It was about a year and a half ago that Chef Santiago “Jimmy” De La Cruz decided to change his eating habits. As a chef, he said, his eating habits were all out of whack—he wouldn’t eat in the morning or afternoon, and then he would eat large portions when he finally did sit down to a meal, the McAllen (Texas)-based Monitor reported.
“I can go all day without eating,” said the 46-year-old chef for the Club at Cimarron in Mission, Texas. “I was bigger—I was almost 300 pounds.”
He also serves as the director for the Rio Grande Valley chapter of the Texas Chefs Association, so he said he feels a responsibility to educate fellow chefs and the public about healthy eating. It’s the reason he and the association are involved in the upcoming event “Por Vida Food Festival,” which is slated for July 27, the Monitor reported.
“I feel it’s a chef’s responsibility to make things that are…health-conscious (so) that people don’t have to worry about that part when they go to a restaurant and that they have those options,” he said. “The more educated the chefs get, then the (better) they can educate.”
After learning how to eat smaller portions of healthier foods and to exercise regularly, De La Cruz has already lost weight and built muscle, the Monitor reported.
“I hadn’t seen a difference in a long time,” he said. “Maybe about two weeks ago, three weeks ago, I saw it. I got out of my shower and I saw the difference.”
Many chefs in the Rio Grande Valley, he said, don’t know how to cut the calories or the portions, and it’s up to them to help change attitudes about food, the Monitor reported.
“How are you going to teach, if you don’t know?” he said. “That’s why we’re doing the ‘Por Vida (Food Festival) …’ that’s how you grow.”
Menus at the club have changed a little already to reflect his healthier outlook on food, the Monitor reported.
“I’ve added more greens … more grilled options,” he said. “We’re not breading, we’re not frying or anything. We’re doing blackened, but it’s a dry blackened (method). …The other thing we’re doing is more balance on the portion size.
“I use a lot of herbs,” De La Cruz said. “I have my herb garden there. Everything we make is fresh and we use fresh herbs.”
There are a few different reasons the chef has changed his lifestyle, from aesthetics to overall health, the Monitor reported.
“And yeah, I’m getting older, of course,” he said. “And I just wanted to change my life, I guess. Healthy eating, healthy living…and try to eat good food, not overeat and portion my sizes. I’m still learning, but at the same time, I’m teaching.”