I recently had the pleasure to attend the Kroger’s Wellness Your Way Festival (WYWF). I had the opportunity of interviewing Stuart O’Keeffe an accomplished celebrity and professional chef known for his healthy, yet hearty meals. He first explored his passion for food while cooking alongside his mother in his native Ireland, then honed that passion into skill at the Dublin Institute of Technology where he earned a degree in Culinary Arts. Chef Stuart has been trained around the world, cutting his teeth in Napa Valley and Bordeaux, France — both highly competitive culinary hot spots — before moving to Los Angeles. There, he works with some of the biggest names in Hollywood and has been seen on the NBC primetime series Food Fighters and OWN’s Home Made Simple. He has also starred in The Home Channel’s Stuart’s Kitchen, shot and produced in Ireland. A Food Network darling, Chef Stuart has served as a judge on Chopped, starred in Private Chefs of Beverly Hills, and been featured on hit shows like Valerie’s Home Cooking. He can currently be seen co-hosting his new show Let’s Eat on the Food Network. Stuart is the author of the book “The Quick Six Fix: 100 No-Fuss, Full-Flavor Recipes”.
Thank you so much for joining us Stuart. This festival is about “Wellness Your Way”. What does the term “Wellness Your Way” mean to you?
Ithink it means everything in moderation. I’m not hardcore with anything. I just try and do a bit of everything and keep my life as balanced as possible. I have my great weeks, I always eat pretty well and then I’ll splurge once in a while.
I’ll go on fitness regimens for weeks on end but I find I drop off in the summer which is funny because most people are trying to get their beach body ready to show off and I’m like whatever. I like to work out really hard in the winter because I love the feeling of getting sweaty in the gym and then coming out and feeling the freshness of the air when it’s cold outside instead of it being baking hot.
I’m about to start an F45 challenge that’s 8 weeks long in West Hollywood. It alternates a lot of different types of movements, cardio and weight lifting. I love that it’s 45 minutes and you’re in and out. It’s an awesome workout.
I’ve tried a lot of workouts over the years in Los Angeles and I get bored. You know when you’re going into a hard workout class and you get that fear right before you go in? You don’t know if you’re going to be able to handle it? I never feel like that going into F45. It’s a hard class, I get out of breath but I enjoy it.
The first 10 minutes are always tough but then I start to sweat and it moves so quickly you just get through it. There’s not a lot of time to think because the pods move so fast. It’s like thirty five seconds on 20 seconds off to rest then 35 on again.
And everybody’s in a good mood there. It’s not like I’m high fiving everyone (lol) but everybody’s enjoying themselves. And the trainers are there to help you have a good time and get in a great workout.
Food wise, I’m going to start eating better now. I eat pretty well anyway so it’s not too hard for me. I have friends that want to go places and get chicken wings or ribs and I’ll do it. I like to mix it up and not be too rigid.
When I’m having trouble motivating myself I try to remember how incredible I feel when I’m done working out. I heard somewhere that you have five seconds to make a decision so if I’m in bed in the morning and say it’s 6:30 a.m and I want to do the 8:00 a.m. class I have to get up straight away because I like to have at least an hour to wake up and be ready. If I don’t get up right away I begin thinking maybe I should just go to the 12 o’clock class and that’s a slippery slope because you may not end up working out at all and feel like crap.
Was there a story that inspired you to get involved with WYWF?
I’ve had the pleasure of working with Debbie Matenopoulos on the Hallmark channel for 5–6 years doing cooking demos. We hit it off and always have so much fun. Debbie’s been a part of the Wellness Your Way Festival for two years and told me how awesome the event and Kroger is and that I had to get involved. So my agent reached out to Kroger and they said they’d love to have me! So I was in the Denver last month and now we’re here in Cincinnati.
All of the people here are amazing. Kroger’s mission to change the way America eats is so inspiring. We’ve been discussing some ideas of how I can help them in their stores, maybe create something for the Kentucky Derby and we might be doing something at Sundance.
