A self-described “Alien food freak sent from the future to save the human palate”, Cheffy has been wowing Tiger guests with his culinary creations for the last year and a half. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in New York, Cheffy and a 1994 James Beard Nominee; Cheffy has worked in nearly every facet of the restaurant industry as well as 23 years on TV. Always around camp, Cheffy loves speaking with guests about nutrition and healthy eating. He believes the Tiger Grill is an important tool in your arsenal, but how you use it is up to you.
What was your first job out of culinary school?
I got my first chef job two weeks out of school, as the executive chef at a large hotel. Catering, room service, a café, a regular restaurant and I had to feed 150 employees a day. I had like six different operations going on.
Were you there a long time?
Not long. It wasn’t fun; I only had Sunday nights off. So I started my own catering business, which was dinner party catering. My favorite thing in the world is a dinner party. There’s nothing better than a group of friends getting together at someone’s house. Playing music, drinking wine, eating food, and chatting; that, to me, is the best night in the world. I decided to cater to that, but I didn’t have a way to market it.
I noticed that local television stations had chefs on all the time and they got to promote their restaurants. So I called one of the television stations. They said no. “We don’t know who you are and you’re just a catering business.” So I said, “Well, just let me come cook for you.” I went and cooked for them, and they said, “OK. You can be on the show.” From there my catering business took off in a big way.
When was this?
It was 1989, the same day as my ten-year high school reunion. It was great going to the reunion after having just been on television. After that, I went to another television station and did the same thing. Then that station offered me a job on the Murphy In The Morning show. I eventually played a practical joke on the host of that show, and while he laughed it off, I was never on his show again. Yet, we are still friends.
Was that the only show you were on?
Eventually, I was on every network in the city. In 1994, I had a show on the Tampa Bay CBS station and was nominated for a James Beard award. That’s the Academy Awards of the culinary world. In 1995, I hit gold when I was hired as the Body by Jake FIT TV chef. They show a lot of repeats on Discovery Channel and I still get emails from viewers.
After the James Beard nomination, I continued with TV, radio, newspapers columns and even started doing infomercials. I was working six days a week in Tampa on the radio and the head of Florida Citrus happened to be a listener. I was using my catering money for weekly food travel excursions like to New York, California and Europe. I used to tell the listeners “the station has sent me somewhere again” Luckily, Florida Citrus thought I was making much more than I actually was so they had to stack the deck to get me to be their next spokesperson.
What was your job with Florida Citrus?
They needed to sell fresh grapefruits, but didn’t have any great ideas how. I explained to them that if people didn’t love grapefruits, it was going to be tough to get them to buy them or cook with them. My idea was to pitch grapefruits to the public as a larger slightly sweet lemon. Anything you can use a lemon for is even better with a grapefruit. They loved the idea. That was the beginning of Cheffy Baby World Food Tours that lasted until 2010. After almost 2 million air miles, it was time to stop touring.
That made you their go-to grapefruit guy?
I was in charge of marketing grapefruits and I had lots of ideas. You can put it on fish instead of lemon, use it in pan-fried vegetables, or use it with chicken! I went with the grapefruits on a television tour across the country. It was like I was on a rock tour. It really took off, but then we hit a roadblock. Wal-Mart wouldn’t accept the promotion materials. They sent me to meet with a VP there, really one of the top guys, and I convinced Wal-Mart to accept it.
After getting an in with the Wal-Mart people I decided to go after the biggest fish in retail. My goal, upon graduation from culinary school was to be a spokesperson. So I contacted Wal-Mart Merchandising VP and sold him on making me their in-store culinary television spokesperson. I was in front of ten million people a week and distributed over 25 million Cheffy Baby recipe cards annually. That gig was awesome.
How did you first hear about Tiger?
I’d been living in Thailand for over ten years and decided to go back into the culinary underbelly and back to work. Of course, everyone in Phuket knows that Tiger is an industry leader, so it was a perfect choice.
