The Washington, D.C., chef shares his weight loss secrets -- and a favorite fish recipe.
Chef Jeff Tunks has always been a big guy, but he used to be a lot bigger. Several years ago, he weighed in at 375 pounds. For someone who works 70 to 80 hours a week on his feet, that burden eventually became too great to bear and his body rebelled.
"I ruptured a disc in my back while at work and had to have surgery," says Tunks, 54, who -- together with his two partners in Passion Food LLC -- runs more than seven restaurants in the Washington, D.C., area. "That's what triggered the realization that I needed to do something to change my lifestyle and take some pounds off, not only to preserve my career but to be a better father."
The 6-foot-3 Tunks dropped about 130 pounds and has since kept it off. "My motivation now is my wardrobe," says Tunks, a single father with joint custody of two teenage boys, Jordan and Bradley, whom he cooks for -- and sometimes with -- three evenings a week.
"I bought all new clothes, and all my old stuff went to the Salvation Army and Goodwill. For me, it's not what the scale says but how my clothes feel."
Tunks mastered new habits that help him control his weight. He's learned to love exercise. It helps that his fiancée happens to be a triathlete. "I'm not built for running, but I do like cycling," Tunks says. "We try to focus our vacations on biking." This past summer, they two-wheeled through Provence in France.
PassionFish Bethesda, just north of D.C., serves sushi and features an abundant raw bar and several catches of the day. Tunks shares the recipe for the restaurant's most popular dish, the grilled whole branzino.
"Any time you have a whole fish, its flavor is just richer and deeper than a piece of boneless, skinless fish," he says. "It's really simple to do, and the skin keeps it moist, so it's hard to overcook."