October 8, 2009 / 4:41 PM / 10 years ago

New York chefs shed pounds to fight hunger

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - A group of New York chefs have been eating smaller portions and working out in the gym to lose weight and raise up to $250,000 to fight childhood hunger.

About 15 culinary experts taking part in the New York City Wine & Food Festival hope to drop as much as 20 pounds (9 kilograms) each for the project, which is part of a national weight-loss campaign sponsored by Weight Watchers.

“Most of us are just a little chubby. We taste a lot and it’s part of the culture,” admitted Anita Lo, who has taken up the challenge along with Michael Lomonaco, Jacques Torres and other chefs.

About two-thirds of Americans are overweight, according to government figures, which also show that 8.3 percent of families with children face hunger at some time during the year.

Lo and the other chefs were urged to take part in the effort by festival organizer Lee Schrager, who is also trying to shed excess weight for charity.

Lomonaco said he piled on the pounds after he opened Porter House, a high-end steak restaurant three years ago.

“I was a fitness fanatic. Opening the restaurant was really tough. Chefs eat out of stress too,” he explained.

To drop the pounds, the chefs have been eating sensibly, drinking fewer glasses of vintage wines, and they have turned down invitations to restaurant openings.

More ambitious chefs like Torres also ramped up their hours at the gym.

“I went on vacation and gained a few pounds back,” said Torres, who had shed 10 pounds.

During the six-week “Chefs Lose for Good” campaign, which ended on Thursday, each chef reported their weight loss to Weight Watchers. The company will donate money to a charity to fight childhood hunger based on the amount of weight the chefs dropped.

The four-day New York City Wine & Food Festival, which starts on Thursday and brings together about 100 chefs from around the globe, is expected to attract 25,000 people.

Reporting by Richard Leong; Editing by Patricia Reaney

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