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Cape Town chef and businessman Jonno Proudfoot is the brains behind the hugely successful book, The Real Meal Revolution, co-authored by sports scientist Prof Tim Noakes, nutritionist Sally-Ann Creed and chef David Grier. The book was his idea; he thought of calling it The Real Meal, Noakes added the word, Revolution, and The Real Meal Revolution was on its way. The rest, as they say is nutrition history. Proudfoot likes to say he fell into food by accident. While messing around on a gap year after school, a friend of a friend asked him to help out for day at his catering company. He was hooked. He also knew hw wanted to go into business, so decided to do a BComm as well. Here he talks about the health benefits of his Real Meal Revolution, and what the future holds. – MS
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Today, I’m speaking to Jonno Proudfoot. Jonno is a Cape Town chef and co-author of The Real Meal Revolution with Prof Tim Noakes. Jonno, you did a degree in accounting at UCT, right?
I actually studied accounting through UNISA while I was working in the industry. I spent time working in the wine industry in marketing and then, working in the catering industry in management and finance. Before that, I had a few years in some Top 10 fine dining restaurants as an actual chef.
Where does your interest in low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) come from?
It’s a good question. I’ve always had a passion for healthy, nutritious food but I haven’t always understood what it was. About four years ago, my girlfriend (she was my girlfriend then and is my wife now) lost 20kgs following a combination of what we used to call the Tim Noakes Diet and the Dukan diet.
Was she one of the early people who went on the Tim Noakes diet (as The Real Meal Revolution book is also known) ? It only started about four years ago.
I call that pre-revolution. Pre-revolution, she lost 20kgs and that really, got my attention. That’s when I started focusing a lot more on low carb.
What was the effect on your wife losing so much weight?
As the saying goes, “happy wife = happy life”. I saw her really, just becoming happy with how she looked and how she felt. Being a businessman and a chef, I realised that I could get involved in a business could not only be successful, but add value to people’s lives as well.
It sounds as though it’s hugely successful and taking off like the proverbial rocket?
Absolutely. It has gone very well and obviously, it’s largely due to Tim Noakes’ power name and his unrelenting attitude toward his critics. He just won’t stop.
In the write-ups on you, I see it talks about you as a Paleo low-carb, high fat chef. Are you more Paleo, or low-carb, high-fat?
I used to be much more paleo. I wasn’t willing to give up carbs altogether.
What’s the difference between paleo and LCHF?
Paleo and LCHF kind of cross over. Typically, LCHF is a much stricter version of Paleo. Paleo is a low carb diet that still includes some stodgy vegetables.
And fruit, but it’s supposedly, what Palaeolithic man ate. LCHF is similar, but it excludes stodgy vegetables and keeps the carb count to below 50g a day (for those who are insulting resistant). In LCHF, people are more forgiving toward dairy, whereas with strict Paleo, they don’t eat dairy.
Right. How is the book doing?
I haven’t actually caught up on totals lately but to date, I could be wrong but I think we’ve sold about 190,000 copies locally. We signed a deal in August last year with an international publishing group – the second biggest international publishing group in the world, the Hatchett Group. They have bought the rights to publish the book globally.
In what country will it be published next?
In June, it’s launching in the UK, Canada, and Australia and shortly after that, it will be in the United States. Our publishers assured us that by the end of the year, it will be published in 21 different countries.
Sounds like a film is next. Doesn’t it usually go that way?
Movie rights – yes. I don’t know about a movie. We certainly want to run a documentary on it and we have a few interested parties. They want to do an objective documentary, which we’re quite happy to let them do.
Do you have a favourite low-carb, high-fat meal that you have most days?
That’s a great question. There are a few winners for me. One of my favourites is a cheese omelette. I love a bacon/cheese/tomato omelette. It’s the best way to start the day.
How many eggs do you put in the omelette?
I used to put in three, but now I use one-and-a-half or two eggs in an omelette, and up the cheese because I find that the more fat you have, the less you actually need to eat. My wife and I absolutely love steak with grilled asparagus and grilled tender-stem broccoli with butter. It’s just the absolute best.
What is a regular breakfast for you?
I actually love starting the day with a few boiled eggs. I do eat a lot of eggs. Sometimes some ham and sometimes some cheese, but I don’t eat much for breakfast. I used to eat a lot more. Sometimes I just have coffee and then wait until lunchtime to eat.
Do you bulletproof your coffee?
I do bulletproof coffee.
What does that mean?
Bulletproof coffee was started by a guy called David Asprey. We’re actually not allowed to use it because he’s trademarked it. Bulletproof coffee in his perspective, is his special organic beans that have butter made from pasture-reared cow’s milk and his special David Asprey MCT oil (medium chain triglyceride). Basically, it’s coffee that has had butter and MCT or coconut oil emulsified into it – the idea being that it gives you lasting, sustainable energy throughout the day.
What about coconut oil? Does that feature in your recipes?
