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Here’s how some chefs stay healthy

How do people who love food enough to be in the business of creating menus and experimenting with desserts walk that tightrope without making it sag under their weight? Let's find out.

health and fitness Updated: Oct 24, 2009 18:19 IST
Jasodhara Banerjee

ChefOne of the many things that you might hear if you are trying to lose weight is that you should not eat or drink while you cook. Not that tough really, unless eating while cooking happens to be your profession.

So how do people who love food enough to be in the business of creating menus and experimenting with desserts or drinks walk that tightrope without making it sag under their weight? Do they follow strict diet regimens and exercise schedules? Do they burn it off on the treadmill? Or do they just throw up their hands and say: “Oh well, so what if I am fat?”

Run, chef, run
“There are a lot of people who think that a chef should not be skinny. But we really need to keep a balance,” says Kishi Arora, who has put the menu for the Mad Over Donuts chain in place.

The 28-year-old resident of Preet Vihar in Delhi always keeps a pair of shoes in her car and takes time out for a jog whenever she can. “I keep a glass of water by my side when I taste different kinds of food,” she explains, adding, “Instead of swallowing the sample, I spit it out. I also walk around a lot while tasting.”

Walking and jogging apart, Arora tries to maintain a balanced diet, although she admits that her profession has added inches to her girth.

Mumbai’s Moshe Shek, however, has a far more vigorous exercise schedule than Arora. The 41-year-old chef behind Moshe’s Café goes through a routine of cardio, light weights and yoga every week. “Most chefs don’t walk out of their offices. They roll out. And it gets worse as they go higher up. And putting on weight simply makes it too difficult to work in the kitchen,” says Shek.

For him, sampling food does not mean having bowlfuls either. “I taste food with the tip of my little finger. That is enough to see if it is spot on. Eighty per cent of the food sampling is done by looking at the dish – for texture – and smelling it to see if it has got the ingredients right.” But just in case Shek gives the impression that he does not like his food too much, here’s news. He admits that he is a sucker for desserts and will happily go through two to three bars of good chocolate in a week. “I also love halwa,” he says.

He does however make up for his sweet tooth by sticking to a diet comprising fruits for breakfast, soup for lunch and stir-fried vegetables with chicken or fish for dinner.

Weight watch
Kainaz Messman – owner of Theobroma in Colaba in Mumbai – believes age has something to do with it. “When you are 16, you can drink yourself silly. But as you grow older, your tastes change. Initially you are really greedy and try to absorb as much as you can. But as you mature in this career, you eat not just for the sake of eating, but to enjoy the food,” she explains.

And to ensure that she could continue enjoying her food without getting all guilty about it, Messman took to running. “I started running about three years ago and have participated in the Dream Run and the half marathon at the Mumbai Marathon,” she says.

Food again is the motivation that makes her wake up at 6 am four times a week and go running on Marine Drive. “I started running in the morning so that I could have a heavy breakfast,” she laughs. Lots of fruits, homemade cereal and pancakes with syrup is what the 29-year-old considers a hearty start to the day.

Considering that Arora, Sheikh and Messman all have a sweet tooth and have worked with desserts of different kinds, 25-year-old Pranav Thakkar from Cocktails and Dreams – a school of bartending – brings a fresh swig to the story. The mixologist’s philosophy in life is: “Halwai apni mithai khud nahin khata”.

“I drink only when I am developing a menu. Otherwise I don’t need to taste what I am making. It’s all in the hands and the mind,” said Thakkar. “I have been in this profession for five years and though it increases the intake of sugar and alcohol, I am as skinny as I ever was!”

Though Thakkar dabbles in culinary bartending – blending alcohols with spices from the Indian kitchen, fruits and herbs – he prefers his drink neat and straight. “I’d go for Grey Goose or Absolut.” And with mixology looking up in the country, he is ready to try out wines.