This is not my attempt to tell you why you should be eating healthier this month. What this is, in truth, is an exercise in extreme camaraderie-building, born of my own weak willpower and need for social acceptance.
I am doing the Whole30 —a 30-day no-sugar, no-grain, no-legume/bean and no-dairy diet, and I wanted to know which other masochistic souls in Richmond’s brilliant food scene are also depriving themselves of such beautiful things this month. And, more important, why. For me, the Whole30 is a self-dare. When I came across the program, a tiny, wheedling voice snorted, “Psh, as if you could ever do that.” But, as that voice should know, since it resides in my own head, I don’t back down once the gauntlet is thrown. (Remember all those poker games, little voice?)
Others have better reasons for taking on such things, however, so I chatted with a few to bring you a smattering of how food industry pros are eating this month.
- Colin Quinn (The Roosevelt, server/bartender): The Clean Gut Cleanse
“I’m juicing twice a day, and eating a solid meal for lunch that includes no meat, no dairy and especially no nightshades," Quinn says, "nothing that can irritate your stomach, esophagus or colon. I do it every year to revitalize my senses and burn off some of the toxins I’ve been exposed to throughout the year… And I like how it enhances my ability to smell and taste.”
- Elliott Shaffner and Fred Turko (Fred & Elliott Food Styling and Photography): The Bon Appetit Food Lover’s Cleanse
“What’s great about this cleanse is the cooking, but it’s hours and hours of cooking per day—a lot of chopping and tedium," Shaffner says, "so it’s been an excuse to get back in the kitchen and to really eat good food. The portions are huge, probably too big. Which is not a complaint. It doesn’t feel like a cleanse. It just feels like you’re eating healthy; it’s not lazy eating. Since each recipe is so extraordinarily elaborate … whew. It’s fun to blow the dust off of all your crazy spices and oils.”
Ed. note: You can follow Fred & Elliott's cleanse on Shaffner's Instagram account, @fforfood.
- James Kohler (Saison, beverage director), Brittanny Anderson (Metzger Bar & Butchery, chef), Kjell Anderson (Metzger Bar & Butchery, bar manager) and Kendra Feather (restaurateur): Drynuary
“I’m giving up alcohol for a month,” Kohler says. “It’s funny, because a lot of my job is drinking. I meet with wine reps to taste twice a week, have to try our new cocktails… but this month, no recreational drinking. I tasted a cocktail yesterday and hadn’t had anything to drink in a week, and it was crazy — like my palate was renewed and I picked up on flavors very clearly. It started when I was talking to [Saison chef] Adam; we were laughing about how we wondered if we could even do it. He and [bartender] Sarah are doing it with me. Now we’re really curious to see how different food and drink are when we taste them.“
Metzger’s executive chef Brittanny Anderson is also partaking in a no-alcohol January, as is restaurateur Kendra Feather. The Andersons' “month” will end on Jan. 25, however: the night of the Elby Awards — a good night for it, since the drinks will be flowing at the afterparty.
Drynuary must be hard for these pros whose workplaces have bars stocked with craft liquors and house-made mixers. Not so much for me, though; I came up with my very own Paleo cocktail, which is called “A Handful of Unfamiliar Berries I Found Behind My House That Made Me Run Naked Through the Woods.”
Have a happy 2015 and good luck on those diets.