortified. I was like Alex the Neck," he says. In 18 months, he went from 270 lb. to 190 lb., which is below his high school weight. His new rules include starting the morning with a protein shake, having only three meals a day and never eating after 6 p.m.

Even the chefs who haven't gone cold turkey--along with other lean proteins and vegetables--have severely cut down on the foods they enjoy. Rocco DiSpirito, the chef, cookbook author and Dancing with the Stars contestant, went from 216 lb. to 176 lb. pretty quickly after being prodded by his chiropractor to do a charity triathlon despite the fact that he couldn't run a mile. His upcoming book Now Eat This: Fried Chicken, Macaroni and Cheese, Brownies and 147 Other Favorite Dishes You Thought You Could Never Eat--All Under 350 Calories offers an easier approach than the one he took, which involved not only running, swimming and biking but also cutting out lots of foods and then incrementally returning them to his diet. "If everyone reading your article gave up sugar, they'd lose 10 lb. in a month. Sugar is nasty, nasty stuff," he says.

Tyler Florence is among the chefs who told me they had massively cut down on their meat intake. Even Michael Lomonaco, the chef of the Manhattan steak joint Porter House New York who recently knocked off 10 lb., eats a lot of simply cooked proteins surrounded by vegetables. "I do a slow-roasted salmon--there's no oil, no added fats--roasted on cedarwood in an oven. It's served with big white beans, fresh tomatoes and tarragon," he says. "What a great steak house this is: the chef is telling us to eat salmon."

But Jacques Torres, the New York City--based chocolatier, still eats his chocolate. Through Weight Watchers, he knocked off 20 lb. and then another 12 lb. in September in a charity competition for chefs that was sponsored by the weight-loss program. He stocks up on 70%-cocoa chocolate bars, with the goal of always having a low-sugar option on hand. Because when a craving hits, not even a Weight Watchers--trained, insanely talented pastry chef with a refined dessert palate can get in its way. "Last Sunday I was craving so much for sweets, I went to buy a cheesecake." Even worse, he confesses, "I bought it at the supermarket. I was in Jersey."

Svelter Chefs' Secrets

For recipes that helped culinary gods lose weight, go to

If a neighbor asked, would you stop using your toilet and start saving your poop to compost?


Top Chef, Meet Biggest Loser.

How to slim down when your job is tempting other people's palates

Michael Psilakis


Bon Appetit's 2008 Chef of the Year


The chef of New York City's Anthos says he never used to eat poorly--he just ate a lot. He kicked off his 80-lb. weight loss with a three-day fast and a vow not to eat after 10 p.m.

Alton Brown


Food Network host and cookbook author


Brown has dropped 50 lb. since March by boycotting French fries and other junk. "The old wisdom of everything in moderation was pretty much hogwash," he says. Now he grazes on healthier fare such as avocados, sardines and almonds

Jacques Torres


New York City--based gourmet chocolatier


Through Weight Watchers, Torres has knocked off more than 20 lb. He deals with cravings by reaching for one of his 70%-cocoa chocolate bars, which are low in sugar

Source Citation
Stein, Joel. "The Toughest Diet." Time 14 Dec. 2009: 67. General OneFile. Web. 14 Dec. 2009. .

Gale Document Number:A213387969

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