Frank Bruni isn’t the only member of the food world who’s had his powers of restraint demolished by a box of Oreos. “I am a food alcoholic,” Jacques Torres proclaims. “Some people are addicted to cigarettes or alcohol or drugs. I think I’m addicted to food.”
The pastry chef and chocolatier, whose fifth store is set to open in the Chelsea Market this week, has struggled with his self-described addiction all his life. “Whatever I do, it doesn’t matter if you put me in front of bread, pasta, or potatoes; any of those foods, I keep eating. I have no end.”
So, like Bruni, Drew Nieporent, and Joe Bastianich before him, Torres has embarked on a diet to whittle his 214-pound frame down to somewhere in the 180 to 190 range. But his particular reduction regime comes with a philanthropic asterisk attached to it: Torres, along with chefs like Elizabeth Karmel, Anita Lo, and Michael Lomanaco, has signed up for Lose for Good, Weight Watchers’s second-annual campaign to raise money for Share Our Strength, an organization that combats childhood hunger. “For every pound you lose, a pound of food will be given to the needy,” he says. (Technically speaking, for every million pounds lost, Weight Watchers is donating $250,000 to Share Our Strength and Action Against Hunger.)
Like plenty of dieters, Torres has done Weight Watchers before. “I was on it for awhile, but I went on vacation and gained weight. I drank too much wine and ate too much good French food. So I came back and said, that’s it, I’m too heavy, blah blah blah.” So he’s been working out at the gym and eating a lot of egg white omelets, salads, and turkey slices, and further exerting himself with around-the-clock work on his new store. In addition to building the store’s furniture, he’s creating a new line of toffee and recently made his first batch of bean-to-bar chocolate on a new machine he purchased.
Not that Torres has been eating a lot of his new products: He avoids his shop’s wares like the plague. “I won’t touch a croissant. I’ll eat one very rarely if I have a guest over. Otherwise, I stay away from them — I can have three, easy. And we do a chocolate cake; every time that thing is at the store, I can’t touch it.”
But don’t pastry chefs have to taste what they bake? “You know, I think that if you have enough experience, you don’t really need to taste,” Torres counters. “It’s an excuse. We are technicians; we know if something goes wrong. If you cook, you need to taste. With pastry, you don’t adjust anything. A recipe is a recipe.”