Cameron Higgs is the founder of Chef Fit, a service providing coaching on exercise and nutrition, tailored for chefs. He shares his top tips with Katherine Price and explains why chefs need to take the same approach in their own lives that they take to organising their kitchen
How did Chef Fit come about?
My brother had a catering business, one of my other brothers has his own restaurant in Dublin and my dad was a chef, so food was what my family was about. I've worked in catering and bartending, so I have dealt withthe stresses of it – the really long hours and the negative lifestyle that you can fall into.
After I left the service industry I pursued coaching and I started coaching my brother. I saw a transformation in him in such a short time from doing super-simple things: he was exercising a bit more than he used to, he cut out the drinking and the smoking, and he started eating better foods.
I then started to coach the chefs I used to work with and I saw the issues they were going through with drugs, food, stress and their mental health.
I realised that there's a bit of an epidemic going on, because with every chef I spoke to, it was the same set of issues. So last year I decided to combine my expertise as a coach and my experience in the service industry.
What's the biggest challenge chefs face?
It's very easy to fall into the trap of creating food for other people but never really taking time on what you eat yourself. Chefs tend to graze on things – if they eat a few chips for every order that comes in, all of a sudden they've eaten two or three bowls of chips during the course of a day.
I don't have chefs counting calories. What I do is very simple: we take an hour on your day off to prep your food for the week. Something simple, nutritious and that can be cooked in large quantities: a pot of chilli, a stir-fry, a curry. And you're going to put half of it in the fridge and half in the freezer. One of the biggest struggles that chefs have is just getting themselves into the structure of eating two to three meals a day.
Chefs have mise en place in a kitchen, and that sets them up to do a service. Let's try and have a bit of mise en place in our lives.
How much does it cost?
The 90-day challenge is €300 (£266) and our year-long membership costs €840 (£746) We do that as a monthly membership.
What does it involve?
Initially, it's about getting structure with exercise and nutrition. We have a Facebook group that I use to coach and challenge the chefs. The group brings it alive, makes it competitive and supportive and keeps people on track. The members post pictures of the food they've eaten that day, and we'll see what's going well and what needs to be improved. They also have an app on their phone that tracks what they're eating, when they're training and what they're doing in the gym.
What's your top tip to get started?
Chefs needs to get into the mindset of doing something small every day – whether that's a walk or a gym session. They need to build a habit out of exercising, ideally before work.
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