You Are What You Eat

Do chefs eat what they cook?  Not for long.  Television chef and cookbook author, Paula Deen,  changed her eating habits when she discovered she has type-2 diabetes, but she kept offering recipes for comfort food to unknowing fans.  Rachel Ray has been dieting, and Hawaiian chef Sam Choy, famous for his girth, has recently lost more than 140 pounds.

In his essay for the Sunday New York Times – Of Mouselike Bites and Marathons  - food and restaurant critic Frank Bruni exposes the secret behind “the people who invite us to wallow in food…”

“Here’s what we don’t see:  the yogurt and berries they had for breakfast; the salads and grilled vegetables they eat on nights off…the enormous exercise involved…”

  Bruni cites Allison Adams’ new book Smart Chefs Stay Slim: Adams interviews some well known chefs and reports that most svelte television chefs exercise fanatically – some have personal trainers – and all are careful about what they eat -  debunking the myth that chefs eat what you see them making.

Deen donut burger

In a nod to the queen of the donut burger (a hamburger between glazed donuts instead of a bun), Bruni concedes that Deen’s oven-fried potato wedges with mayo have fewer calories than French Laundry chef Thomas Keller’s “tasting of potatoes with black truffles” with cream and butter.

I’d forego the calorie savings and choose the Keller dish any day.

Related Articles:

Recipe for Keller’s potatoes with truffles

The French Laundry Chef’s Tasting Menu

Once upon a time, in the middle of the rolling hills of Napa Valley with miles of blooming grape vines in the small town called Yountville, the best chef in all of the cooking kingdom prepared a meal of nine courses for his house full of guests.  Each diner was the center of attention at a beautiful table set with fine linen, French Limoges china, polished silver, and a spray of fresh wildflowers.  The service was gracious and impeccable; the food on each plate arranged like a Picasso.  As each course was eaten, the diners proclaimed it the best ever tasted – until the next course arrived.

As I emerged from this fairy tale experience, I was amazed not only by the food preparation, presentation, and taste, but also by the quiet camaraderie of the service team.  Everyone was in a good mood, and the food tasted better for it.

As we closed the place down at midnight, we were treated to a quick tour of the kitchen. Nine chefs were seated around a table, pencils and paper in one hand, beer or wine in the other, preparing the next day’s menu.  No menu is ever the same.

The next morning I found myself in line at the Bouchon Bakery (originally built to bake for the restaurant) with a server from the night before; we were both looking for a good coffee and a sweet.  She suggested Keller’s brownie bites for the road, and told me that Thomas Keller, the acclaimed chef and owner of The French Laundry lives in the house behind the restaurant.  Of course, I made a pilgrimage back to find it – lovely French provincial house that would make Julia Child proud – surrounded by gardens.

Across from the restaurant are his acres of organically grown vegetables and herbs, and room for the lovely little chickens to roam – Silkie Bantams.  These chickens are smaller sized with fluffy down instead of feathers and little fluff balls on tops of their feet.  Not to worry; they are not used for the meals – just for their eggs.

The meal had finally ended the night before, but not before a few surprises at the end: Keller’s doughnut holes with cappuccino ice cream and hand-made chocolate truffles with six different creamy fillings (my favorite was the lemon) – and a goodie bag-to-go of shortbread cookies.

I thought I may have dreamed it all, but I did have the menu as proof of being there.  Yes, it is expensive; you might cringe at the price.  But, go, if you can.

 Keller’s heavy cookbooks are on display at the restaurant; he’s authored at least four himself, and contributed to others.  I browsed through them briefly, and may look for them in the library to relive my experience.