Ten Miami Chefs Take on the Biggest Burn Challenge

A chef's life isn't easy. Long days on their feet in the kitchen, along with the stressful running of a business, can take its toll. Many of Miami's chefs spend far too little time staying healthy as a tradeoff for keeping a steady eye on their restaurant.

Julie Frans thought the mindset of putting oneself last was counterintuitive to operating a successful establishment.

The chef and culinary director of the annual Seed Food & Wine Festival joined Orangetheory Fitness about a year ago. She, in turn, recommended the workout studio to Dirt's Nicole Votano about a month ago. Together, they decided to challenge some of their peers to participate in the Biggest Burn, a 12-week weight-loss and fitness challenge.

"We needed to get chefs into this, and now is a good time of year for us to do it," Frans says. She decided to incorporate chefs who participate in Seed to tie in all aspects of a healthful life. "I wanted us to look at the whole body. These chefs all do different styles of cuisine and have different fitness levels, but they are all committed to being more healthful."

Ten chefs have accepted the challenge, which consists of working out at Orangetheory at least three days a week and eating cleaner. They've agreed to also motivate one another to lose weight and get fit. In addition, they will post weekly "meatless Monday" recipes on their social media accounts to share their healthier ways with their followers.

Yesterday, chefs Brad Kilgore (Alter), Soraya Kilgore (Alter), Darren "Paco" Laszlo (Jugofresh), Jimmy Lebron (27 Restaurant & Bar), Jeff Maxfield (Toscana Divino), Steve Santana (Taquiza), Venoy Rogers (Essensia), and Rose Flynn (Choices Cafe), along with Frans and Votano, met at 10 a.m. at Orangetheory's South Beach studio for their first weigh-in and class.
Founded in Sunrise by Ellen Latham, Orangetheory is a 60-minute high-intensity workout that has members using treadmills, rowing machines, and light weights in interval-training sessions. During workouts, members' heart rates are displayed on large screens. The goal is for class participants to train at least 15 minutes of their workout at 84 percent or greater of their maximum heart rate, what's known as the "orange zone." 
Once the chefs (and myself, who was invited to sweat along in solidarity) were weighed in, it was time to enter the studio. Lit by an orange glow reminiscent of a diner heat lamp, everyone chose a treadmill as "Coach" Sandy explained the workout. Sandy, who might be the fittest individual in South Beach, proceeded to encourage and lead the team for the next 60 minutes. 
Twenty minutes of alternate speed and hill work on the treadmill led to squats and planks in the gym area, followed by rowing and more treadmill time. All the while, Sandy high-fived the chefs who started out with a bit of trepidation. By the end of the hour, each chef, though exhausted, came out with a sense of purpose. Brad Kilgore, who's doing the challenge with his wife Soraya, says he wants to get healthy. The chef, who recently turned 30, says he wants to ensure he has a long future ahead of him. So he's committed himself to work out and stop smoking.

Venoy Rogers, who worked out alongside me for the hour, gave me one final fist bump and shared some parting words: "That was really tough, but I'm committed." The tenacity of these culinary professionals will make the next three months interesting.
To follow the chefs' progress, look for the hashtag #OTFSeedChefBurn, or join them at Orangetheory Fitness South Beach (1115 Fifth St., Miami Beach; 305-695-0085) for their group workouts August 22, September 5, September 19, October 3, October 17, and October 31 (class time to be determined, and class fees apply). 
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Laine Doss is the food and spirits editor for Miami New Times. She has been featured on Cooking Channel's Eat Street and Food Network's Great Food Truck Race. She won an Alternative Weekly award for her feature about what it's like to wait tables.
Contact: Laine Doss