Chefs tend not to be the most weight-conscious professionals. "We drink too much, we eat throughout the day, five to six days a week, 12 hours a day – it's very hard to be healthy as a chef," says Mike Isabella, chef and owner of Graffiato in Washington, D.C. That's why the Fit for Hope Challenge, a 12-week weight loss contest involving more than 15 chefs in the Washington, D.C. area, is such a telling feat. The contest, which was created by Isabella as a benefit for the American Cancer Society, ends this Tuesday, September 24 with a final weigh-in and gala that includes food from each of the contestants' restaurants. The leading chefs have come up with recipes, workout regimens, and mental tricks to keep their cravings at bay and shed the pounds. We talked to the current leaders of the contest about their strategies, tips, and how we can all avoid temptation (we included before and after images for a few of them, too).
Chef R.J. Cooper
Original weight: 281 pounds
Current weight: 239 pounds
Total loss: 42 pounds, 14.9% body weight loss
R.J. Cooper, owner and chef of Rogue 24 in Washington, D.C., has been influenced by Southern cooking (from his work in Atlanta) and French haute-cuisine (while at Eric Ripert's three-star Michelin restaurant, Le Bernardin, in New York City). The result of his cooking experience can be found in Rogue 24's surprising and decadent menu. And while beef heart (with red cabbage, suet, and mustard) and hog belly (with sour apples and smoked maple) are on the menu, it's not all high-caloric fare here. Take the acclaimed red snapper with ginger, cilantro, and chilies on puffed black rice.
His strategy: Take a day off.
"Diet and creating an alternative to day-off gorging."
His vice: Fat and carbs.
"High-quality food is not in question: Fat, fat, fat, fat and carbs, carbs, carbs go hand in hand with deliciousness. So to the end it is apparent that the change in eating habits and lifestyles are what needs to change."
His health food: Eggs and veggies.
"For a quick protein bomb, I make a salad with raw veg and aracona eggs, over easy, topped with a vinaigrette of Dijon [mustard], roasted garlic, cider vinegar, [and] olive oil."