How long have you been at Tiger now?
A year and a half. I took a job at Tiger because the opportunity to prepare luscious fitness food really excited me. It’s a careful balance. It has to be healthy, but you also have to have great flavor or people aren’t going to show up. Live well, train hard, and eat right.
Tiger Muay Thai offers Cross Training every day Monday through Friday from 1:30PM to 2:30 PM and from 2:45 PM to 3:45 PM. The two classes are identical, but split to keep class sizes small. No previous experience or fitness background is needed and the classes are held on the cross training mats past the MMA cage. No special equipment is needed to participate, but it’s a good idea to bring water and a small towel. Tiger instructor, Kitty Teppo, explains Cross Training below.
What is Cross Training?
It’s a constantly evolving strength and conditioning program where we implement everything from body weight exercises to Olympic weightlifting to barbell complexes and more. It consists of functional movements done at a high intensity designed to improve your life.
How do classes start?
Typically we start by introducing the workout. We’ll explain what the workout is for the day and then we warm up. Depending on the workout, we might work through a basic skill. For example, if the workout calls for handstand pushups, then we will work on developing that skill after the warm-up.
What are the warm-ups like?
If it’s a short workout we’ll do a long warm up. If it’s a long workout, then we’ll do a shorter warm up. Maybe even just a lap of the camp. The warm up can consist of anything from mobility work with the PVC pipe, dynamic stretching, running and more. We’ll usually try to integrate the movements from the workout into the warm-up.
What do the main workouts look like?
It can be anything. Absolutely anything. It changes every single class. You will only ever do a workout more than once if we are doing it for comparison purposes to see how much you’ve improved during your time at Tiger. Other than that it’s constantly varied. Running, rowing, dead lifts, pull ups, box jumps, etc. Then it’s all put together in a way that makes sense.
Are the workouts timed?
Most of them are timed, but in different ways. You might be going “for time”, like complete a certain number of rounds as fast as you can and then you’re finished. Other workouts are allotted a certain amount of time. You keep going and work out as hard as you can for an allotted period of time, regardless of your speed.
What’s the difference between body fit and cross training?
Body fit is more of a core and cardio workout. It really focuses on those two things. In some ways, it’s very much like a boot camp. The afternoon classes are more intense but can also be shorter. We only do functional movements, the things that you’ll need to master for regular life. The dead lift, for example… you use it every day when you pick things up off the ground. It’s all about functional high intensity movements. We also tend to integrate barbells and other tools we don’t use in the mornings.
Is Cross Training good for weight loss?
Cross Training is good for everyone. There are a lot of rumors around camp that the class is intense and that’s true. But we scale the workouts for beginners. The Olympic lifting might intimidate a lot people, but those workouts are only for the advanced section of the class. The beginner’s workout will be similar, but will use kettlebells or dumbbells in place of the barbell. And we scale the weight to whatever level you need.
What if someone is just at the beginning of his or her weight loss journey?
It doesn’t matter. If you can’t do a pull-up we have options. We have resistance bands that can help you do a pull-up or you can do jumping pull-ups. If you can’t do a burpee, we have scaled versions of burpees. Everything can be customized to a person’s needs. It doesn’t matter what your fitness level is, there’s something for everyone.
A 38-year-old from the north-east of Thailand, Kru Oh has been a fixture at Tiger since it’s early day. Joining Tiger only a year after it started, Kru Oh then took two years off to intensely study the practice of Muay Boran. Kru Oh teaches the Krabi Krabong class, the Muay Boran class and also helps out with the beginner Muay Thai class. He has now been at Tiger for over six years.
What did you do prior to working at Tiger?
I worked in fitness and scuba diving.
When did you first start studying Krabi Krabong?
I started Krabi Krabong before I came to Phuket. I used to do stunts, and some stunt workers in Phuket did Krabi Krabong. I asked them to take me to their master. Their master is a policeman, so he doesn’t have much time to train, so we could only train in the evening time. I trained with him for 2 years, then after that I went to Bangkok to learn more.
