Three local chefs lose weight on new ‘Fat Chef’ series
Michael Digby, a chef at Quay, has lost 100 pounds, while Maggie Latos, pastry chef at Marion Street Cheese Market in Oak Park, is down 30 pounds. Both will both be seen later this month in Food Network’s “Fat Chef.” | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times
Updated: March 3, 2012 8:19AM
Every good chef has their hands full.
Michael Digby is chef at the acclaimed Quay Chicago, 465 E. Illinois. The 29-year-old South Side resident is sitting in the restaurant’s waterfront lounge holding his year-old daughter Taylor, a wide-eyed bundle of tomorrow. He is a single father. She is his inspiration.
Maggie Latos is pastry chef at Marion Street Cheese Market in Oak Park and recently completed a pastry internship at Browntrout in North Center. The 29-year-old Northwest Side resident has “Low & Slow” tattooed above her right and left knuckles, respectively.
She loves barbecue, but the words serve as her inspiration.
Digby and Latos are featured in the Food Network’s new series “Fat Chef,” which premiered Jan. 26.
The six-episode series follows a dozen overweight culinary pros from Chicago, New York, New Jersey and Ohio on a 16-week journey to overcome weight issues with the help of therapists, nutritonists and trainers. Digby and Latos represent Chicago along with Jennifer Bucko Lamplough, 37-year-old chef instructor for the Robert Morris University’s Institute of Culinary Arts.
The show already has been a succes in terms of the chefs’ well-being.
Digby, 6-foot-1 weighed 320 pounds when he was picked for “Fat Chef.’ So far he has lost 100 pounds. A borderline diabetic, he had been worried about dying due to weight complications.
The 5-foot-4 Bucko Lamplough tipped the scales 263 pounds when taping began. She has lost 48 pounds.
Latos was 5-foot-9, 270 pounds when taping began. She has dropped 30 pounds. The vibrant redhead looks at the words on her fingers and says, “This certainly applies to the food series. If you want it real bad you have to work for it.”
Digby nods in agreement, saying, “It is a challenge. I never used to look at myself in the mirror. I can’t get away from the mirror now. It feels great to have a change of lifestyle. To be a black man and accomplish something like this, it is very hard. In the black community we have a lot of fast food restaurants. At the checkout counter of my drugstore they have a soft drink liter for a dollar. That’s 63 tablespoons of sugar. And a buy one, get one free candy bar.”
“Fat Chef” is no run-of-the-mill reality show.
Latos says, “It’s more about lifestyle changes. No one gets voted off. No one wins a million dollars at the end. You are so passionate about food but at the same time it can cause you to be unhealthy.” Digby points out, “It’s not just a weight loss show, because we are not taken out of our own element. We’re around food constantly. On other weight loss shows they take people somewhere and they’re secluded.”
Digby’s segment airs on Feb. 9. (The other Chicago segments are TBA.)
All three came to “Fat Chef” in different ways. Latos learned about the show in August while seeing a casting call on Craigslist. Digby was introduced to a Food Network associate who wanted to know if the chef wanted to lose weight. Bucko Lamplough read a Facebook posting.
The chefs did not know what they were getting themselves into. The show was loosely fitted. Latos says, “For me there was very limited planning. I didn’t know what we were going to shoot next. They were everywhere. It was pervasive.” Digby adds, “It was very different to be followed around by a camera crew in your personal space and have them take pictures of your body in the gym. Going to the gym was part of the process of the show. I’ve never liked my body. I was never happy with the person that I was.”
Latos has a blown-out knee that limited her exercise program. She stands in the kitchen, sometimes up to 12 hours a day. Doctors have said her knee will not get better unless she loses weight. Latos reaggravated her knee injury during the show’s taping.
“My problem is also different in that I have Attention Deficit Disorder and I take Adderall for it,” she says. “That acts as an appetizer depressant so I tend not to eat during the day. I snack and taste the food I am preparing, which can add up. Plus, having ADD, I have a very selective memory and don’t worry about immediacy.” Digby concurs. “Once you’ree tasting you’re adding on more calories,” he says. “My problem was that if I saw it, I ate it. Fries, chicken, burgers. Whatever. It is hard to take something out of your life that has been a permanent part of your life.”
Bucko Lamplough lives in Batavia with her husband. She is co-author of two American Diabetes Association cookbooks including the best-selling Healthy Calendar Diabetic Cooking. “I was trying to work out, trying to get healthy, but spinning my wheels,” she says in a phone conversation. “I have a very deep understanding of healthy cooking and healthy eating. But I couldn’t make it work for myself.
“I was ready for someone to help me.”
Digby watched his grandfather die from compications of diabetes. He looks at Taylor and says, “I had to make the decision: Do I want to be here for her, or do I want to go down the same road my grandfather went down? Is it all about me?” (Taylor has a cameo in the show, by the way.)
Bucko Lamplough’s breakthrough moment was with her therapist.”A lot of my issue was putting everybody else ahead of me,” she says. “My therapist said it wasn’t about putting myself first necessarily, but putting myself on a par with everybody else. It may not be a profiled moment for others, but I didn’t know that.”
The not-so-fat chefs were not crazy about the “Fat Chef” show title.
“I didn’t like it at first because I never liked to be called ‘fat’,” Digby says. “Now it doesn’t bother me, because I’m not (fat). This is different from other reality shows because the audience will learn that we are ordinary people leading ordinary lives.” Latos adds, “There are a lot of negative connotations to the word ‘fat.’ It felt lazy. It wasn’t a clever title. A lot of people have told me it sounded really mean. But at this point I don’t worry about it. And the whole point from the get-go was to depict people in the food industry in a positive light and that this is possible. And me, personally, having to go through the agony that I did, I hope someone else benefits from this.”
Most chefs have rich food memories. Bucko Lamplough’s parents owned a Dairy Queen in Merrillville, Ind. “They bought it when I was 11,” she says. “I was working there when I was 12. My first culinary job was making Dilly Bars.” Latos grew up in northwest suburban Woodstock, where her father, Stan, is a real estate developer. “All the women on both sides of my family were prominent bakers,” she says. “I grew up around quality pastries.”
Digby recalls making breakfast as a child with his family. “Every Sunday my Mom would cook a soul food dinner,” he says. “Smothered pork chops. Collard greens. Macaroni and cheese.” His mother Carolyn has worked for Blue Cross-Blue Shield for almost 40 years. His father Donnell is a retired lieutenant from the Chicago Fire Department.
By particpating in “Fat Chef,” Latos also learned she had a gluten allergy. “Now I have to rethink everything of what I can eat and what I can create,” she says. “I was at the grocery store for an hour the other day reading labels and I left with nothing. You have to be incredibly mindful.”
Working with professionals during the 16-week taping period helps establish the foundation for the chefs to keep the weight off. Digby says, “I was introduced to a number of people who helped me in my daily routine so I know what to do to keep off weight. It’s about having a daily routine. Routine is key. And there is a different solution for everyone. Even though my journey with this show is over, there is still the journey to maintain what I’ve learned and what I’ve done.”