We've all seen celebrities show up on the red carpet two weeks after giving birth, looking oh-so-svelte in their designer gowns. We've heard all about the stars' parties, where food and drink of every kind tempts them. And we know just how hard it would be on our waistlines if we lived the A-list life. So how do Julia and Jennifer and J. Lo manage to stay slim amid the luxe life? A key ingredient: their celebrity chefs.
Every star's got onethe woman or man responsible for keeping her ready for her close-ups and for policing her plate for dietary digressions, all while catering to her whims (reasonable and not-so). We cajoled some of Hollywood's top food folks into spilling it all: the superslimming secrets, the stars' biggest cravings, the outrageous demands, and more.
What stars really eat
Stars pay to eat right. And they pay big. A full-time private celebrity chef earns an annual salary of up to $150,000 plus health benefits; the average rate for such chefs in Los Angeles not on salary is about $350 to $500 per day. And the grocery budget?
"There is no budget," says Suyai Steinhauer, a former contestant on Top Chef and now a natural-foods chef with celebrity clients in L.A. "The higher famous people are on the food chain, the more they spend on the ingredients they eat."
The interview for such a job is anything but typical. Consultations cover the basics: the celeb's favorite foods and dietary preferences (vegetarian, no red meat, no green M&M's), the chef's food philosophies, and beyond.
"One of my clients is a world-famous clothing designer who cares more about the looks of her chef than the taste of the food," says Christian Paier, CEO of Beverly Hillsheadquartered Private Chefs Inc., whose 2,000 chefs have cooked for stars like Cameron Diaz, Tom Cruise, Demi Moore, and Brooke Shields, among others. "The designer has business meetings in her house, so it's very important to her that everyone in the home has a thin, model look to maintain her company's image. Before sending chefs over, I sent over head shots."
Celebrities' meal requests change as often as the latest diet books do. Right now, the biggest demands are for raw-foods chefs (like Jill Pettijohn, who has worked for stars like Drew Barrymore and Nicole Kidman). And chefs specializing in macrobioticsthe grain-and-vegetable-based diet that severely limits dairy, meat, sugars, preservatives, refined flours, and refined saltare popular with stars like Gwyneth Paltrow.
"Macrobiotics is hot," Paier says. "I have a bunch of brothers who are all actors and have their own macrobiotic chef. There's also a female singer who hires a macrobiotic chef when she tours, because the diet gives her great energy."
A chef to the stars has to deal not only with the demands of his or her client, but with those of the celeb's friends and colleagues, too. Paier spent eight years cooking for an A-lister living in Bel-Air, whose dinner parties required some serious reconnaissance.
"Any time you work in a high-profile home, there's a book containing the allergies and food likes and dislikes of all their friends," Paier explains. "When I'd cook a dinner party for 15 A-listers, the book would say 12 of them had allergies I had to work the menu around." But, he adds, "they were rarely real allergies. They were usually just things people didn't want to eat. Like, cucumbers and beef."
In addition, Paier often had to contact the personal chef of each guest to find out if there were other dietary restrictions. "If the guest was on, say, a macrobiotic diet," Paier says, "his or her personal chef would come and drop off spices or macrobiotic salts I didn't already have."
How stars stop snacking
Other stars' tastes are more basic. Bethenny Frankel, a finalist on The Apprentice: Martha Stewart in 2005, is a personal chef who once worked as an assistant to the Hilton family (her first gig was taking Paris and Nicky to school). She has since cooked for Donna Karan, Michael J. Fox, and Susan Sarandon, and is currently cooking for Denis Learyin his traileron the set of FX's Rescue Me. "When I first met Denis, his assistant told me, 'He likes to eat chicken Parmesan, and he's really not into vegetables.' But I wasn't about to take a job cooking chicken Parmesan every day, so I changed his diet."
Now Leary, the star and producer of the show about a post9/11 New York City fireman, has a more diverse palate, eating everything from lamb chops to turkey burgers and grilled vegetables. Frankel has also turned the actor on to fish baked in aluminum foil, a favorite technique of hers.
Frankel has learned to work with stars' quirks. "Denis is always starving, so I have to make a preamble to every meal," she says. "I'll bring some olive dip on whole-grain bread for him to shove in his mouth when I get there. Otherwise, he'll be leaning over me at the stove, asking what I'm making."
