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Erik Oberholtzer of Tender Greens in Culver City exercises early, races to stay trim

February 23, 2009|Jenny Hontz

Erik Oberholtzer

Chef-owner of Tender Greens in Culver City, former executive chef at Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica

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"My Mom's Sicilian, so I grew up around food," says Oberholtzer, 40. "The big challenge has always been finding balance."

Sports including soccer and tennis were a part of his youth, but as he moved up the restaurant food chain, finding time to work out became increasingly tough. "When you're working 12 to 14 hours a day, the last thing you want to do at the end of the night is go running."

Oberholtzer realized he needed to work out in the morning or it would never happen. These days, he wakes up and meditates, eats breakfast and then runs five times a week for 4 to 6 miles. Afterward, he works out at Gold's Gym for an hour or more a day.

He also challenges himself with running and cycling competitions and events. He and several other chefs recently biked from San Francisco to Los Angeles, riding 125 miles a day for four days in what they dubbed the Tour de Chef. In the spring, he plans to ride to Palm Springs from the beach in Los Angeles, and in May he'll run the L.A. Marathon.

"At our age, we're not in it to win medals," he says. "It's the process of setting a goal and training. My long-term goal is triathlons. The only thing holding me up is open water. It's a little cold. I lived in Hawaii, and it was great to get in the water there."

Oberholtzer eats five days a week at his restaurant, which serves organic salads. It's a lot easier to eat a healthy diet there than it was as executive chef at Shutters on the Beach. "When I worked in fine dining, there was not a lot [of healthy food] to snack on," he said. "It's not like you snack on foie gras and tuna tartare."

He admits a weakness for "crunchy, salty snacks" so he avoids keeping junk food at home -- or at least, he tries. "My wife bought a box of Cheez-Its, and for two days, I craved it. Last night, I finally broke down," he says. "I ran an extra mile, and I'm good."

It's OK to indulge on occasion, he believes, if you make up for it with exercise. "It's a simple equation. If you're going to eat a lot more, then make time to go to the gym, or take a walk after dinner," he says. "But don't tempt yourself, and don't allow yourself to get so hungry that you'll eat a Double Double or a burrito."

For Oberholtzer, at 5-foot-10 and 160 pounds, the commitment to health has paid off. "For me, it's a lifestyle, not a phase or a fad," he says. "Living by the beach, you have to be Speedo-ready."

-- J.H.

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