Recently, some friends and I decided to embark on an exercise and healthy eating program in order to get in shape for some exciting upcoming events.
I've always exercised with fair consistency and watched what I eat. Even so, I eat out a lot and my options on that score are not always the best. More often than not I settle for so-called "healthy" choices in "unhealthy" places.
On a recent walk, I noticed a new joint called FitFood had opened in West Hollywood and I decided to check it out.
I was greeted by part owner Richard Idgar, who proceeded to tell me with great enthusiasm about the different food options in front of me. I was also introduced to his business partner and co-owner, Bernardo Coppola.
I can't remember feeling such energy and excitement about food. Everything looked so delicious that it was hard to choose what to eat! So, Richard and Bernardo let me sample a few things. I tried bites of vegetarian lasagna, turkey meatballs, sweet potatoes, chili and a brisket of beef.
Now, I am not a food critic, but everything knocked my socks off in terms of flavor and taste. What shocked me most was that nothing I was eating had any salt or oil added. The brisket in particular astounded me. No salt or oil involved? Additionally, all the fat had been trimmed? It tastes this good AND is healthy too?
That is exactly what Richard and Bernardo are hoping to get across. Food can still taste good and be nutritious without all the additives.
The two met while working as a manager and top trainer, respectively, at Gold's Gym in Hollywood. As "people on the go" by self-definition, they were constantly frustrated with "fast" options for eating.
So, in 2008, they decided to develop a pre-packaged food line. That soon morphed into a catering business instead. The goal was to create fully balanced meals in terms of caloric content, nutritional value, portion size and of course, quality.
A major key was finding a chef willing to develop foods within the nutritional guidelines Idgar and Coppola had laid out. This was no easy task. Richard says, "Almost every chef we talked to did double takes when they were told they had to cook without oil, butter, salt or sugar. It took a while, but eventually we found Perry Anthony, who was willing to trust our ideas and experiment."
Right out of the gate, FitFood catered a party for Chelsea Handler's sidekick "Chewie." Nobody at the party could believe the food was as healthy as promoted because it was so tasty. It turned out that someone connected with American Idol was at that party, which led FitFood to cater for the 2010 season of that show.
Bernardo is also currently personal trainer to the cast of Glee. He says "[Creator] Ryan Murphy was a client before I got the Glee gig. He'd heard about the business I'd started but didn't quite buy that food was any good without salt or sugar. Eventually he came around." FitFood did catering for Glee during its first season. In fact, actress Jane Lynch was quoted in People magazine as stating her favorite thing about the Glee set was FitFood.
I was most surprised by the gluten-free deserts FitFood has to offer. Many "healthier" desserts can taste a bit like cardboard. At FitFood, I enjoyed a brownie with peanut butter swirl where the absence of sugar and sodium made absolutely no difference in terms of taste. FitFood also offers incredibly delicious homemade sodas as alternative to standard soft drinks and a protein shake called the "Yam-tastic" must be tasted to be believed.
I am also impressed by a nutrition program Richard and Bernardo have developed in conjunction with the café called "Get Fit, Stay Fit." For flat fees, people can and pick their meals a day at a time or days to a week in advance. Customers will also get dietary and fitness consulting time with Bernardo.
Several restaurants claim to encourage healthy eating, but I personally have never seen or tasted anything along the lines of FitFood. From my vantage point, nothing in LA comes close to what Richard and Bernardo are cultivating.
Whether you live in Los Angeles or are visiting the area, if you care about healthy eating, you owe it to yourself to check out FitFood, which is located at 7998C Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood. For more information, click here.