While on set, Frankel also met Gina Gershon, who plays Leary's new girlfriend, Valerie, in Rescue Me. "She said she felt run down and needed to eat something healthy. So I made her a dish of zucchini, tomato, and corn, and she asked for the recipe."
For actresses like Gershon who need to keep up their energy throughout the day, Frankel avoids energy-sapping white pasta and rolls and sticks with hearty vegetable combinations, like acorn squash stuffed with feta cheese and herbs. Something else she suggests for superfast energy: snacking on whole foods to keep your metabolism working all day. Frankel recommends Greek yogurt (such as Fage Total, www.fageusa.com) or a handful of almonds with either dried cranberries or sour dried cherries. "The protein will satisfy your appetite, and the natural sugars will give you a small spike in your energy," she says.
When a star cheats
Healthy snacks are usually available on setif a celeb asks. But so are decadent treats like doughnuts, brownies, pizza, etc. How do chefs like Frankel help celebrities deal with temptation?
"Everyone's different when it comes to food," Frankel says. "Some personalities, particularly the yo-yo dieters, need volume. When I have a client like this, I tell her, 'Your diet is a bank account. You can eat a doughnut or pizza now, but you should have a salad later.'" That way, they can eat a large amount of food with few calories. "It's checks and balances," she says.
Frankel also passes on a diet trick from an unlikely source. "It's ironic that Paris Hilton could be discussed in a healthy conversation, but I consider her the 'taste everything, eat nothing' person," Frankel says. "She has a little bit of a cheeseburger, half the French fries. That's something a lot of Europeans do. I do that myself now."
When losing weight can make or break a shot at a role for a client, Frankel steers the star toward a healthy diet rather than a quick-fix fast. "I usually get him or her on a low-sodium diet full of foods like cantaloupe, asparagus, cucumber, and watermelon. Then, I add whole grains and a lot of high-volume vegetables, like arugula, broccoli rabe, and kale." Plus, at the beginning of lunch and dinner, Frankel has the client fill up on low-fat soup. "I take a vegetable broth with sauteed onions, carrots, and celery, and add either broccoli or cauliflower to it, and puree it with a tiny bit of salt and Spike Seasoning. Then he or she can eat a low-calorie meal and feel full." Suyai Steinhauer once had a high-maintenance client who wanted to slim down for the Academy Awards. "Her doctor in Beverly Hills had put her on a diet of three ounces of lean protein for lunch, three ounces for dinner, four Wasa crackers, and two apples for two months leading up to the Oscars," Steinhauer says. "That was it. It was basically a starvation diet!"
Instead of such extreme measures, Steinhauer recommends small amounts of proteins and grains throughout the day. Her favorite snacks are rye crackers and cheese, or a Lärabar (www.larabar.com) made of raw foods and dried nuts.
If her clients insist on meal replacements instead of her soup-before-dinner strategy, Bethenny Frankel suggests Greens+ bars (available at Whole Foods stores nationwide and at www.greensplus.com). "I'd rather have my clients eat a shake or snack bar than not eat anything at all," Frankel says. "I like that you can pronounce the ingredients in the Greens+ bars, and that all are less than 300 calories."
How stars (miraculously!) slim down after baby
Dropping baby weight requires a whole different strategy, Frankel says. "New moms are used to eating large amounts of comfort food, so I stick with very healthy foods like brown rice, beans, and pureed vegetables, because blended foods like vegetable soups and smoothies make people feel like they're eating fat." In particular, she recommends a breakfast of brown rice mixed with soy milk, cinnamon, raisins, almonds, and maple syrup.
Frankel has cooked for Mariska Hargitay (who plays detective Olivia Benson on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit). She lost her baby weight the healthy way after giving birth to her son last June. "Mariska is the perfect client because she's extremely healthy, but she's not a maniac about what she eats," Frankel says. "When she did a TV Guide shoot at her house with her son, I made her some vegetable frittatas she loved. She also loved it when I made Brussels sprouts; I roasted them until the leaves were falling off and crispy like potato chips."
Celebrities already have one thing going for them when it comes to making their diets better and healthier: "Just having a chef do the cooking makes things seem better tasting than they are," Frankel says. "At home, I don't steam greens and make brown rice plates. It wouldn't taste as good if I made it myself."
Try Bethenny Frankel's Zucchini Recipe