“I’m about to have a shake because I just finished boxing and I try to fill myself with protein after a workout,” says actor Donald Faison of his strict diet. “I know it sounds cheesy, and I just said it out loud right there, but it’s true!” During our long conversation, star of TV Land’s The Exes (also of a combined 241 episodes of Clueless and Scrubs) talked about his rigid fitness routine and how he almost single-handedly started the Los Angeles food truck craze.
What kind of shake is it?
I don’t know, my fiancée bought it for me. She puts water in it, then some strawberries and around a tablespoon of almond butter. It’s my kick start for the day. Then I’ll eat something in around three hours.
I see. You’re pumped up right now because you just had a good workout. I just came to work early to interview you on the phone and missed my workout.
Yeah, I’m freakin’ charged, dude. I got so much energy that I don’t know what to do with it. After this I’m going to shower.
What does the rest of your day hold? Eating-wise?
Right now I’m trying to get lean for the summer. What I’ll probably do is have chicken and vegetables for lunch and then I’ll have a shake, and then for dinner we’ll cook something – I think tonight we have pork chops and vegetables. And then I put a fat in there also, like half of an avocado, just to get my fat in.
You’ve been on a number of long-running TV shows and must know craft service really well. What are some rules of eating at craft service?
Just don’t eat anything at craft service! That stuff is mostly for the crew, not necessarily for the actors on the show. It’s for the people that are there 10 times longer than you are as an actor, and who do way more work than you do. Those treats are for them. When you go to craft service, you have to ignore pretty much everything and look for the stuff that nobody is touching, and that’s usually the vegetables.
The vegetable plate, the zucchini action…
Exactly. That’s what you go for because nobody else is going to go for that. That’s kind of the rule: if the crew is not eating it, it’s probably healthy.
Do you consider yourself a foodie?
When you say foodie, do you mean am I a food snob?
It’s an awkward word, I realize. It was intentional, to make you feel a little awkward.
I don’t know if I’m a foodie. I love food. I like the way food tastes and I like eating food. Before I started eating the way I’m eating now, I could eat anything. I had to go to sushi restaurants and try the nastiest thing on the menu, just to see if my stomach could take it. Not anymore, though.
Was there a moment when you decided you had to change your diet?
Well, I’ve always been a bit heavier and that was a problem. I wouldn’t understand why because I would work out forever and ever. Also, my cholesterol was spiked. I have high cholesterol in my family and so I had to change that.
Let’s go back to the rules. What rules are you following right now?
I’m not eating any carbohydrates, and if I do I try to eat them only once or twice a day, and it’s certain types of carbohydrates I can eat: I can eat three-quarters cups of rice, I can eat half a yam. I try to stick to the rice because it’s so tasty now that I don’t really eat it anymore. I’ll drizzle some olive oil over that and also have some vegetables — usually green beans or Brussels sprouts or asparagus, toasted with some garlic. My fiancée is really good at that. Then, whatever the meat is. We’ll do pork chops, chicken, sometimes chicken on the bone. It really doesn’t matter what color the meat is, whether it’s dark or white meat, you’ll still lose the weight.
What about taking a break from the regime?
I get one fun day or three fun meals each week. So I might have a fun meal on Saturday, one on Sunday, and if I can’t make it during the week, I might have a frozen yogurt or something like that.
Do you guys have a 16 Handles out in LA? Do you know that chain?
No, but that sounds delicious.
It’s 16 different types of yogurt and you have a lot of toppings, like Reese’s, berries, kiwis, sugar cereal. Shit is insane.
That sounds wonderful, that sounds wonderful [laughs].
I’m telling you, invest some of your coin in 16 Handles.
I think we have a Munchkins out here, which sounds similar. A frozen yogurt spot.
Have you thought about opening a restaurant? I know your friend Zach [Braff] has a restaurant in New York.
That’s the thing, though. You want to open a restaurant, but then it’s keeping it open that’s the tough thing to do. It costs money and that’s a big investment and then all of a sudden you can realize it didn’t pan out the way you wanted it to pan out and you lost a crapload of money doing it. I wanted to open a food truck at one point, but my fiancée talked me out of it.
You’re marrying a smart woman! That’s not something to do for money…
But it blew up! This was back when nobody was doing food trucks! There was only one and I was like, “This is good! This is the way to do it!” Then we thought that it might not be a good idea or a good investment. So we didn’t do it, and then everybody started doing them and now they’re all over the place and you can’t make money. There was a small window where you could have made money, but you can’t anymore.
That’s true. Do you have a favorite food truck in LA?
There’s one that’s both [Korean] and Mexican food mixed in one…
Kogi, it’s gotta be Kogi…
Yeah, it’s pretty good. Those flavors!
You grew up in Harlem. What was the food like growing up there, any restaurants that you went to as a kid?
Yes, great ones. One Fish, Two Fish. There was a spot Papa Charles had when I was a kid. It was a restaurant that had another restaurant underneath and what was popular because the restaurant upstairs was just like – imagine going to a bar and ordering food but there’s no drinks there. It was bar food but without the drinks. Downstairs, there was a theater with more food spots and tables. It was only open for food when they were doing shows, and let me tell you – they knew how to make a burger. I’ve still to this day never had a burger like that! They’d make it real thin and then they’d put on onions, peppers and put it on a soft baguette. The grease would soak up into the baguette and it would make the bread taste even better
Well-seasoned bread is essential in a burger, you’re so right.
It was wonderful. They would make the patty so thin, so you would always have a well-done burger but they seasoned it a certain way. The place closed down when I was a little kid, like 10 or so, and I haven’t eaten a burger like that since then.
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