This May, 300 notable chefs and food industry professionals will come together for the annual Chef's Cycle for No Kid Hungry. The third annual ride includes a number of your favorite chefs, and as many are in training mode now, we took a moment with to chat with James Beard Award nominee Bryan Voltaggio of Volt, Voltaggio Brothers Steakhouse (MD) and Range (MD) and Charm City Cakes and Food Network's Duff Goldman to see how they came to participate, their training and what they eat when they need a boost.
AM: How long have you worked with No Kid Hungry and why?
BRYAN VOLTAGGIO: I have been working with No Kid Hungry since 2004, and I began by hosting fundraising dinners for them in Washington, D.C. when I was working for Charlie Palmer. As a chef, we are asked to do so much work with different charities. That’s when it really clicked for me -- as I moved forward in my career, I wanted to attach to something measurable and achievable, and No Kid Hungry helped me do that. Feeding our country’s kids is something we can actually accomplish; I cook for a living as well, so I feel like I have a stake in the game. I am not a doctor, scientist, or politician. I cannot cure diseases, but I can help end childhood hunger in America. Since deciding to focus my efforts on one goal, I have had the opportunity to see change happen, be a part of the conversation, and meet some incredible people who share this same passion. Billy and Debbie Shore (cofounders of Share Our Strength, the organization behind No Kid Hungry) have remained the humble champions of this movement and have managed to put together a force that will certainly see the end to this problem. It is their leadership and commitment that is so inspiring.
DUFF GOLDMAN: I've been working with No Kid Hungry for almost 10 years. What's most important to me is that we are chefs, and our job by definition is feeding people. No Kid Hungry works to feed hungry kids, so the fact that so many people in the culinary community actively support them isn't surprising. Most of the work I do on and off camera is with kids. Kids not getting enough to eat, especially in this country with our vast resources, is appalling to me, so anything I can do to get kids fed so they can focus on being kids is the most impactful thing I can do as a chef and as a person.
AM: How long have you been in Chef Cycle and what are you excited about?
BV: This is my third year riding in Chefs Cycle for No Kid Hungry. I am by no means a veteran and or pro at this. I bought a bike before the first Chefs Cycle ride from NYC to D.C. in 2014, and I put maybe 100-200 miles on the bike before heading up to the start. We left NYC that first morning, and I asked myself, "What the hell are you getting yourself into?" I somehow made the trip -- the whole trip -- and I have never felt a better sense of accomplishment in my life. I became hooked. This year, I look forward to seeing more first-timers and sharing my story in hopes to inspire them to make the trip. I want to see everyone hit their expectations and goals, and if I can lend a hand, that will be the most rewarding.
DG: This will be my second year participating in Chefs Cycle for No Kid Hungry. It's amazing how in just a year I have been consumed by riding my bike. I've always loved riding bikes as a kid, but I am the farthest thing from any kind of endurance athlete. Road biking was always a mystery to me, but now that I have been doing it regularly, it has changed my life. Mentally, I always do better on days when I've ridden. Riding centers me, allows me to daydream and work stuff out, and gets me out of the kitchen/studio and into the sunshine. Physically, I've dropped about 30 pounds since this time last year, and I've noticed a significant improvement in my cardiovascular fitness. I have more energy, I'm in a better mood, and my body just craves good food. When I'm riding every day, I eat clean effortlessly. The thought of a cheeseburger right now is almost gross...almost.
The other thing I love about cycling is how welcoming the other really good cyclists have been. Jeff Mahin, Bryan Voltaggio, Chris Cosentino, and Jason Roberts are all really good cyclists and far from being elitist, which is a fear I think lots of people have etting into cycling. Don't believe it. Everyone at the bike store is really cool, I promise. My best memory from last year's ride was when I was struggling to get up some hills, and Jeff and Jason took turns riding next to me with their hands on my back and helped me up. It was really amazing to see how cycling can be a team sport. Last year, I had no expectations of how well I would do on the ride, and I ended up completing just shy of 100 miles in three days. As I've been training this year, I've gotten close to 70 miles in a day, so I guess I would say my goal this year is to get to 200. That may not sound like much to the really good cyclists out there, but for me that would be a monster effort.
AM: What do you listen to in training?
BV: I am currently training in the basement of my home. I live in Maryland, and right now it’s wet, cold, and we could get snow. So I cheat a bit while riding on the trainer and catch up on ESPN and or watch a movie, since my actual human trainer makes me ride for more than an hour and a half at a time.
DG: Zeppelin. Lots of Zeppelin. Also Junip, Flaming Lips, Aesop Rock, ATCQ, Explosions in the Sky, Mogwai, Jose Gonzalez, Fu Manchu, QOTSA, Coltrane, Fela Kuti. RATM and, some other stuff.
AM: How are you training for this ride and are you an avid cyclist?
BV: I can’t call myself an avid cyclist -- I call myself a “want-to-be” avid cyclist. I want to incorporate riding into my daily schedule and commute more this year. I work so much that I cannot go for those long to stay on the bike daily and ride shorter – two to three times per day maybe.
DG: I'm not following a specific training routine other than riding my bike for as long as I can as often as possible. So far, I've been sticking to the beach where it's relatively flat, but once I am doing good strong 50 mile rides consistently, I'm going to be tackling hills. Yay.
AM: What is the best Power Breakfast you can eat when you're about to ride?
BV: I have shakes with fruit and protein in mornings -- my wife encourages that. On some days, eggs simply on a couple pieces of whole grain bread and avocado do the trick.
DG: For me it's two eggs, turkey or fish, and mixed fruit. Usually pineapple, oranges, mangoes, apples, watermelon, a quart of water, and a big ol' coffee.
AM: What on the go snacks do you eat when you're looking for energy?
BV: I like to make bars with dried figs, nuts and seeds that I can pack easily in my kit. I also really like Justin’s packaged nut butters. The flavors are great, they are easy to eat on the ride. I want my nutrition on the bike to be as delicious as possible. I like to mix it up.
DG: I always ride with a backpack on, so packing heavier stuff isn't an issue. I only eat fruit on a ride. I like oranges, because it reminds me of soccer games when I was a kid, and also I get a nice break peeling the orange as opposed to just sucking on some gel. There's also a great poke joint in Venice Beach that I sometimes treat myself to.
AM: How do you stay fit in general?
BV: Fit, hmmmm how do you define that -- HA! I spend as much time on the bike as I can. I hate to run, even though I played soccer for 14 years of my life growing up. Maybe that’s why I was the goalkeeper...
DG: I love lifting. All the sports I played in High School and college were very explosive. Football, ice hockey, and lacrosse, so lifting has been part of my life since I was 14. But adding cycling to the routine has been incredible. I feel much more balanced, and my workouts in the gym have become much more effective because my muscles give out before my lungs do. That's huge.
AM: How do you juggle your busy schedule and take time for yourself?
BV: It’s most important for me to figure out how to juggle my family life with everything I have going on. Work is easy to balance, because while I have a bunch of restaurants, I also have a great team that supports them. I am lucky to have a great team that helps ease the stress of operating a business. Working as a chef means that I am working while most families are have dinner together, so I make sure to carve out special time with my family and fit in time to stay on the bike. That is why in 2017, I plan to commute more via two wheels. I have spent time in Copenhagen, Denmark, and if they can do it in that climate, I can do it here.
DG: It's almost impossible, but the only way is to be disciplined in your allocation of time. If I let work have me, it will take every waking moment. It's just a decision that you have to make to take the time to get on your bike. The snooze button is the absolute enemy. When that alarm goes off...GET UP.
Read more from the Jan Issue.