The chef and partner at Frontier and Ina Mae Tavern & Packaged Goods kept hustling this year, even as the pandemic put the restaurant industry on pause: He taught cooking classes on Instagram Live, adapted menus for takeout, and partnered with organizations like World Central Kitchen to supply meals to families in need. And then there was his personal reconstruction project: The 40-year-old Albany Park resident dropped about 55 pounds and started building muscle through strength training and muay thai.

Turning Point

“I’ve had phases of trying to be fit and make changes, but I’d fallen off. I was sluggish, and I put on a good bit of weight. Then a couple of people who I thought were probably 10 times healthier than me passed away. I was thinking, If I dropped dead, it wouldn’t be that big of a shocker. My daughter’s growing, and I couldn’t keep putting my health on the back burner.”

Booze Control

“I was also drinking more than I should have been. It goes hand in hand with the industry. A drink after work four or five days, you get after it on a Saturday, and when you do the math, you’re 20 drinks deep for the week. As I started working out more, it became harder to drink and go train the next day. The enjoyment of training began to trump the enjoyment of drinking.”

Fitness Routine

“Just before the pandemic, I started going frequently to Chicago Muay Thai. Then they started doing Zoom classes. We have an Airbnb upstairs from Ina Mae, so when business slowed down, I’d go there and do two classes a day. I started seeing results, which made it easier to keep going. I also do hourlong workouts three days a week with a trainer named Dominique Arrington. He came across my Instagram, and I’m like, I want that body.”

Mobility Master

“I was having a lot of back and hip pain, wear and tear from standing on my feet all these years, especially holding that extra weight. Coach Arrington has basically fixed my body. He has me do what are called hip and shoulder CARs [controlled articular rotations]. You lift your arm or leg up and make circles, firing up your tissues. I’ll do that before I jump into bench-pressing or deadlifting, and it all ends up working together.”

Dietary Philosophy

“I’ve tried paleo and even a vegan diet, but at the end of the day, I’m a chef. I love food, and I don’t want to be like, I can’t have that today. I’d rather go a little bit harder tomorrow in the gym. I normally don’t eat breakfast, especially when I have morning workouts — I feel too heavy. If I’m really hungry, I’ll drink beet juice, which gives me just enough to get through. For lunch, if I haven’t meal-prepped, I’ll get poke from this spot by Ina Mae’s. After that, I’m a nibbler. I’m at the restaurants, eating a spoonful of this, a spoonful of that. But I’m trying to bring food with me and make the effort to get meals in so I don’t lose any more weight. It’s harder than dieting, to be honest.”

Liquid Ambitions

“I drink a lot of water, at least a gallon a day. And every Tuesday is Two-Gallon Tuesdays. If I’m not a gallon in by 1 p.m., I know it’s going to be a rough day.”