LifestyleFood and DrinkThe celebrity chef is back with a new TV show and book, and hopes he can guide others who want to lose weight and eat better
Friday, 17th January 2020, 10:42 am
Before Tom Kerridge answers a question of any description, he slides over a curious little gift box and says in his West Country chime, These are for you, by the way. Inside are four energy balls covered in desiccated coconut. They taste of carrot cake and are some way removed from those found in health shops, which tend to be bitty and dry and reminiscent of what grandmothers feed squirrels.
Kerridge has put a little weight back on recently, so is on a health kick. A nation watched in hungry admiration when the chef told of how he shifted 12 stone yes, an entire Jason Atherton having topped out at 30 stone at the age of 40. He knew then that he needed to make a change: I had a family, and I knew I needed to do it for them, not just myself.
I was self-indulgent and hedonistic before. These days I love nothing more than taking my son to the park. Seeing his face and spending time with him is the greatest feeling there is.
Despite running two-Michelin-starred pub The Hand & Flowers in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, a second one-star venue, The Coach, nearby, as well as grill restaurants in London and Manchester, Kerridge denied himself carbs, went teetotal, and found time to go swimming every day.
Six years on, its fair to say that, while he was a well-known chef before, losing the weight meant another level of popularity. Here was a relatable everyday bloke who, he says, would otherwise be driving a van or working on a building site, but had forged a prestigious career as a celebrity chef. Yet he concedes that his life has become a touch paradoxical: his meteoric rise has meant a great deal of media work, meaning he doesnt have time to go swimming every day any more.
My world is more disjointed now. Theres not so much structure, he explains. I suppose its a catch-22: Im so lucky to be able to have this career and do this work, but Im travelling a lot, staying at hotels, and its made it much harder to stick to my routine.
A 6ft 2in gentle giant of a man, Kerridge is determined to avoid slipping back into bad habits and this time hes doing things differently. Theres no cold turkey dramatics, no shunning carbs resolutely or swimming for hours only balance and realistic, lower-calorie food.
I had to make big changes to kick-start things before, he says. Thats what worked for me and got me to a better position. Now I focus on calorie-counting and Im realistic about meal planning. I take the time to make delicious dinners and treat things in moderation I might have a small portion of chips, but I wont go crazy. I eat a lot of salads, grilled fish. We can all make these choices and then every now and then have a burger.
When Kerridge first stripped off the pounds, he found himself getting into weightlifting. I managed to get up to 185kg on the deadlift. But training to that extent made me need to eat much more, which obviously brought other problems.
Now he mixes cardio with weight training, and while he concedes that calorie-counting doesnt work for everyone, it does for him, and he hopes he can help to guide others from a chefs perspective.
What I was doing [with my diet] before wasnt sustainable, he admits. My life is food. Im around it every day and I love it Im tasting things and experimenting with new dishes. I cant avoid certain foods. I dont want to be militant about how I live. But what I can do is to exercise some control, and thats much easier if I think about dishes and work out weekly plans.
Kerridge explains these values in his new book, Lose Weight and Get Fit, and the BBC show that accompanies it. It is filmed in his home town of Gloucester and is somewhat of a homecoming: the personal trainer helping the chef and 11 volunteers on the show was his best man; and the fitness programme is taught at Hartpury College, where his heroes of Gloucester rugby club train.
Kerridge suggests that simple, home-cooked dishes such as spicy steak and charred corn tacos, and chicken, miso and mushroom ramen will appeal to a broad spectrum of society.
I want people to feel safe and comfortable, he says. My recipes are approachable. I think part of my appeal is that people can relate to me. Even my Michelin-starred restaurants are pubs. Ive always wanted to be as accessible as possible, and thats the same of my cookbooks. The food is obviously very different to what you get in the Hand & Flowers or The Coach, but its what I like to cook at home. Ive been fortunate to travel and pick up ideas. I wouldnt do them in my restaurants, as theyre not my style, but they are still really tasty.
Kerridge says that shooting the programme in Gloucester made translating his new food from book to screen all the more joyful. Its warm. Everyones in it together, which is great. We all had a common goal, so theres real companionship.
Sentimentality aside, Kerridge remains a chefs chef, and is just as focused on his pubs and grills as he ever was. He says Britains burgeoning food industry is exciting to be a part of and his latest venture, The Bull & Bear in Manchester, is going far better than he anticipated.
The food scene now is fantastic, he says. We have some of the best produce in the world. There are some amazing chefs doing fantastic things. I love the restaurant scene up and down the country. Its wonderful to be part of the buzz.
And his naughty streak is still in there somewhere. If he found himself sitting down to a hypothetical final meal without repercussions, he says, hed have an enormous fish and chips haddock with curry sauce, tartare sauce, gravy, and 24 cans of Stella. You wont find that on many diet plans.
Lose Weight & Get Fit by Tom Kerridge is published by Bloomsbury Absolute, priced 22. The accompanying TV show airs on BBC2 at 8.30pm on Wednesdays.
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