City Chefs Give the Skinny on Losing Weight
Three case studies put meat on the bones of those New Year’s resolutions
By Angela Murrills
Going on a diet? Join the crowd as we all flock, lemminglike, toward the bathroom scale. January is actually the easiest month for cutting down on carbs or calories. When you've just come off weeks of being plumped like a Strasbourg goose on turkey, trimmings, and your cousin's triple-chocolate brownies, a plate of steamed broccoli starts to look awfully good. Besides, Vancouver's climatic murk makes you feel miserable anyway, so you might as well compound it. Money is a little tight too, so you probably won't be eating out as much either. Right? Well, that's easy for you to say, but what if you're in the food business? How do you cope if most of your waking moments are spent in a kitchen and your sleeping ones involve dreaming up menus? It can be done. Read these three inspiring case histories, then clip this column and tape it to your fridge.
Business lunches and sampling new products are part of daily life for Linda Meinhardt, whose eponymous store (3002 Granville Street) in total probably clocks in at something like 10 quintillion calories. Yet—wait for it, amazing but true—between November 2001 and the following December, Meinhardt lost more than 23 kilos (50 pounds). Her before self was a "stress" eater, she confesses: she didn't feel great, she knew carrying extra weight wasn't healthy, and, at the time our story begins, her exercise regime was nonexistent.
For the first four months, Meinhardt cut carbs and dropped 10 kilos (22 pounds), then she joined Weight Watchers and whittled off 13.5 (30 pounds) more. She also, and this is the kicker, is in the gym every day by 6 a.m. for a minimum 90-minute workout. Everything she eats is written down in a journal so she can tell you that breakfast might be Nature's Path cereal or Raisin Bran, lunch could be a bean salad, and dinner could involve a stuffed chicken breast or French onion soup "without the bread and cheese". Two teaspoons of dessert, but that's it. Her lifesavers are Weight Watchers bars ("like chocolate bars"), canned salmon and tuna, sliced turkey, and Japanese restaurants.
A poster child for abandoning carbs, Karen Barnaby of the Fish House in Stanley Park (8901 Stanley Park Drive) has lost 32 kilos (70 pounds) and is now nine kilos (20 pounds) away from her goal. "The first 50 pounds," she says, "was easy." Now, "I'm not being as careful as I was. I still don't eat sugar, flour, or grains." To boost her metabolism, she installed a home-gym setup back in July. Self-control helps her wrestle the demons of temptation that prowl through a restaurant kitchen. "Having a little taste is okay," says Barnaby. "Having a million tastes is not." Currently working on a low-carb cookbook to be published this fall, Barnaby has already spread the word through a half-dozen highly successful bread-and-pasta-deficient dinners. The next is scheduled for February. (Call the Fish House in Stanley Park, 604-681-7275.)
"With low-carbing, you never have to be hungry," she says, citing cheese, or celery with peanut butter as possible snacks. "Breakfast, I'm into canned tuna with mayonnaise. I've also been experimenting with cereals that aren't cereals," such as one that includes flax seeds, almonds, and soy protein isolate. "Lunch is generally a nice salad. For dinner, I really like cauliflower mashed with butter and cream cheese, [with] sautéed spinach, a piece of salmon or cod." Barnaby also makes Chinese food without the noodles but with all the flavours.
Robert Le Crom, executive chef at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver (900 West Georgia Street), kicked off his diet right after his August vacation and lost 11.5 kilos (25 pounds) in around two months. "I didn't drive myself crazy doing it." Another low-carb convert, he's lightened up on the croissants but eats as much cheese as he always has. His prescription: "I always have wine with dinner. Two slices of toast for breakfast. No potatoes, more vegetables. A lot of grilled things, and lots of tomato salad." He doesn't follow a recognized exercise pattern but often literally runs from place to place in the vast hotel kitchens. "I still taste dishes," says Le Crom. "But when we do potato gratin now, we add yam and sweet potato." He's not alone, he says, in axing carbs. Many women come to 900 West and order an 18-ounce prime rib. "No potatoes, just vegetables."
So there you have it. If they can do it, you can too. One last thought. Totalled, Meinhardt's, Barnaby's, and Le Crom's weight loss adds up to a staggering 67 kilos (147 pounds), an entire person lost in the ether. Maybe some benign scientist could get to work on reconstituting what, with such a rich culinary heritage, would be one helluva chef.