Did you learn Muay Boran at the same time?
I learned some Muay Boran when I was young, for exercise because I was weak, but I didn’t get serious with it until I learned it a few years ago. I did not like it when I was young, but my grandfather pushed me into it.
What advice would you give someone whos preparing to train at Tiger?
Normally we teach from the basics, but if you want to understand Muay Thai maybe try Muay Boran first so you can practice the movements, which will make it easier.
Have any weight loss tips that youd like to share for people struggling with weight loss?
Normally in Thailand the weather helps. Also, the food is fresh and it helps you lose weight. The program at Tiger helps push you in cardio. If you want to lose weight you should focus on cardio. Body fit is big cardio. Also what you do in Muay Thai is a lot of cardio. Not much cardio for Muay Boran, but it is good for beginners or if you are injured.
Whats one mistake you see people make when trying to lose weight while at Tiger?
They try to focus too much on lose weight, but don’t care about their body. They get hurt. The main thing is the technique you use. You need to understand Muay Thai first, and then losing weight is easier. First learn the technique, how to kick and how to punch correctly.
You have to spend energy and then you get fat burning. Focus on doing it right!
Originally hired to handle Tiger’s guest relations, Joey was promoted to Customer Service Manager in April of this year. Born in the Philippines to a Thai mother, Joey moved to Thailand almost six years ago. Having previously worked in public relations and the arts, Joey’s knowledge base is wide. She describes her main job duty as making sure that there are way more smiles at camp, then there are frowns. Joey’s favorite exercise is doing pad work with the Muay Thai trainers and her least favorite exercises are pull-ups and running.
How do you spend the average workday at Tiger?
All of us in the office do a little bit of everything. We have specific roles to fill but we all help each other out to ensure a positive guest experience. I spend my mornings responding to Tiger email, fan page questions and forum queries. I send out photographs, testimonials and updates from the camp to our Director of Communication. I also do a bit of graphic design work and help our Front Desk Officers in providing information and assisting them in case of guest grievances. That’s just a few of my duties. You might also recognize my voice on the intercom system announcing upcoming events, fights and fun trips around Phuket.
I used to work for this PR firm in Bangkok and also worked as an Assistant Art Teacher at Ruamrudee International School of Thailand.
How did you first find out about Tiger?
I had just received my degree and was looking to travel before hunting for a job. A good friend of mine suggested going to a Muay Thai Camp. I searched online for camps and saw Tiger’s website. I thought it was the best one since it not only offered Muay Thai but also Fitness Classes. I can honestly say that it was a life changing experience. I’ve attained a great level of fitness and have made lifelong friends.
What kind of questions do you frequently get from guests?
“Will I really lose weight here?” and the answer is definitely yes! I have seen it happen so many times and that’s what makes the job so gratifying. I love seeing our guests reach their goals whether it is losing weight or learning a new sport. I’ve seen guest start with almost nothing and transform to something really great. They become more optimistic and confident.
How big the camp is, but also how supportive everyone is of each other. First time guests also get a bit intimidated by the number of fit and “ripped” individuals in camp, but they all had to start somewhere. It shouldn’t intimidate you, because it should inspire you!
What advice would you give someone whos preparing to train at Tiger?
You have to really want it… the positive change. A proper mental attitude is more important than just having the physical capacity to do things.
Have any weight loss tips that youd like to share for people struggling with weight loss?
There’s a reason why a cheat day is not in the plural form “cheat days”. Eat right and get good food in you. Diet plays a key role in weight loss.
Whats one mistake you see people make when trying to lose weight while at Tiger?
Some people will over-train and then eat high-calorie meals. Calories are the basic unit of energy and it is essential to maintain the bodys vital functions by getting nutrition from the right sources. It’s not hard to figure out the difference between a cheat meal and a healthy meal.