They’re just so open to listening to new ideas and what I bring to the table is that yes, I’m a chef but I’m also very relatable. I don’t cook pretentious food. I just want to help people get into the kitchen and start cooking, anything, Learn to boil and egg. I don’t care how simple it is just get out there and try.
I take a casual approach in the kitchen and let people know there’s nothing to freak out about by using a little butter or having a slice of bacon. I had some bacon this morning!
It’s really about educating yourself more and more and then you’ll get it. You know I’m still educating myself about healthy food and I’m getting pretty good at it. At the end of the day we know what we shouldn’t be eating and what we should be eating. I try and help people tune into their inner wisdom and feel empowered to cook health food for themselves and their loved ones.
I also try and encourage people to make small changes. It’s so hard to make massive changes because you can’t sustain them. If you want to lose 10 or 20 pounds or get back in shape it’s not going to happen in two or three weeks. It’s going to take two or three months. There are no quick fixes which is why diets fail. Even though my book is called the Quick Six Fix there are no quick fixes. Haha.
Can you tell me about a wellness challenge you’ve had and overcome?
In my career there’s a lot of highs and lows. I’ve gone for many TV shows that I didn’t get. Recently there was a big one. I was chosen as the chef for Queer Eye For The Straight Guy and got sidelined three or four weeks after I got it. That was a hard one to take especially seeing how that show is blowing up.
I’ve had to train my mind every morning to look forward. I remind myself don’t look to the left don’t look to the right at what other people are doing just stay on your path because everybody’s journey is different and that’s OK. But I had to really tell myself, listen it’s not his fault he got it. He got chosen, maybe they saw something in him they didn’t see in me and that’s OK.
What’s your current wellness mantra or life quote?
Whatever you’re doing in life don’t look at what other people are doing to the left or right of you. Just look forward and keep going. We have a tendency to see what other people are doing our friends, family, people in the same profession and compare ourselves. Instead we need to be thankful for what we have now because other people would kill for it.
What’s one wellness product/routine you can’t live without right now?
I take the Wellness Formula by Source Naturals, three capsules a day. It’s a good mix of herbs that strengthens your immune system and boosts your sense of wellbeing.
I’ve started this new skincare regiment from Dermalogica and there’s this Phyto-nature Firming Serum that’s insane. A friend of mine works for them and introduced me to it. It tightens and takes away lines. I’m all about self-care, taking care of my skin and what will make me look great since I do TV. It costs one hundred and forty bucks but will lasts two to three months and is a life changing product.
And then obviously trying to keep up with the F45 workout. Whatever keeps you happy that you can keep doing I think works. Consistency is key with anything whether it’s cooking or it’s working out. You’ve got to stick with it if you want to see results.
And my go to for travel is Nourish by The Now Lip Salve. I’m obsessed with this stuff.
What projects are you currently working on?
I’m an ambassador for California dates. I’ve just joined the Date Commission in California and Coachella Valley to start making dates cool again. Because everyone things dates are disgusting because they look like cockroaches.
I was just in Coachella Valley and we were doing the date farm tours and I learned a lot about the health benefits of dates. They have polyphenols and antioxidants. They’re a great healthy sugar. They have a low glycemic index so they’re a slow burn. If you eat a super fresh Medjool date it’s like a caramel. I put them into a protein shake or in the mornings 30 minutes before I workout I’ll eat two and it gives me a little burst of energy but it’s a slow burn sugar so I don’t crash. That and an espresso and I’m good to go.
I’m also working with a production company on a new show that we’re about to send out to pitching so I can’t say the title or anything because they’ll kill me but it’s gonna be a fun show. I’m also looking forward to my continued work with the Kroger and the Wellness Your Way Festival.
Thank you for your inspiring insights! Now it’s time to eat some dates!
Stay in touch with Stuart on instgram @chefstuartokeeffe