The 2013 Atlantic City Food And Wine Festival concluded last night and for lack of a better term, the whole weekend was just….pure awesomeness. We learned so many fun tid bits that we are dying to share with you. Like the flirtatious vibe still between Pat and Gina Neely after twenty years and how he gave a little sly “You know what else you don’t realize? How much I’m looking at you.” while discussing Gina’s 30-pound weight loss from the George Forman Grills Weight Loss Challenge. Or that Rocco Dispirito totally digs Bally’s Bikini Beach Bar and had some great lobster mac & cheese among other good stuff at McCormick & Schmick’s at Harrah’s Resort. And how Robert Irvine loves being back at Caesars Atlantic City and feels like he never left…and still has a home in Absecon….and wrote Dinner Impossible while he was still the Executive Chef at Caesars which was originally called Fit For A King.
But there was one overarching theme that all these incredible chefs touched on while speaking to the media at Atlantic City Food And Wine and that was…health and fitness, people! Check out the deets!
On Eating to Lose Weight:
Gina Neely: . I try to eat at least every couple of hours. You have to eat breakfast. People think when you need to lose weight you don’t eat, but you have to eat six or seven meals a day and drink a lot of water.
Rocco Dispirito: I have Pound A Day Diet coming out in January. It’s a very aggressive, extreme low calorie weight loss program. Eight hundred & fifty calories a day. It works really well. I have people losing ten pounds a week on it. If you give me a calorie, I can make more food out of a calorie than anyone else can because I spent ten years now working on it. It’s basically all about how much fiber and water you can work into food. On my 850 calorie diet, you get six meals plus beverages. There’s desserts, there’s all kinds of stuff. A lot of the women on my diet can’t even finish it. That’s how much food there is. You’re never hungry. You eat six times a day and because your metabolism is revved up so high because of all you’re eating, you lose weight very, very fast. The average American eats almost four thousand calories a day. So every 3500 calories you cut or burn, you lose a pound of fat. So I basically figured out how to create a 3500 calorie, calorie deficit for each person.
On Favorite Healthy Recipes:
Gina Neely: My favorite one is a grilled Caesar salad because you can grill romaine lettuce on the grill and I create dressing with Greek yogurt. I do more fruit. A smoothie in the morning. I use a lot of almond-type things.
Rocco Dispirito: First thing I cook for myself when I return home is it depends if it’s night or day. If it’s day, it’s usually a smoothie with 30 grams of egg white protein, 11 grams of fiber and a bunch of other nutrients, cocoa powder and vanilla extract – that’s my go-to morning breakfast. At night it’s usually soup. I take stock in the box with a can of Annie’s organic no salt added black beans, bring those to a boil. I drop an egg in it, lots of tobacco and that will cure all your ills. Hungry, hung-over, whatever it is you’re feeling, you’re going to be alright! And if you happen to have some scallion around, some thin, green onion, add that too.
Robert Irvine: I’m launching my own protein bars on September 27th. Healthy eating again. Low sugar and low fat. Very excited about that.
On What To Eat:
Pat Neely: If you ever go into a grocery store, the produce section is first. There’s a reason why it’s first. I always tell people, try to fill your basket with as much produce as possible. I try to fill the basket up with lettuce and kale and all sorts of broccoli and asparagus and all sorts of vegetables, so by the time you get to the meat section or the bad section, your basket is almost full, so there’s a reason why the produce section is first. We eat a lot of fish and a lot of grilled vegetables. We do a lot of grilling – fish, chicken or steak.
Rocco Dispirito: Some convenience foods are terrific, others are horrific. If you can read, you can figure out the difference. Low sodium, low fat stuffed in a box, canned beans, one of the greatest gifts to the home cook. And then flavored tobacco, cholula, mustard, Dijon mustard, horseradish, wasabi, usually soy. Those are things that are great for flavor without adding a lot of calories. I also think frozen whole wheat pizza dough is a good thing.
On Changing It Up:
Gina Neely: Buy in bulk and experiment. Add new things like cumin to fish tacos and things you wouldn’t normally eat. If you’re out somewhere at a restaurant and things taste really good, ask the chef what she did or try to take a picture of it and try to remake it yourself.
Rocco Dispirito: I started making dishes that I love, healthy. The first dish was lobster bisque. In the summer, I eat a lot of boiled lobster and I make lobster bisque with the leftovers. For those of you that cook, when something comes to the first boil, it’s a very important moment because it tells you a lot about how the dish is going to taste. I’ll never forget the first boil happening and the fragrance coming from this pot was better than any lobster bisque I’ve ever made in my life. And I realized that lobster bisque actually tastes better when there’s less fat involved versus more fat. And so this lobster bisque is made with skim milk and it was actually even more delicious than the previous ones that I’ve made and I think I’m a pretty good lobster bisque maker. It was a very illuminating moment for me. So then I tried fried chicken, mac & cheese, brownies, pizza, all stuff that people love and want to eat. Through trial and error, I figured out how to make a lot of those dishes really healthy. In many cases, the lighter ones seem better than the originals.
On “Organic” Foods:
Pat Neely: We have organic food now, but they [our ancestors] had true organic food. You couldn’t have gotten more organic then going back to the country and working off of the land.
Robert Irvine: We’re all about healthy now. If you think about nutritious food, there is none anymore. We talk about organic. Organic just equals expensive. And half of the organic places are not certified organic. To me, a tomato is not as good as it was five years ago. We’re in Jersey, the Garden State. You get great tomatoes, you get great corn, you get great blueberries. Try getting that anywhere else. You can’t.
Gina Neely: You have to exercise. I don’t pressure myself a lot, but I at least try to get three days in. On this trip, I just brought my bands with me and did them in the room this morning with some jumping jacks. Just something to get my heart rate up and kicking.
Rocco Dispirito: At 36 or 37, my doctor said well you’ve been a hypochondriac your whole life. I was always in there, always thought something was wrong and he said congratulations, you finally have something wrong with you. Blood pressure, cholesterol, this that and the other. And I said whatever, I’ll go back in six months and see how it is. I went back in six months and he said you really need to start taking medicine. There were three prescriptions and he started writing them out. I come from a long line of stubborn Italians who are scared of medicine and doctors and as he’s writing the prescriptions he said and you can try diet and exercise, so here you go. This one’s for cholesterol, the side effects are liver toxification, these two are for your blood pressure. Side effects are impotence and depression. So I was like what’s the point?! Did you say something about diet and exercise? He said yeah, no one does it, but it actually works. A year later, I was doing Iron Man 70.3 in Saint Croix. No prescriptions. No depression, no impotence and no liver toxification. If a chubby chef who has flat feet and a crooked back can do it, anybody can do it. I was about 230 back then. I’m about 50 pounds less now.
Robert Irvine: I work out at three or four o’clock in the morning every day because it’s good for me. My time. I listen to Celine Dion and ABBA! I’m also writing a new book called Fit Fuel coming out in February or March of next year which is all about eating and exercise for every age group on the planet.