Since 1984, nonprofit Share Our Strength has been raising awareness and funds for the No Kid Hungry campaign, working toward eradicating child hunger in America. For the past three years, part of the program has involved a bike race known as Chef’s Cycle, a three-day, 300-mile endurance event featuring award-winning chefs.
An astounding one in six children will face hunger this year in America. Given the fact that we waste approximately 30 to 40 percent of the food supply in the United States, according to the USDA's Economic Research Service, this is not only abhorrent, it’s unnecessary.
The race, which has a goal of raising $2 million via donations, representing 20 million meals, will take place May 16-18 in Santa Rosa, Calif., and feature some of the industry's top chefs.
Chefs Who Cycle to End Child Hunger
Many of the chefs participating in the event are former athletes. This year’s event includes chefs like Chris Cosentino, who was once a 24-hour endurance bike racer. For this event, Cosentino biked a minimum of 24 straight hours on a closed track of around 12 miles. Cosentino left the world of racing for the kitchen, but for this, his second Chef's Cycle race, he’s getting back on the bike, so to speak.
“I left racing, but I never left cycling,” says Cosentino. “It’s always remained a huge part of my life. It’s my way of clearing my head and having time to reflect, while staying healthy, which is so important for everyone with a busy lifestyle.”
Also participating is Chef Lentine Alexis, a former world-ranked Ironman competitor, endurance triathlete, and yoga instructor who, after working as a professional chef, became a brand ambassador and recipe developer for athletic companies like Rapha Racing.
“I really never left the bike,” says Alexis. “When the lifestyles of a professional kitchen collided with my active lifestyle, I left the kitchen instead.”
Chef Michael Friedberg, founder of Yellowbelly Chicken and former member of the U.S. Olympic Ski team, notes that he has “always been an athlete.”
“I skied moguls,” he notes. “A World Cup mogul run is under 30 seconds with two jumps. The sports science behind it shows that a skier needs to move three times a second. The training is all based on explosive power & gymnastic aerials.”
Jeff Biddle, who is the regional vice president for Whole Foods, notes that the race combines his loves of cycling, giving back, and food.
“I’ve done many centuries and even a few ultramarathons, so this event was right up my alley,” he says. “I’m excited to be riding with this group of industry leaders that share these common values.”
Eating Like an Athlete
Finding the balance between eating like a chef and eating like an athlete is no easy feat.
“Chefs do an amazing job taking care of others but can sometimes neglect taking care of themselves,” notes Friedberg.
It certainly helps that many of the chefs participating in the event have experience eating like an athlete, like Alexis, who has brought her two passions together for her career.
“I decided to pursue a career in the culinary sphere because I could literally feel and see how eating real, whole foods prepared with care impacted my performance and well-being,” she notes. “As a culinary professional now, I feel its my role to help make sure that my community has the opportunity to feel that same impact.”
“I try to eat healthy as a rule,” notes Cosentino, “Not only before a big ride, but always. I never eat dessert - sometimes I'll have fruit, but other than that I don't eat a lot of sugar. It's very hard, but I also cut out beer, and try to eat a more balanced meal at the right times of the day to keep my energy steady.”
Biddle agrees. “I really haven’t made major changes, but I try to eat well most of the time. I live a pretty active lifestyle and try to stick to an organic, paleo-friendly diet without a lot of processed foods.”
Balancing Training and Cooking
Eating isn’t the only thing that chefs need to think about when training for an event like this. Chefs famously work long hours, and in order to participate, they need to find time to train.
Alexis notes that being a chef in the cycling industry has allowed her to more easily find a balance between work and training.
“My 'training' schedule isn't very stringent or strict... and that flexibility keeps me going,” she says, and notes that her schedule includes a daily hour-and-a-half ride in the mountains as well as a weekly yoga session and a few resistance training sessions to help with her posture and strength.
“On the weekends I'll go for a couple of big rides with friends, and I always take a day somewhere in my week to rest,” she says.
Biddle notes that a recent promotion has eaten into his training time, but he's not worried.
“I’m more interested in being part of the ride for the cause behind at all – but I’ve been going for training rides as much as possible on the weekends,” he says.
“I have been doing longer rides to prep for Chef's Cycle,” notes Friedberg, who usually races cross country mountain bike and cyclocross events. “Cutting back on work is not an option. We just opened our 3rd restaurant. I’m working a lot - Chefs Cycle will be a much needed break!”
“I enjoy being out of my comfort zone,” says Cosentino, who notes that since he's opening two restaurants this year, his training schedule has been more sporadic than in the past. “At the same time, my mentality is that this isn't a competitive and intimidating race. Maybe I won't finish in the top ten, but it's not about that, it's about being able to ride with my peers as a collective to raise money to help feed children across the country. It's a truly special event.”
Those interested in participating in the event can donate via the No Kid Hungry website and help these chefs make a huge difference in ending child hunger in America.
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