Celebrity Chefs

Miami chefs lose 137 pounds, raise more than $9,000 in charity weight loss competition

For the past 12 weeks a dozen top Miami chefs have been working out in boxing gyms, sweating through spinning classes and gulping down green juices, all in the name of philanthropy.

Now that it’s over, here’s the tale of the tape: 137 pounds lost, $9,000 gained for charity.

“I feel fantastic. I need a whole new wardrobe!” said Tim Andriola, chef/owner of Timó and Basil Park in Sunny Isles Beach, who won the Fit to Fight Challenge, shedding 28 pounds and raising $1,500 for cancer? “All my clothes just fall off me now.

“We all won from this. Everybody got healthier, and that was a neat by-product, aside from raising money for cancer.”

The competition was based on the last year’s Fit for Hope challenge in Washington, D.C., when more than a dozen chefs, including “Top Chef’s” Mike Isabella, raised more than $30,000 for the American Cancer Society.

It’s been life-changing for sure.

- Jamie DeRosa, Chef-owner Tongue & Cheek Miami

Miami's version raised $9,000 – with additional donations still pending – for another non-profit, Live To Fight, started by martial arts enthusiast Kristen Brown, a cancer survivor.

The chefs hosted fundraisers and group workouts to support the cause, from a high intensity spinning class at Flywheel to training drills led by former NFL player Jason Rader at the boxing gym SoBe Kick.

The group’s fitness regime was under the overall direction of strength and conditioning coach Ben Isabella (Mike’s brother), but the participants were free to design their own routines.

On Monday night the entire group gathered at Tongue & Cheek, challenge leader Jamie DeRosa’s Miami Beach restaurant, for the final weigh-in. DeRosa kept track of weight loss and fitness regimes.

DeRosa, who lost 11 pounds, said he gained some muscle – largely due to his spinning workouts.

“I’m a little older, so at 40 it’s a little easier on the joints,” he said. “I think it’s a good workout – 45 minutes, 800 calories, over 20 miles.

He said the competition became a bonding experience for several chefs.

“It’s been life-changing for sure,” he said. “I think as far as all of us together, we were friends before but there’s a certain bond between us now.”

Todd Erickson, chef at Haven in Miami Beach, also touted the camaraderie of the challenge.

“It’s helped us out on so many different levels. It’s given us all an excuse to hang out,” he said. “We tend to lock ourselves in our kitchens, and the only time we really see each other is when we visit or do a dine-around. To be able to hang out on a different level has been cool.”

Erickson said he lost a little weight and gained some muscle, but mostly he was just looking to get healthier.

“I’m making healthier choices as far as what I’m eating…. When I get home I’m hungry at 11, then I go to sleep – that’s not the healthiest thing. It’s about working out and eating at the right time of day.”

Andriola credited green juices, vegetables and a little grass-fed meat for his victory, and he said he plans to keep up with his new lifestyle.

“I will definitely continue. I’m not done. I want to continue to keep working on it just because the way I feel – you can’t put a price tag on that.”

Isabella, who didn’t participate in the competition, said he’d been paying close attention from Washington.

“They’ve had a lot of fun,” he said. “One of the biggest things is a lot of them have been doing dinners together, working out together – building relationships.

“Some of them were friends, but I think those got stronger with a lot of the chefs in the city. They’re helping each other’s restaurants get more notoriety, more business. It’s been a really positive challenge.”

Up next in the list of participating cities is Philadelphia, where Isabella will kick off a challenge led by fellow Top Chef alumnus Kevin Sbraga next year.

“It’ll be an evolution – we’ll be working on more fundraisers, getting more food and restaurants involved in cooking classes and things like that, so we can make more money for the foundation (Fit for Fight),” he said. “You always want to raise more and more.”