Monday, October 31, 2011

Ultra Running Chef, Ryan Cobb

I have known Ryan Cobb for a few years through the ultra community and always wanted to know more about him as an Executive Chef at one of Atlanta's finest restaurants, The Colonnade and as an endurance athlete. Ryan is also husband to Carol and father to daughter, Peyton and son, Avery, so he certainly has a full plate, so to speak. In fact, his 13 year old son was the youngest finisher of the Mystery Mountain Marathon in 2010, completing the 13 mile event.  You can also visit Ryan's blog, where he writes about his running adventures, on UltraRunningChef. I really enjoyed learning more about Ryan. I hope that you do as well.

1.What made you decide to become a chef and where did you go to school?
 I went to school at The Art Institute of Atlanta.  Honestly, I got in to cooking because I wanted to impress girls!  It was my ace in the hole on all first dates.  I did not go to culinary school until after I had attended The University of Georgia.  I knew that I needed a more creative outlet than a straightforward business degree was going to offer me.

2.Where do you currently work as a professional chef and how long have you been there? 
I am the Executive Chef at The Colonnade Restaurant, I have been here for about five years.

3.What is your favorite cuisine?
My favorite cuisine would have to be Japanese, Sushi to be exact. Behind that, I would have to go with traditional Latin American cuisine(no tex/mex!).

4.Do you cook for your family as well? If so, what is a family favorite?
I do cook for my family, but if I said it was on a regular basis I would be a liar.  The more I cook at work, the less I cook at home.  My family does have favorites though, and it usually involves my Costa Rican themed evenings. Arroz con Pollo, Ceviche, Tico Breakfast, etc.

5. How long have you been running? And when did you start running ultra marathons?
I have only been running for three years. I started running Ultras about 6 months after I started running, my first 100 miler came 10 1/2 months after I started running.

6.How do you fuel for longer endurance events?
I listen to my body as to what I am going to eat before a long run, its never wrong.  I don't necessarily carbo load, in fact I usually eat a bunch of protein the night before a race. It sticks with me longer.  Also, I hate spaghetti, which is the usual pre-race meal that is offered. I have recently switched from using too many gels and other synthetic aid.  I prefer real food while doing Ultras.

7.What are your thoughts on eating nutritious food and how it affects your performance as an ultra runner? Do you believe it's important?
I definitely think that nutritious food is an important fact in Ultra running, and I do my best to keep a healthy, nutritious diet.  I am far from perfect though, and indulge than less than perfect cuisine on long run days especially.  I believe that eating right for Ultra running gives you the obvious benefits of having the proper balance of nutrients, vitamins and minerals in your body, so that your body will perform at its' peak level.  I think it is important to study what your body as an Ultra Runner truly needs though. This is one area where I think a lot of people fall short.  For example, an Ultra Runner needs far more sodium and fat in their diet than a non Ultra Athlete.  If you think you are eating healthy and don't adjust your diet to increased needs of some items you will not perform at the bodies peak level.

8.As an endurance athlete, do you believe it helps you perform your job better compared to a chef who does not exercise? In other words, is there a correlation between your high level of endurance as a runner and long and stressful hours in the kitchen as a chef?
I'm not sure how much being a runner helps me on my long shifts as a chef.  Obviously it helps to be in better shape than your average chef, I sweat less and  don't notice long periods on my feet.  Going in the other direction, the constant time on my feet in the kitchen has definitely helped my running.  It is always said when training for ultra long runs that feet time is crucial.  I get that whether I want it or not!!!  I have noticed that it does give me an edge.

9.Professional chefs love food. Do you ever have to worry about overindulging and gaining weight? 
I have never worried about over indulging as a chef.  The chef's diet is not what you would think, it usually consists of many small meals or tastes throughout the day.  I think in the last 5 years I have only sat down and had a complete meal at work 7 or 8 times.  I have found myself pigging out after a shift, but I'm never more than 12 hours from my next run, so the added calories never stick around.  My weight has not fluctuated more than 3-4 lbs. in the last three years.

10. What is your favorite part about being a 1) chef, 2) ultra marathon runner.
My favorite part about being a chef is the ability to create with a massive array of different mediums. I have always been creative, but couldn't draw a circle if I tried!  Culinary Arts has given me the artistic outlet that has always been inside of me.  My favorite part of being a ultra runner is the ability to explore.  I love to find new trails and areas to explore. When I'm in a new city, I explore through a run as well. The beauty of running to me is just that; the freedom.  I recently had to remind myself that it is all about the run, not racing that I love.

11.What is your #1 greatest accomplishment as a 1)chef, 2)ultra marathon runner. 
My most significant accomplishment as a chef would have to involve all of the media attention that I have received through The Food Network, PBS, 11-Alive News, and The Travel Channel.  Its sort of self indulgent, but who wouldn't love the exposure?  It took a lot of hard work and long days to get my name out there.  The attention wasn't given, it was earned.  As a runner?  My most significant accomplishment was my first marathon, not Ultra.  I went to being a total couch potato to a marathoner with no help, and all of my own drive.  I looked up a training program on the Internet, followed it religiously through rain sleet and snow, and accomplished my goal.  I cried after I crossed the finish line.  It was such an amazing feat for me and proud moment to see my goals realized through hard work.

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