TV cook Erwan Heussaff goes from fat to fab

Erwan Heussaff, who has a food show on TLC channel, lost 40kg through healthy eating and exercising

During his college days, Erwan Heussaff tipped the scales at 110kg.
During his college days, Erwan Heussaff tipped the scales at 110kg. PHOTO: GARDENS BY THE BAY

Looking at Erwan Heussaff, one would never have guessed that he is behind the popular food recipe website, The Fat Kid Inside.

Dressed for this interview in a fitted T-shirt and khaki trousers, the 28-year-old French-Filipino writer and restaurateur looks as toned as he is handsome, without a trace of fat on his body.

Yet, when he was 20, he weighed 110kg. This was during his college days, when the 1.77m-tall foodie says he "lacked discipline" and "would eat buckets of fried chicken at three in the morning".

It was only two years later that he decided to start shedding the weight, fuelled by a bad break-up with his girlfriend at the time.

"She had just broken up with me and I looked at myself in the mirror and felt like I would never meet another girl looking like that," he says.

"I decided to do something about it and, on top of working out, I took charge of my love for good food by cooking tasty dishes that were also healthy. I cooked my way to fitness," he says with a grin.

He shed more than 40kg and now weighs 68kg. Besides sticking to a clean diet of homecooked meals, he is also a triathlete and gymgoer.

"My weight loss started from a place of vanity, but when I learnt more about nutrition and fitness, I realised I wanted it to be more about being healthy and I wanted to share that information with other people," he says.

He regularly posts video recipes and fitness tips on his website, which has turned into an online community, with many readers sharing their own fitness and weight loss stories on the site.

As The Fat Kid Inside started gaining traction, so did his celebrity status. His Instagram account (@erwanjheussaff) has more than 641,000 followers, while his Facebook fan page has more than 40,000 'likes'.

Recently, he was selected to be a host on lifestyle TV channel TLC (StarHub TV Channel 427, Singtel Channel 254), joining the ranks of other TV chefs, such as Bob Blumer and Buddy Valastro.

In the new show, which starts airing on Friday, he will be cooking various dishes in a series of vignettes titled Food Fix With Erwan Heussaff.

Outside of the entertainment world, he owns eight food and beverage establishments in Manila, where he is based. They include soup bar Sabao, all-day breakfast joint Hatch 22 and gastropub Hungry Hound.

Heussaff, who is dating Filipina- Australian actress Anne Curtis, is the youngest of three children. One of his two elder sisters, Solenn, is an actress and model.

Their father, Mr Louis Paul Heussaff, is a former French marine from Brittany working in the oil and gas industry. Their Filipina mother, Cynthia Adea, is a dancer.

1. You advocate weight loss and healthy eating, but what about the idea that big can be beautiful too?

I don't see weight loss as an aesthetic thing - I think it's more important to see it from a health perspective. If people are big or overweight, but are healthy inside, that's great.

2. Filipino cuisine is not well known globally. Why do you think that is so?

The Philippines was colonised for many years - by the Americans and the Spanish - and a lot of what is now Filipino food is what I call "survival food". They are mostly stews and soups made of scraps of meat and whatever else one could find. They are tasty, but they are almost always badly presented.

Recently, a lot of chefs in the Philippines have been taking Filipino food to the next level.

3. How often do you show up at your own restaurants?

For each of the eight brands, I am there three times a week. I do not cook, but I tend the bar and do full shifts. I think it's important for me to be there to have good rapport with my staff and also to make sure I don't forget what it's like to be a customer in my restaurants.

4. What do you think is the biggest misconception that people outside of Asia have about South-east Asian cuisine?

I think a lot of people think of only Chinese food when they think of Asian cuisine.

They think of soya sauce and stews. Thai and Vietnamese food have been emerging recently and people are getting to know these flavours.

Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines also have amazing food that isn't in the spotlight.

Hopefully, that will change.

5. Do you promote South-east Asian flavours when you travel?

Definitely. Most of my recipes have a South-east Asian bearing and everything that I do online is focused on that.

I'm flying to Los Angeles soon to work with Tastemade Studios, where I'll be doing an online series on South-east Asian flavours.

Whenever I travel to Europe or the United States, I'm always cooking and educating people on South-east Asian food.

6. What would your last meal be?

I have a terrible memory, but the funny thing is that I remember everything I eat.

One of my first food memories was with my grandfather in France, where we were eating a huge tub of mashed potatoes.

It was topped with lots of salted butter, which is the speciality of Brittany. My last meal would be just that.

7. You have visited Singapore many times. Are there any eateries that you frequent?

I love going to the hawker centre at Old Airport Road for oyster omelette. I also love Burnt Ends - it's one of my favourite restaurants and I have to go there whenever I'm in town.

I also like Artichoke and Luke's Oyster Bar & Chophouse.

8. How would you like to be remembered?

That's a little morbid. I would like to be loved by friends and family. I'd also like to be remembered for making an impact on Asian food by raising awareness of it.

• Follow Yip Wai Yee on Twitter @STyipwaiyee

• Food Fix With Erwan Heussaff airs on TLC (StarHub TV Channel 427, Singtel Channel 254) at various times starting on Friday.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 21, 2015, with the headline TV cook Erwan Heussaff goes from fat to fab. Subscribe