How famous chef Ronnie Woo lives delightfully in pieces

Over the course of several years of bodybuilder and fitness influencer coverage for Men’s health, I’ve seen my fair share of “bro meals”. Know the type: Chicken breast, broccoli, brown rice. Food as fuel; eat as an act of pure sustenance. Sufficient and soul-destroying.

So when I meet Ronnie Woo, the former celebrity chef turned model, in Los Angeles to talk about his new cookbook Have you eaten yet?: Delicious recipes from an all-American chef, I’m pleasantly surprised he suggests going for dessert at Magnolia Bakery. And over a table full of lemon treats, chocolate cake and a banana pudding that he thinks will change my life, Woo explains that while the book includes a section on healthy recipes, it also reflects his philosophy on food.

“Have you already eaten?” was a common refrain in Woo’s house growing up, and he always thought of food as a very real source of joy, something he does his best to convey both in his writing, and in his regular spots on TV shows like THE Rachel Ray Show, The Kelly Clarkson Show, The Drew Barrymore Show AND Todayas well as while appearing as a judge on Netflix Is it a cake?

“Having food and enjoying a meal with your friends and stuff is such a fun and enriching experience,” she says. “That’s the point. Like, you want to live an enriched life versus constantly setting these rules and imposing parameters on yourself. It’s a difficult way to live.”

“Sometimes you just have to eat the bread,” she adds. “For your sanity.”

Ronnie Woo

How hard is it for you to eat for pleasure while staying fit?

I think for most humans, eating just for fuel is not pleasant. I did this during modeling days where I had to maintain a very specific size all the time, every single day. Because when you’re a model, you can’t float. I remember once being kicked out of a campaign because the client said I looked “full” in my clothes. I was the skinniest I’ve ever been. It was nearing the end of my modeling career, and after that I started taking it less seriously.

Now, as a chef, it’s about feeling good in your own skin. I like to keep fit physically, but also mentally. And I think to achieve balance, you have to give in to your cravings now and then. I tend to do five days of pretty healthy eating, and then one or two days a week of making myself eat whatever I want.

If I want a donut, I’ll have a donut! I just won’t have, like, a hundred donuts.

Ronnie Wo

In those five days, are you really on top of your calorie count, macros, etc.?

I fill my fridge with as many colorful vegetables as possible. And because I hate wasting food and I hate wasting money, I generally eat it all. I don’t count calories and I don’t track my macros. I don’t even really know what they are! It’s too much work for me. If that’s what you’re dedicating your life to, then it makes sense, but to me, it’s all about feeling good and living a healthy life in all the ways that matter: mentally and emotionally as well as physically.

Eating something tasty is my favorite way to celebrate something or reward myself. And when I’ve trained really hard, there’s nothing like that hunger you feel where you know you’re going to eat something delightful.

Ronnie Wo

What is an average eating day like for you?

Monday through Friday, I usually start the day with a banana or apple, two hard-boiled eggs with hummus, some Medjool dates, and a shot of water. Depending on when my schedule allows me to hit the gym, I’ll drink a protein shake (frozen blueberries, almond milk, one scoop of super veg powder, one scoop of collagen powder, and two scoops of protein powder) or just eat a can of sardines with an avocado.

If I’m hungry in the afternoon, I usually snack on nuts and dark chocolate. For dinner, I’ll roast some lean protein (fish, turkey, or chicken) along with two or four types of vegetables. I try to vary the colors of my vegetables throughout the week. However, when it comes time for the weekend, I’ll eat whatever the hell my body craves as a reward for myself.

What’s your all-time favorite weekend gift?

To be honest, my favorite cheat day treat is always changing, but if I had to choose it would be potstickers, fried chicken wings, and a really moist chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream frosting.

If there’s one thing you’d like people to take from your book, what would it be?

A small arsenal of recipes they’ll come back to again and again…and maybe a few laughs reading my ridiculous stories.

Have you eaten yet?: Mouth-watering recipes from an all-American Asian chef

Have you eaten yet?: Mouth-watering recipes from an all-American Asian chef

Have you eaten yet?: Mouth-watering recipes from an all-American Asian chef

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Headshot of Philip Ellis

Philip Ellis is a UK freelance writer and journalist covering pop culture, relationships and LGBTQ+ issues. His work has appeared in GQ, Teen Vogue, Man Repeller and MTV.

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