Off the Menu: Robert Wiedmaier
The D.C. chef shares his healthy eating habits – plus a delish red snapper recipe.
Chef Robert Wiedmaier had built a career -- and a small restaurant empire -- cooking with butter, cream, and other rich staples of Belgian and French cuisine. And it showed, both on the plates he serves and on his own frame. But 4 years ago, his doctor told him it was time to trim the fat.
"He said that where I was at when I turned 50 would determine my longevity," says Wiedmaier, who runs seven restaurants in and around Washington, D.C.
Wiedmaier listened. Within 7 months, he had dropped 36 of his 251 pounds. His diet included copious amounts of Chinese green tea and spinach wraps stuffed with veggies tossed with tzatziki, a sauce made of yogurt, garlic, and cucumbers. He taught himself tricks to control his urge to eat, and he gave up carbs. And he did 50 push-ups and 50 sit-ups each day.
"Then," says Wiedmaier, now 53, "I sprained my shoulder and fell off the wagon." Now, though, he has begun to drop the pounds once more, helped along by a new and healthier attitude toward eating.
He's brought this focus on good-for-you food to his customers. Last fall, Wiedmaier opened Wildwood Kitchen, where he serves a Mediterranean-inspired menu that favors olive oil over butter and simple, healthy dishes like his red snapper en papillote. "It's a classic French preparation, but, with no butter or cream, it's healthy and cool to do."
His go-to comfort food: "I like a great burrito, filled with slow-roasted pork, black beans, and a little hot sauce. There's something very comforting about eating with my hands."
The one food he could eat every day: "Pizza with fennel sausage and caramelized onions, though I also love my morning drink of banana, avocado, mango, kale, chia seeds, kiwi, and coconut water."
What he eats when he wants to lose 5 pounds: "I eat a lot of fish and salad. Grilled salmon or halibut served over salad."
Where he gets his best recipe ideas: "I should keep a pad of paper by the bed, because I get a lot of ideas in dreams. Also, when I'm relaxing in a hot tub or talking over the menu with my chef de cuisine at Marcel's."
The one lesson he thinks every home cook should learn: "Get to know your fishmonger and your butcher. He will tell you everything about what's freshest that day, to the point where he will even call you and tell you about, say, the beautiful, fresh Monterey squid that's just come in."
Steamed Red Snapper en Papillote With Vegetables and Carrot Broth
Makes 4 servings:
4 sheets parchment paper
1 tbsp olive oil
10-12 cilantro stems
1 stalk lemongrass (sliced)
4 7-oz red snapper fillets
¼ tsp salt
pepper to taste
1 daikon radish, peeled and julienned