Healthy Living

David Santos Says Staying Fit As A Chef Has Its Challenges

David Santos has struggled with his weight for most of his life, he says.

In honor of Food Republic’s annual Healthy Living Month, we reached out to chefs about their diet and fitness routines and will be featuring these interviews throughout January. Next up is David Santos.

David Santos is one of New York’s most creative chefs (and an occasional Food Republic columnist), with more than a decade’s experience in some of the city’s top kitchens, including Bouley and Per Se. While serving as executive chef/partner at Louro, he garnered acclaim from The New York Times, Michelin and others for his uniquely personal style of cooking. He is currently chef of NYC’s soup-centric Good Stock, which just opened a shop in the West Village to complement its stall in Urbanspace Vanderbilt. Unlike other chefs we’ve interviewed this month, Santos is less prone to discussing his varied fitness techniques, instead opening up about his lifelong struggle with his weight.

What’s the first thing you eat or drink in the morning?

That can vary greatly. It’s rare that I’ll eat anything in the morning. I usually shower, brush my teeth and go on my way. If I swing by the market, I will usually have one of our soups and some water. I would say that’s the first thing I eat around 50 percent of the time. The other half varies quite a bit.

How do you keep in shape? Are lunch and dinner usually scheduled or do you graze?

If round is a shape, I’m in prime condition. I’m definitely a graze-style eater for better or worse. I definitely don’t always make the best choices — especially when I’m hungry late at night.

What’s your fitness and/or wellness routine?

I definitely don’t have a fitness routine. I’ve battled weight issues most of my life. I am trying to be more diligent about being more active and currently wear a Fitbit to track steps. I average about 16,000 steps per day when I work, so that’s like walking five to six miles a day or so. I should definitely be doing more for health purposes, though.

As far as other wellness routines, I’m not much into meditation. I do enjoy listening to Mozart as a way to clear my head a bit. I also have a monthly membership to get massages that I haven’t taken full advantage of. I’m not an overly stressful person so I tend to roll with the punches pretty well.

Any New Year’s eating resolutions?

I don’t really believe in them. I’m more the “If I say it, I’m gonna do it” kind of guy. It doesn’t matter what time of year it is.

Have you ever done a fad diet?

I did a detox cleanse once with my ex. It worked for her, but not so much for me.

Any food or drinks you actively avoid?

As a chef, it’s hard to avoid any foods. I am very actively trying to avoid any sorts of fast food. Again, this can be difficult when you’re starving at 2 in the morning!

Have you ever struggled with your weight?

My entire life. I got very sick as a child with double pneumonia and was in the hospital for a very long time. I was pretty skinny up to that point. But I was put on steroids at the time and stayed on them for a long time after that, which seemed to trigger weight gain. Ever since then, I’ve ranged from having a six-pack to being very overweight.

Any go-to health tips for home cooking?

When I am being proactive about my weight, I think cooking at home is vital. Avoiding processed food is important. If you work the way most chefs do, though, it’s hard to cook every day, so I believe in making long-lasting meals. I like things like braised big cuts of meat for tacos or salads. Chili and stews are always good.