Why does Ray Newlands go by the name Short Chef? His penchant for cutoffs, duh. His five foot five inch stature has nothing to do with it — or so he tells giggling youngsters during cooking demos.
Regardless of the origin of the name, Short Chef has become a local phenomenon. With the tagline "Fighting obesity one family at a time," Short Chef whips up enthusiasm for healthy eats at health fairs, after-school programs, camps, and anywhere else children learn stuff.
Short Chef has been in the culinary industry his whole life. He worked for years in food and beverage with hotels and catering. After undergoing open heart surgery a decade ago — and losing both of his parents, and grandparents, to heart disease — he started focusing on fighting obesity.
"I started cooking when I was 10 in my grandfather's restaurant in New York," says Short Chef. "It's the only thing I know."
Through fun, engaging food programs, he teaches the younger generation how to stop health problems before they start.
"I loved it when the first lady started her Let's Move program. Not because I'm politically involved, but I love the idea that here's a first lady paying attention to the biggest disease in the history of the planet. But it's curable, we know how to fix it," says Short Chef.
"As much as I used to be a fan of the golden arches, now my wife and son have to hide Coca Cola from me — it's so bad for you."
One of Short Chef's shtick's is to carry around a piece of duct tape with 20 packs of sugar on it — the amount in one soft drink. "The average kid in Dade County drinks 10 sodas a week," he explains.
He does his demos and classes at schools, summer camps, health fairs and after-school programs, and he's frequently asked to create programs and workshops for educational organizations. He's worked at venues including Miami Botanical Gardens, Fairchild Gardens and lots of others. He even did an Iron Chef competition with kids.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
As far as his delivery, "everything is humorous," says Short Chef. From making salad in a kiddie pool and tossing it with boat oars to making cauliflower mac and cheese "cupcakes", his antics appeal to kids in particular.
"Everything is a lot of fun. That’s kind of my gig is to do things that make people laugh, but l'm also trying to fight the disease any way I can. I can't be invited to enough places and talk to enough people. When I was on NPR last year I said I want to stand on the mountain; I want the biggest audience I can find just to talk to them about everything we consume."
You can follow Short Chef's adventures on Facebook.
Follow Hannah on Twitter.