“I don’t put weight on because I always exercise, even at Christmas. I am like a machine – I never stop!” I have made the mistake of asking Fred Sirieix how he sheds his Christmas pounds. As a French foodie who eats his way around the world in Road Trip with Gordon Ramsey and Gino D’Acampo, I thought he’d have secrets for offsetting the Celebrations, but I have clearly made an error in judgement.
I turn to Gino, who advocates “moderation.” I don’t think they understand that Christmas is code for unbridled gluttony. I’ve been getting through two tubs of brandy cream to one box of mince pies, twice a week, since I opened my advent calendar. This is no time for moderation.
Having previously asked jockeys how they stay thin at Christmas (Hint: sweating in a boiling bath), I’d hoped the nation’s most celebrated chefs might be more on my wavelength.
Great British Menu judge Tom Aikens is opening his restaurant Muse this month, but he’s still found time to get stuck in over Christmas. “I’m a bit of a fitness freak, so I generally don’t eat a lot of desserts, but I always look forward to Christmas pudding – and I make a nice rum sauce to go with it!” says Tom.
The Michelin star chef has run the Marathon de Sables, so I’m unsurprised by his solution for shifting the festive flab. “Running – or cycling, depending on your knees, but definitely something physical,” says Tom, who adds cheerily: “I exercise every day, so I’m quite fortunate in that I can stuff my face without putting any weight on!”
I’m getting fatter by the day, and my bed’s about to collapse. I’m on the brink of despair when I recall I have a kindred spirit in Master Patissiere Eric Lanlard who reveals he’s eaten six Christmas dinners already. “I’m a big fan of turkey, so I can’t say no – I’m going to grow a turkey neck by the end of Christmas.”
I knew I liked Eric. But how will he shift the weight in the New Year? “It’s getting more and more difficult,” says the man who’s made a wedding cake for Elizabeth Hurley, and a birthday cake for the late Queen Mother.
“I’ve booked a Personal Trainer for 3rd January because I need to get my arse kicked! I will do fasted cardio on the Assault Bike. That’s a nasty piece of equipment. You come back from the gym sweating, feeling like you’ve been assaulted, and you realise, “that’s why I wasn’t losing weight before!” It’s insane, and you really notice the difference if you do it with an empty stomach.”
What’s this about fasting? “So we start in the kitchen at 6am, then I escape for an hour at eight, to go to the gym. I’ll eat for the first time at around 3pm, then have dinner at 7.30pm. One day I’ll eat fish, another day will be vegetarian. I’ll eat a lot of greens and pulses.”
Eric plans to endure this regime for at least a month. “Last time I did it for over two months – it worked really well!” Is there any reprieve? “At the weekend I’ll have a cheeky Sunday roast!”
Aldo Zilli won Celebrity Fit Club, losing over 15kg, so I reckon he knows a thing or two. “Two weeks before Christmas, I do my pescatarian, dairy-free diet, and stay away from alcohol, then the day before Christmas Eve, we start the party!” says the restauranteur who’s fed Naomi Campbell and Madonna.
What’s on the menu? “Pasta, pizza, Mozzarella cheese, Burrata – all the things I love! I’ll indulge in a great bottle of Tignanello or Ornellaia – something red and expensive, because my doctor said to me: “If you’re going to drink, make sure you drink good stuff.””
How are we burning off the Burrata? “I have a party to use up everything left over from Christmas, then bang on 1st January I go back to healthy eating and exercising three times a week, either at the gym or running with my dogs. It’s my birthday on 16th January, so I’ll be good until then.”
A familiar face on Saturday Kitchen, Theo Randall confesses to eating an entire Panettone over Christmas. “I can’t stop eating it! As soon as I open it, I start taking chunks. I wrap it back up, then five minutes later I’m unwrapping it to take another piece – it’s absolutely addictive!” says Theo, who’s currently Chef Patron of Theo at the InterContinental.
I think Theo can join the Epicurean Christmas Club I’m launching with Eric Lanlard – I just need to check his position on mince pies. “I love a mince pie!” says Theo, who received a Michelin star during his time at The River Café. “My mum makes the best mince pies, and as a kid, I always made the brandy butter. I like to take the top off the mince pie when it’s nice and warm, and put a good dollop of brandy butter inside, then put the lid back on – it’s delicious.”
Yup, Theo’s in. How are we getting skinny again in the New Year? “Eat loads of vegetables – greens are so good for you. I make a minestrone soup that’s delicious, and very hearty – eat things like that and you’ll shed the pounds.”
Any other advice? “Give away the leftover chocolate biscuits – you don’t need them. Reduce your portions, don’t put sugar in your tea, and ditch spirits with mixers. Just drink wine – I think wine’s better for you!”
Thumbs up for wine, Theo! OK, over to you Jean-Christophe Novelli. “Christmas is probably the only time my wife and I take it easy,” says the former Hell’s Kitchen Head Chef, who’s been awarded four Michelin stars. “What we most love doing is eating. I enjoy a good cheese, and a nice piece of bread.”
Fast forward to January – how are we fixing the waistband situation? “We eat a lot less. In the morning, a banana, and coffee without milk, because together they cause your stomach to bloat. No carbs after 3pm, and we won’t mix proteins and carbs, because the two don’t match in your stomach – they make you bloated!”
I like the idea that I’m not really fat, I’m just bloated. Anything else I should know? “Once a week, starve yourself. Have a good breakfast, and when you’re hungry, drink sparkling water to fill you up. Hold out until lunchtime the next day – sometimes even dinner time. Then have something light – liquid if possible,” says Jean-Christophe clarifying that this liquid dinner does not have the same connotations as a liquid lunch. “Avoid alcohol, of course!” Ah, bien sur!
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