How Top Chefs Keep Fit (And Eat Well)
Mr Gary Lee. Photograph courtesy of The Ivy
Training regimes and fitness goals of the Michelin-starred chefs built like Michelin Men.
Eating some of best food in the world all day, every day sounds like a dream, but it has its waist-expanding down side. Which is why many of the UK’s top chefs take their fitness as seriously as their food, continually striving to stay in shape and building bodies to make the Michelin Man blush. How is it possible? We find out how these three of Britain’s top cooks work off what they eat.
Mr Sat Bains, Restaurant Sat Bains
Photograph courtesy of Restaurant Sat Bains
Mr Sat Bains is a big man. But despite hands like dinner plates and shoulders like the Wembley Arch, he is responsible for some intricate and beautifully constructed dishes. His two-Michelin-star restaurant in Nottingham regularly features in lists of the UK’s best. As the man himself says, “If people are going to come to the Midlands to see us, I need to offer something special.” And he does.
He’s trained seriously most of his life and lifted big, but now he’s approaching 50, he is looking for a different emphasis in his training. His previous regimes have left him with several injuries – a torn bicep the latest – so while he wants to maintain strength, fitness is now his focus.
“I’ve started doing an eccentric workout [which focuses on slowing down the elongation of the muscles] with four variations that I rotate four days a week,” says Bains. “My personal trainer Nick Warren has devised the schedule to work around my injuries and I’ve never been stronger. Over the past six weeks I’ve seen huge strength gains, more so than with any other style of training.
“I do a 10-second negative decline [starting at the top of the rep and taking 10 seconds to get to the bottom] for each exercise. The session takes about 65 minutes and by the end of it I’m absolutely knackered.”
Mr Bains’ workout
Bench press – 2 x 10 reps, repeated 10 timesSplit squat – 2 x 10 repsLeg extension – 3 x 10 reps, repeated 10 timesBent-over row – 2 x 10 reps, repeated 10 timesShoulder press – 2 x 10 reps, repeated 10 timesLeg curl – 3 x 10 reps, repeated 10 times
What he eats
To fuel his workout, Mr Bains looks to a gym staple, the protein shake, but adds ingredients for energy, so he can focus as he cooks in a hot environment. “Straight after training, I’ll have a shake with a scoop of whey, 50g cottage cheese, 3 tsp peanut butter and half an avocado,” he says. “And for lunch, it’ll be poached salmon with green veg, brown rice or sweet potato.”
Mr Phil Howard, Elystan Street
Photograph courtesy of Elystan Street
With the look of a professor and equally learned style of cuisine, Mr Phil Howard recently left The Square to open Elystan Street in Chelsea, southwest London. His dishes here are best described as comfort food elevated to the highest possible level. Each element on each plate is perfectly seasoned and cooked to extract maximum possible flavour. If a piece of beef needs to be braised and regularly basted, then that’s what Mr Howard will do. The workout he does to justify his 70 per cent butter mash, confit meat and decadent desserts is simple, but effective.
Mr Howard’s workout
“I love open-water swimming,” says Mr Howard. “It’s the most refreshing thing before a service. I’m training for the London Triathlon at the moment, so it’s all geared towards that. I start at the crack of dawn in Heron Lake in Staines and swim 2km a couple of times a week.”
What he eats
“Before the swim, I’ll have a homemade granola,” says Mr Howard. “It’s packed with all sorts of flakes, loads of different nuts, plenty of dried fruit and some turmeric. Once I get to the restaurant, it’s always a bacon butty as a reward.”
Mr Gary Lee, The Ivy
Photograph courtesy of The Ivy
Mr Gary Lee has been pan-rattler-in-chief at London’s most famous restaurant for a decade. He deals with 700 customers a day and serves a menu that’s designed to please any palate. “I challenge anyone to come here and say there’s not one thing they like on the menu,” he says. Indeed, it’s been accommodating customers for a century and is the first restaurant on the list for any travelling celebrity. Dishes such as bang bang chicken and The Ivy shepherd’s pie are the stuff of legend and Mr Lee applies his own twists to the classics.
He’s boxed all his life, from the streets of north London to the gym to the ring and has sparred with national champions. He takes his training seriously. “Boxing is like nothing else,” he says. “It’s very hard, needs self-discipline and, above all, determination.”
Mr Lee’s workout
10 minutes’ stretching10 minutes’ skipping3 rounds on the bags (emphasis on positioning and technique, no power at this stage)Stretch again and then shadow box for 2 rounds2 rounds on intense pad work for speed3 more rounds on the bags (with emphasis on power and movement)2-minute restPad work for another 3 roundsStretch againCollapse in the steam room
What he eats
With one of London’s finest burgers in his larder, it must be hard for Mr Lee to resist opting for this rather greasy source of post-workout protein, but instead he goes with grilled chicken with rice or pasta or tuna with avocado, tomatoes, mixed seeds, lemon and olive oil. “I don’t go too heavy with food after training as it’s harder to digest,” he says.