Real People, Real Fitness: San Francisco’s Chef Phillip Le

Phillip Le: Certified Stud and Chef

There are two big misconceptions when it comes to food: it has to taste bland to be healthy and you can’t eat good food to be fit. That simply isn’t the case. Just ask any chef! We interviewed Chef Phillip Le, San Francisco’s rising star in the culinary world, who has worked with the prestigious Chef Charles Phan (The Slanted Door) and Chef Yugit Pur (Tout Sweet and Top Chef: Just Desserts winner). Read about his fitness journey and his healthiest culinary tips!

When I met Chef Phillip Le two and a half years ago, I never realized what a culinary powerhouse he truly is. An original Texan, Phillip completed his Pastries degree in Pastries at Le Notre and travelled to Paris, France for his externship. When he moved to San Francisco in 2009, he landed a dream job at Out the Door, where he learned and mastered cooking savory foods. Since then, he’s also worked as a sous chef at The Slanted Door, the Contemporary Jewish Museum, and Tout Sweet. Currently, he is the chef at Melons Catering & Events. You should see/taste the food and attend the parties that he prepares for: ridiculously amazing.

But being a chef comes with a price with which I am I all too familiar: the non-stop bustle of the restaurant kitchen never allows you to take a real break to eat. Instead, food is always around and the constant nibbling and tasting add up.“So, by the end of the day, you’ve eaten a giant meal that’s been spread over 8 hours.” Weight gain is not uncommon among industry workers.

So, Phillip started running and revamped his eating habits. At that time, he started work at 3pm (rush hour) and decided that he could use the hour of sitting on the bus to run the 2 miles to work instead. At first, he could only run a little, then walk, then run a little bit, then walk. He got coaching, improved, and ran the entire 2 miles home soon after. In 2010, he ran his first marathon in SF. In total, he’s run 3 full marathons, 3 half marathons, and 4 bay-to-breakers. Badass!

As for his daily diet, he starts with fresh fruit and vegetable juice in the morning. He has really became more mindful to achieve a healthy balance throughout his busy day. Chef suggests that people become more aware. “It’s like having a giant steak in butter. You probably don’t want to eat another steak tomorrow. Reach for that salad for balance. It’s like balancing your check book.” Food is viewed differently by chefs. An outsider may find it odd, but take a moment and see it through his eyes: “Good food is not necessarily expensive; it’s well done. Something that doesn’t modify the natural product too much.” Cooking and healthy cooking cross paths at this point. Enjoying nature’s bounty as it was intended to be, not overly processed or masked under truckloads of additives and sauces. San Francisco is a known haven of boutique restaurants that cater to this culinary philosophy that delicious foods stem from whole foods.

Chef Phillip’s Top 5 Healthy Living Tips: (quoted)

  1. Take the time to pay attention to what you are eating. Just don’t sit there like a zombie and stuff your face full of food because it’s there. A lot of people do that on the couch. Be aware and portion out your snacks.
  2. Know where your food comes from.
  3. Don’t be afraid of food. Like when preparing food like proteins. People have a weird relationship with food. When you are cooking, you should use your hands, and put the tongs away. You can always wash your hands.
  4. Never underestimate the importance of water. You can never get enough of it. If you are a fairly active person, your body and skin will thank you for drinking water. You will look better. If you ever feel like your lips are chap, drink up! For great licking lips, drink lots of water. When you’re running, you lick your lips a lot and dry lips become a signal to drink water.
  5. Find an exercise you like not something that you are told to do. Then you’ll do a lot because you’re interested. Your body will catch up and you’l be having fun in the process. Over the years, I’ve quit a lot of gyms because I was bored with lifting weights. Because I’m someone who hates the gym, I found a class-based gym. In my new gym, I’m in so many different classes for rock climbing, trx, barre, and you cannot never stop learning new skills.

I love his tips. Thank you to Chef Le for sharing his inspiring story and healthy living tips. Trust me. Keep an eye out for this guy. I predict he’s going to be doing big things in the future. Hooray, Chef Phillip Le!

Thomas Ngo, RD
Registered Dietitian
Facebook–The More You Ngo


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