Whos That? An Interview With The Chef Of The Phuket Fit Grill Cheffy Baby

A self-described “Alien food freak sent from the future to save the human palate”, Cheffy has been wowing Phuket Fit 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 Phuket Fit 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.

How did you solve that problem?

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.

James Beard Award? That’s a huge honor. Did that open doors for you?

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.

Sounds like you worked your magic. Where did you go from there?

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 Phuket Fit?

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 Phuket Fit is an industry leader, so it was a perfect choice.

How long have you been at Phuket Fit now?

A year and a half. I took a job at Phuket Fit 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.

Whats That? Cross Training At Phuket Fit

Phuket Fit 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. Phuket Fit 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.

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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 Phuket Fit. 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?

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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.

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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.

Whos That? An Interview With Krabi Krabong and Muay Boran Instructor Kru Oh

Oh 1A 38-year-old from the north-east of Thailand, Kru Oh has been a fixture at Phuket Fit since it’s early day. Joining Phuket Fit 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 Phuket Fit for over six years.

What did you do prior to working at Phuket Fit?

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.

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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 Phuket Fit?

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?

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Normally in Thailand the weather helps. Also, the food is fresh and it helps you lose weight. The program at Phuket Fit 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 Phuket Fit?

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!

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