Whether it's work or a work-out, Mr Michael Chernow is not a man to do things by halves. "Every day, we have to make a decision," he tells us, in this exclusive lifestyle short. "The decision to work hard, or to not work hard." It isn't hard to tell which path he takes.
"I really feel as if I started my career in 1993, when I was 13 years old," says the 32-year-old general manager and co-owner of The Meatball Shop, New York's wildly popular, four-strong chain of meatball restaurants. "Back then, I was delivering vegan food," he explains. "But even before then, I was busy. When I was 10, 11 years old I was walking every dog in the neighbourhood. I've always had an underlying drive to succeed."
That drive manifests itself in a passionate and determined attitude towards exercise, too - a part of life that, by Mr Chernow's own admission, he would be lost without. "I had an epiphany in my early twenties," he explains. "I realised that if I wanted to make anything of myself I would have to change and take action." It's a promise that he has promptly fulfilled.
After 15 years spent working his way up the ranks in the restaurant business, Mr Chernow and his business partner Mr Daniel Holzman opened their first restaurant in February 2010, on Manhattan's Lower East Side. It was a moment he describes as the realisation of a dream. "We pulled the paper off the windows, and there was a line from the front of the restaurant that went all around the block. Daniel and I had no idea it was going to be that big. From that day, everything changed."
You began your career in the 1990s. How has New York changed?
So much has changed. Business is booming, especially on the dining front. The food scene in New York City, and nationwide, is seeing one of its largest revolutions. I am humbled to be a part of it; I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude every day when I wake up.
What's the philosophy at The Meatball Shop?
The philosophy is "simple is best, eat real food". Smiling and making delicious meatballs is what we do best. It's what got us here, and we know that if we stay focused on that, we'll continue to succeed.
Was opening your first shop a daunting experience?
I won't say that it wasn't the most challenging thing I've ever done, because it was. But I've always thought like an entrepreneur: not afraid to take a risk, and when I make a decision I stick to it. I was excited, rather than afraid, because I just knew it was right. Kind of like my marriage: when I knew, I knew. I got married at 26, and am still happily married to the beautiful Donna Hemmingsen Chernow.
I work out or train five to
six days a week. I call it my "moving meditation". If I don't get a work-out in - even on a rest day - I am
not 100% sound
What inspires you about where you live?
Neighbourhoods inspire me, early mornings in the city inspire me, the change in season inspires me, the diversity of people inspires me. New York City is known for its lifestyle; I am inspired by lifestyle.
How important is it to you to keep fit?
It's a huge element in my life; I am lost without it. I work out or train five to six days a week. I call it my "moving meditation". If I don't get a work-out in - even on a rest day - I am not 100% sound.
Did anything prompt this lifestyle?
I grew up in New York City, where vices are abundant and easily attainable. I had a lot of fun, but realised that I needed to change, so at 23 years old I made a decision - I stopped drinking and using drugs, and began exercising and taking life seriously. Exercise taught me a discipline I could not have got anywhere else. More than anything, though, it taught me self-belief.
How do you keep your regime varied?
I have a callisthenic routine I do every morning that consists of abs and push-ups. I try to run three to four days a week - running has been a passion of mine for a long time. I have been doing Muay Thai kick boxing for eight years, and do that four days a week as well. And if I'm feeling stressed I use the boxing room at Equinox to get it all out.
I am a collector of work boots, worn-in vintage T-shirts and classic denim. I also have a huge collection of J.Crew button-down shirts. They're the best fit, and great quality
What are the most important items in your wardrobe?
I am a collector of work boots, worn-in vintage T-shirts and classic denim. I also have a huge collection of J.Crew button-down shirts. They're the best fit, and great quality.
Do you yearn for the chance to wear a more formal wardrobe?
I love putting on a suit or a shirt and tie, but I don't get as many opportunities to do so as I'd like. If I wore a suit to work at TMS my staff would crack jokes all night... Really. I don't believe the days of "dressing to impress" are over, though; it's just a question of timing and scenario.
What significant item do you always keep on you?
I never leave home without my Moleskine notebook. It has all my ideas, lists and tasks in it. With iCloud I can lose my computer or phone and be OK, but if I ever lost that book I would be screwed! I also have a few pieces of jewellery that I wear every day: my wedding ring and a necklace with two charms. One is a gold Danish dog tag - a wedding gift from my wife that has "I love you" in Danish etched on it - and the second is a silver figure of St Christopher.
Lastly, I am a collector of tattoos. All my tattoos have a story and I plan to keep the collection going as I grow old and grey, saving my hands, feet and neck until last. Who knows - I might be the first 75-year-old man to get a neck tattoo!
For more on Mr Chernow's health and fitness routine, read the extended interview at q.equinox.com