July 30, 2014

From The Editor

We’re hoping you’ll get out and savor our "10 Summer Dining Treats" (p. 50). Lots of irresistibles there—like the Moroccan-spiced tagines at Bamboo Café and the bold jumbo shrimp cavatelli puttanesca at Olio on Naples Bay. The bonus dining story I want to share starts with five words: "Is Daddy going to die?" They were uttered by the daughter of Chef William Murray of The Veranda restaurant in Fort Myers, and they were the frightened reaction to the deteriorating look of her 300-pound father. "That’s when I knew I had to do something," Chef William says. "I want to be around to see Tori grow up."

So this man, who is elbows deep in the likes of Southern grit cakes and triple-layer chocolate pâté all day, cooked up a lifestyle plan that should inspire us all. Starting in March 2009—with a driven resolve—he gave up all fats in his diet, dove mainly into fruits and vegetables and started walking a half-mile every day.
"I got results real quick," he says, sometimes losing as many as 12 pounds in a week. In six months, his strolls were up to six or seven miles a day and his weight had dropped by 115 pounds.

Instead of his favorites—red meat, real pizza—he introduced himself to fish, turkey and non-fat cheese... and you’d see him indulging in the occasional orange, banana or sliced tomato on the job. On days when the rain washed out his walking, he worked his arms and legs on an exercise machine for an hour-and-a-half or two. "After I lost the first 50 pounds, my wife, Sally, would say, ‘Come on, you can eat what I’m eating now,’ but I was never tempted. I never gave in." Tori and Chef William’s niece Sierra, both 15, would accompany him on his walks until he got too fast for them.

Now? This man who couldn’t walk up a single flight of stairs at work takes them joyfully and easily these days. This man who couldn’t bend over to tie his shoes can run two miles (all laced up). Some people who hadn’t seen him for a while don’t even recognize him now. "And my energy level," he says, "feels three times better."

You’ll see him have his meatballs and spaghetti, but notice that it’s whole-grain pasta and chicken meatballs. "I eat more now than before," he says, "but I’m a lot smarter about it."

Chef William’s pushing his crusade for the benefit of others. A graduate of the famed Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., and executive chef for owner Paul Peden at The Veranda since 2003, he’s put his savvy into Chef William’s Lite & Luscious Flavors at the restaurant. These daily specials are approximately 98 percent fat free and include lunches of Mediterranean chicken salad with Kalamata olives and feta cheese or pan-seared salmon crowned with fresh summer vegetable salsa served in a saffron broth.

Clearly, Chef William’s loss (he’s at 192 pounds now) can be our gain. Go for the taste … and your health.

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