Do you have any other advice for someone who might be looking at TMT for fitness or weight loss?
You have to take the leap. Help yourself and we will help you. Invest your time at Tiger and we will give you the best return on your investment. A healthier you and a whole lot of fun!
Tiger Muay Thai offers the Big Buddha run every Tuesday, as part of its daily body fit classes. Guests meet in front of Tiger’s office at 8:30 AM and are transported to the base of Big Buddha to begin the hike. The only equipment you need for the Big Buddha hike is a sturdy pair of trainers and a bottle of water. Tiger’s body fit instructor, Ocean Bloom, explains the Big Buddha run below.
What is Big Buddha?
Big Buddha is one of Phuket’s most important and revered landmarks. It’s a large Buddha marble statue that sits on the highest point in Phuket. It’s a steep 4KM hike from the base of the hill, where we begin our Buddha run. The workout is about an hour long and we use the hike to do intervals, power walks, and exercises along the way. It’s an all-levels class, so it can be done as a race for time or it can be used as an hour of cardio introduction.
Walking at a steady pace takes about one hour. If you are an elite athlete, you could do it in as short as 21 minutes. That’s the record for the fastest time and that is running the entire distance uphill.
Is it challenging?
Yes. Life is challenging and so are our workouts. However, it’s all about the approach you take to it. Because we go as a large group, there’s safety in numbers and a tremendous amount of supportiveness. People are hiking at all different fitness levels. There are elite athletes that can train together during the workout, and there are a lot of guests who come in with a very limited fitness background. We try to team up similar experience levels to go through it together.
We change the workout slightly each week. Often we will combine interval training or strength exercises during the hike. Some weeks we drag tires up with us. Some weeks we just get to the top as quickly as possible and then do a circuit. It’s slightly different each week.
Do you have to drag a tire by yourself?
Some experienced athletes choose to drag a tire by themselves, but most guests are placed into groups of three, so they can share dragging the tire up the hill. It’s a great teambuilding exercise and can be a great tool to motivate yourself, when you have teammates rooting you on. It’s great to train with a tire, because then when you come back without a tire, you’ll find that you’ve increased your speed up the hill.
We always team up and stay together. We have an assistant on a scooter constantly monitoring the group and checking in with people to make sure they’re hydrated and that they’re not pushing themselves past their ability. We get everyone up the hill.
What can you see on your way up to Big Buddha?
What make this training session so exciting and different is the amount of wildlife and nature that you see along the way. It truly is a journey. Each time you do it you will see new things. Elephants, monkeys, butterflies, birds, lizards, and more. Even the weather can be exciting. Along the way there are also spectacular viewpoints overlooking Phuket.
Would you recommend the Big Buddha run for someone trying to lose weight?
Because it’s an hour-long cardio session, it’s a great way to burn fat. It’s also great because of the varying terrain. It goes from totally flat to very steep. There are places to walk, jog and run. You’ll be working all the muscle groups of the body. It’s one of the best ways to strip off unwanted fat. Plus, because we go up in a large group, you are definitely motivated to push yourself harder than you ordinarily might. People are often surprised by just how fast they make it up the hill.
Tiger Muay Thai offers daily yoga classes Monday-Friday from 7:00AM-8:00AM. As an added bonus, evening yoga classes are available every Tuesday and Thursday from 6:00PM to 7:00PM. A private sunset yoga class is also available on Friday evenings. Additional details and information on signing up for that special offering can be found in the TMT office. Students are not required to provide any equipment, but useful equipment to bring includes a yoga strap, a personal yoga mat, a bottle of water and a hand towel. Tiger’s yoga instructor, Ocean Bloom, explains her classes and philosophy below.
What kind of yoga do you teach?
It’s a mix of styles. Its foundation is Ashtanga Yoga, so power flow. Because we have such a variety of guests, from beginners who have never done yoga to some really experienced yogis, we have many options from basic postures to advanced. But it’s definitely a power flow class.
