For Chef Travis Flood, the chef/owner of Pappas Artisanal and Grizzby’s Biscuits & Doughnuts, bicycles have always been around, but they weren’t always associated with fitness. In fact, at first, riding bicycles was associated with fun.
Whether it was spinning around the neighborhood as a kid and racing BMX or commuting about San Francisco as a young cook, seeing the world on two wheels and enjoying the freedom they provide has always fueled the chef in some way. But it wasn’t until he was 35 years old, a 310-pound professional chef with two daughters that he shifted his focus to fitness for life.
Here are the five key strategies Chef Flood used to open the door to balance, health and whole-body well-being for good.
1. MAKE FITNESS A CAUSE LARGER THAN YOURSELF
“Growing up in Southern California I have always been on a bike … from getting around town to friend’s houses, riding to work, BMX racing and dirt jumping, being on two wheels always made me happy. My first road bike was a Bianchi and I loved it. I would ride over the Golden Gate Bridge and explore the North Bay, I was able to get farther around the city.
“I’ve always been a bigger guy and working in a kitchen around food doesn’t always help. About 10 years ago I started to take my health more seriously. (Mostly cause I was getting married and I wanted to look good in the photos!) I lost 35 pounds in about three months and felt great, but I was working out in a gym and didn’t care much for the atmosphere. It wasn’t a routine that was going to last.
“Then, just four years ago I went to visit my friend Jeff Mahin. He invited me to do ‘ChefsCycle,’ a 300-mile/three-day charity ride benefiting No Kid Hungry. It helps to ensure food security to American children across the country. As a chef, this was a cause I could get behind 100% — it’s my job to feed my community — but still I said to him. ‘Are you crazy!!?’
“At this time in my life I was pushing 310 pounds and wasn’t financially prepared to purchase an expensive road bike. My business partner knew that the cause was worthy, and that I would benefit from the challenge of the lifestyle and so the restaurant prioritized my participation and helped me to get a bike. Just four months later (after countless early morning rides), I had dropped 50 pounds and completed my first ChefsCycle event, and we raised more than $1 million for children’s hunger. Now, I try and ride 100 miles each week. I need to. I have to. It keeps me sane, grounded and feeling great.”
2. INVITE FAMILY TO JOIN IN. (AND TO SUPPORT.)
“I am the dad of twin girls and trying to fit [a cycling routine] into my life is tough. Thankfully, I don’t go into work until noon (even though I stay until late night), so I take my kids to school in the morning by 8 a.m. and then rush home, throw on some spandex and then head off for a ride. Most of my rides range from 20–30 miles except on my day off when I try and fit in something longer. I get two days off a week and one of those days I designate as ‘DaDa Day,’ and I spend it just with my kids. The other day is a Family Day, and part of one of those days I go for a longer ride. It means that my wife and kids get to spend some time together, and then we make the time to be together when I get home. Most of the time, we go for a bike ride. (The girls are so eager to get their training wheels off, but they aren’t ready to commit.) On those nights, we really try to make a well-rounded meal a key part of the night. I hope that healthy lessons are being passed by example but sometimes the kids are just kids and want mac n cheese. It’s a process but they’re learning, too.”
3. SAY GOODBYE TO UNHEALTHY TRIGGERS
“This year, I’ll turn 40 years old. And my 30s just flew by … a lot of work and raising kids. Like most restaurant employees, I had some bad habits. Excess drinking, smoking and eating poorly contaminated my life. I am happy to say I’m celebrating over 10 months sober and I love it. I feel great, I manage better, my cooking has become more creative and my cycling performance continues to improve.
“I have made family, health and my career a focal point. I can say to others: Don’t wait until you have a bad health experience to change. … It’s inevitable, start now, challenge yourself. Bad habits are the only thing you have to lose.”
4. KEEP COOKING SIMPLE
“Once I started to become fit, the way I saw food and cooked started to change. If a meal is too heavy, my body is going to feel full and bloated at the end of the night. I won’t sleep well and will feel disappointed because my body isn’t happy. Don’t get me wrong, I still cook with butter and fats, but now I use them sparingly and instead I try and find balance through new ingredients, flavors and techniques. In general, we try to eat simple, balanced meals at home.”
5. DON’T DIET
“I try to eat simply; fruit and protein smoothies for breakfast and bowls of healthy carbs, proteins, veggies with lots of healthy greens are my post-ride staples. Even at home, I cook things in larger batches so the ingredients are ready. I love bowls … they hold a lot, you can layer them accordingly. I happened to ride 106 miles yesterday and when I finished, I punished a poke bowl!
“The “Grub-A-Dub” bowl below is a typical post-ride bowl for me.”
- 3/4 cup (180 ml) quinoa, cooked
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) onions or shallots, roasted
- 3 tablespoons (45 ml) carrot, grated
- 1 cup (240 ml) cherry tomatoes, sliced
- 1 cup (240 ml) spinach, packed
- 15 almonds, toasted or raw, chopped
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) queso fresco
- 3 tablespoons (45 ml) cilantro, sliced
- 8 ounces (226 grams) grilled chicken, served cold
- 3 tablespoons (45 ml) olive oil
- Juice of 1 lemon or 2 limes
- Salt and pepper, to taste
Toss ingredients in a bowl, mix ‘em up! Enjoy! (Usually a bit of hot sauce finds its way on top in my kitchen!)
> Chef, Cyclist and Carnivore Chris Cosentino on Healthy Balance
> NYC Chef Seamus Mullen on Food, RA and Getting Healthy
Serves: 2 | Serving Size: 1/2 recipe
Nutrition (per serving): Calories: 446; Total Fat: 29g; Saturated Fat: 4g; Monounsaturated Fat: 19g; Cholesterol: 50mg; Sodium: 160mg; Carbohydrate: 26g; Dietary Fiber: 4g; Sugar: 9g; Protein: 28g