Professional chef. It’s hard to imagine a more dedicated and passionate life that demands so much from those that choose to pursue it. So, it’s no wonder that many chefs choose running as a way to step away from their hectic work pace and find their centre, before heading back into the heat of the kitchen. Nowhere, perhaps, is the heat felt more than in the food-mad city of Montreal. And as a city full of picturesque running spots, what better place to talk to six chefs about their “second passion” and share some of their recipes for success, at work and out on the running trail.
Kimberly Lallouz is at the helm of not one, but five hot-spot restaurants in Montreal. Miss Prêt à Manger, Monsieur, Bird Bar, Henden and Restaurant du MAC all conspire to make finding time to run difficult, so Kimberly doesn’t wait. “I make the time,” she says. “Running helps me perform better at work. I take mental notes that I jot down later. It helps me clear my mind, fine-tune ideas and concentrate on the challenges ahead.”
The mental discipline of running is a common benefit extolled by these chefs who often have a million ideas racing through their heads at one time. Head Chef at Café Ricardo in Saint-Lambert, Isabelle Deschamps-Plante finds her escape in running. “I’m always thinking about my menus, and loads of other things. In the kitchen, someone is always calling my name – I hear it 300 times a day! Spending time alone with my thoughts feels good.”
For Stelio Perombelon of Outremont’s M. Mme Wine Bar, running has been so good to him, he’s made it a part of his daily routine. “I place my orders and go run for an hour. I calibrate my breathing and my stride, and I fall into a trance where I can work out my menus, resolve issues and make good decisions.” Decisions that have led to a healthier lifestyle at home and at work. “I’ve changed my eating habits, and I cook differently too,” he adds, even incorporating new nutrient-rich ingredients into his dishes.
Robert James Penny (or Bob le Chef, as he’s more famously known on his YouTube series L’Anarchie Culinaire) enjoys the simplicity of running in an otherwise chaotic life. “What I love about running is you can do it anywhere. You just need a pair of running shoes. You can go as soon as you get the chance.” Which is important when you’re around so much food: “It’s important to move. You can’t just cook and eat. People often ask me how chefs manage to stay slim. Those who do, pull it off because they run!”
Too-much-of-a-good-thing is a built-in danger to the profession, but for these chefs, running is the stabilizing ingredient. Le Vertige’s Thierry Baron admits, “It’s true that life in the kitchen is very busy, and not always healthy. We work hard, we eat, we drink.” Yet still he manages to conquer marathons – two in the last year. It helps to have a little motivation, he says. “The last few kilometres are tough, but I’m thinking about that steak I’m going to eat!”
For after all, what is life but a perfect balance of complimenting flavours? For chef, author and host of the web series Amuse-Bouche, Martin Juneau, moderation is always key. “Running enables me to stay in shape and ease my conscience when I might have overdone it with the food and drink.” And while running is a big part of his life, he’s not beholden to it. “I don’t have a routine. I run when I feel like it,” he says, but enjoys pushing himself. “You can give it your all and still find your second wind. When you’ve reached your limit, you know you’ve really outdone yourself.” Then, just like a memorable meal, “It’s as satisfying physically as it is psychologically.”
As unique and varied as their menus, these six chefs each have their own take on mixing their running life into regular life full of family, work, and at the end of the day, what’s for dinner.
Chefs. They’re just like us.