How do classes begin?
Monday through Friday, our classes start at 7 A.M. I like to keep the space quiet in the morning. Create an opportunity for the guests to slow down, enjoy being at the camp while there isn’t screaming and punching. Chaos can be good for high energy, but it’s hard for the nervous system to be in that state of fight or flight all the time. It’s helpful to start the day off with yoga in a quiet peaceful space.
And once the class starts?
We begin in savasana, dead body pose, for a few minutes practicing some breathing exercises and short meditation periods. It’s the foundation for the beginning of the class. Then often I’ll ask what the guests need and how they’re feeling. If guests have particularly tight hips that day or stiff necks, then I’ll adjust the class to address it. Even though I come in with a plan and a sequence I’m going to teach, I’m open to changing the class. Many of the students are training anywhere from three to six hours a day and it’s important to take that into account.
Where does class go from there?
We move from practicing breathing exercises (pranayama) to sun salutations that heat up the body and connect to the breath. Then we move into balancing poses, arm balances, deep hip openings, and other movements that challenge the body. These are all movements that need to be performed once the body is warm. Really, I have no expectations of the guests. I’m happy if people come and lay on the mats for half the class, just being able to slow down. Some people never really take time to just relax and be still, so I’m happy to provide that space. I’ve had many guests write me and tell me this was the only hour in the day where their mind wasn’t going crazy.
What is the difference between the morning and evening classes?
It’s a different vibe doing yoga outside first thing in the morning. It’s a good way to start the day, to set an intention and goals for the day and to work out any stiffness to warm yourself up for what you’re about to do. The evening classes are inside Tiger’s MMA room and it’s quite hot. I turn off the lights and the AC, so it’s a littler darker and you sweat a little more. It’s at the end of the day so it can be a really beautiful way to come down and relax yourself for a good sleep.
What about your private Friday sunset yoga class?
This class is about getting out into the elements. We refer to a lot of different elements when were practicing yoga, like sun salutations and moving like the flow of the ocean. I found a really beautiful place on the mountain up to Big Buddha where there’s a lookout point. We practice outside on the earth. You can see the sunset over the ocean. I really feel like it offers all of the elements there. Your feet are literally in the dirt and the sun really fills your soul.
Do you get a lot of students without a prior background in yoga?
I would say the classes are ninety percent beginners. It surprises and excites me every day when I ask how many new students have never done yoga before and three to sometimes five people put up their hand. It’s exciting because there’s a whole other connection to the body that these people can now experience. I think that’s what makes Tiger such a unique and special place. It may seem like an intimidating place at first, but it’s an environment where almost everyone is a beginner in yoga. The goal is just to make yourself feel better in every way. Just showing up, that’s what takes courage. If you arrive in class and stick through it, then you’ve done the hardest part.
Would you recommend yoga for someone trying to lose weight?
One hundred percent! You can’t train hardcore every day, but you can do yoga every day. Even if it’s an intense practice, you can make it gentle for yourself. It’s also highly beneficial for recovery, considering the amount of pressure you put on your body when you’re trying to lose weight. Most people want to see big results in a short period of time. If you’re going to be pushing your body that hard then you also need to take care of it. Slow the nervous system down and find ways to breathe, so you can sleep at night
Best tip for someone just starting yoga?
Breathe. Breathe! I would rather someone come to class, just lay on their mat, breathe and listen to what’s being said rather than to push and struggle through the movements. The breath is everything.
What would you say to someone reluctant to try yoga?
I think often people say they don’t like yoga, because they try it one time and they don’t feel that they’re good at it. That’s not a good reason to never go back. If it’s a challenge, that should inspire you to get better at it. And it is something you can get better at each session. Learn how to breathe properly. Learn the significance of the cues, why you’re doing what you’re doing. It’s not just to stretch your muscles, but also to make you a happier person both physically and emotionally.