Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Local chefs trade flab for fitness

Rick Bayless of Frontera Grill.

Just in case you were thinking about bailing out on that New Year's Resolution to shed a few pounds, the Chicago Sun-Times publishes an article today to make you think twice.

They've talked to a few local chefs who have successfully fought off the temptation of the decadent meals coming out of their kitchens. So, if they can do it, so can you.

Interviewed were:

Kevin Hickey of the Four Seasons Chicago (120 E. Delaware Pl., 312-280-8800), who, in eight months trimmed 88 pounds from his 6'2" frame by exercising and snacking wisely: "There are no diets, no weight loss plans, no pills, no plans that work. The only thing that works is changing your life for the rest of your life."

Frontera Grill's (445 N. Clark St., 312-661-1434) Rick Bayless, who has maintained 157 pounds for 10 years with a regimen that includes acrobatic yoga: "Don't think about good and bad foods, lean or rich foods. Instead, choose to eat whole foods -- cut out all processed foods ... And never let yourself get hungry -- if you do, you'll eat too much."

Gabe Viti of Gabriel's (310 Green Bay Rd., Highwood, 847-433-0031), who credits Iron Man competitions, marathons and climbing for his fit, 6", 182-pound frame: "Watch what you eat. Choose proteins, egg whites, fruits, vegetables and sources of energy. Oatmeal is like rocket fuel -- but no sugar; instead, add raisins."

Joe Decker of Wildfire (159 W. Erie St., 312-787-9000), who gets to the health club at 5am daily for weight training, spinning, cycling, swimming, Pilates and yoga: "Eat smaller portions and a lot of grains: whole-grain bread, whole-wheat pasta, stir fries with brown rice. There are no shortcuts that work; moderation is the key. "

Deal of the day . . .


Intimate Andersonville eatery La Donna (5146 N. Clark St., 773-561-9400) offers a low-key environment for customers wanting to enjoy the regional Italian fare.

And every Wednesday proprietor/chef Antonella Barbanente, who opened the restaurant in 1995, offers a deal you don't want to pass up. The three-course dinner special is only $19.95. It gives customers a chance to explore the menu of handmade pastas that are made on premises daily. How about the Rigatoni alla Sorrentina (pasta tossed in red sauce topped with fresh mozzarella & sweet basil)? Or perhaps you'd rather do something lighter like the Spaghetti Aglio Olio e Peperoncino (spaghetti with virgin oil, garlic & crushed red pepper)? Or just go for one of the risottos like the Risotto Della Donna (with butternut squash, goat cheese & fresh sage) or Risotto Fantasia (with chicken, red apple slices, sugar, onions & brandy).

Whatever the case, you cannot go wrong. Also, pair your dishes up with select glasses of Merlot or Chianti, which are half off every Wednesday.