Ja. Coconut oil is very heat-stable, high in saturated fat, and low in all the bad fats.
Do you cook with it?
I cook with it, but I’m quite fussy about flavours, so if I’m cooking a French or European-style dish, I’d only use butter to cook with, whereas if I’m cooking something Asian, then I’ll use coconut. I just find that the flavour from the coconut oil taints the flavour of whatever you’re cooking. You have to be careful about the flavours with which you choose to mix them.
What oil do you like to use for cooking?
My preferred oil is butter and then I’ll use olive oil (raw). If you heat olive oil too much, it loses stability and it becomes a bad fat, so I try to only cook with butter.
What kind of meat do you recommend on LCHF diets?
Obviously, you want to go for the fatty meat. Try not to encourage lean protein. Generally, we’re not absolute. You need to shop within your budget, but obviously, we recommend organic or pasture-reared. Funnily enough, the more naturally and happier your cows was and the animal grew, the more nutrients you’d tend to find in its fat and in its meat.
Happy chickens and happy cows?
Happy chickens happy cows, happy pigs. Acorn-fed pigs are the best and they have the best flavour, too. The cows that have the yellow fat and the deep red meat are going to be the most nutritious. The irony in that is that the grain-fed cows actually have fattier meat and their meat is tenderer, but the pasture-reared cows have more flavour and it’s much healthier for the cow and for the person.
People often say that Cape Town is the centre of Banting. Would you agree with that?
Yes. If you look at Silicon Valley 40 years ago (in terms of software), I’d say that Cape Town is the equivalent in terms of nutrition and health. I really think that what Tim Noakes has produced here and what we’ve managed to create is driving it throughout the rest of the world. With the conference that we’ve just had, we’ve brought everyone together as a united front, and Cape Town is leading the race.
I see there are Banting restaurants. If a restaurant is not a Banting restaurant, does it still have a Banting meal?
It’s so funny, actually. Four years ago if you were to go into a restaurant in Cape Town f, and say: “I’ll have the burger – no roll”, you’d be looked at as if you were one of “those people”. Nowadays, you don’t even have to say “no roll”. You can just say: “Can I have a Banting”, and people will know what you mean. They’ll say: “Okay, that’s no roll and salad instead of fries.” It’s not even frowned upon in Cape Town anymore. It’s part of our language.
How long have you been on Banting?
Funnily enough, not that long. While I was writing the book, I was doing a lot of exercise, so I wasn’t strictly Banting. I was doing more Paleo. Since I’ve slowed down on so much exercise, I would say I’ve only been Banting properly for the last six months, and during the last three months, I’ve been incredibly strict. I’m actually having a diet competition with a friend of mine.
Have you noticed any benefits of Banting on your sports performance?
Ja, I did notice. I used to swim long-distance, and I used to eat a small amount of sweet potato, but a high amount of coconut oil and MCT oil. I noticed a dramatic difference. What I did notice was how few carbs you actually need. I used to drink Energade and all of those sports drinks while I was training. When I started training for this big swim (we swam from Mozambique to Madagascar).
How many kilometres is that?
It was 460kms.
Over what time period did you do that?
Over 24 days. It was a lot of exercise and we didn’t drink a single energy drink from the day we started training until the day we finished the race. You just don’t need it. We just drank water. In fact, over a three-and-a-half hour swim, we had to stop once, at two-and-a-half hours of swimming and we would just drink 250mls of water and carry on. What I realised – focusing on nutrition and everything that Tim taught us – is that you don’t need half of the stuff the industry tells you you need.
I’m sure that’s true on many other levels as well. What was your fuel source on this amazing swim?
I have to be honest. On the boat, we were at sea for 40 days. We had great food sponsorship from Woolworths and we just ate whatever we could get into our faces. I lost weight on the swim. You can’t not lose weight – swimming seven hours per day – but I can say on record: I did no Banting on the boat.
Where to next, for The Real Meal Revolution?
We’re going to try doing everything we can. In South Africa, this year, for Real Meal we have a product range coming out. We’re doing a TV show. We have our online programme, which is going very nicely. We’re launching a new book, called Raising Superheroes, which is aimed at mothers with children.
Do you believe LCHF diets are okay for children?
The (Cape Town low-carb, high-fat summit) taught us a lot about that. What we’ve learned is that carbohydrates (refined carbohydrates, in particular) and sugar are very bad for raising children. What we’re saying in our book is not necessarily “don’t put your child near carbs”, but what we do want to do is teach parents how to raise children without that addiction to sugar – for example, offering alternatives to sweets and candy, as well as teaching them behaviour and the right terminology around obesity and sugar. Many children grow up fearing food because it makes you fat, and those are the children, who actually end up with weight problems.
Yes. The obesity rate among children in South Africa and globally is really very high?
I believe that the next book is going to make a much bigger impact that this book because it deals with obesity right at the beginning of a child’s life.
Insulin resistance is the key, too?
We’re also going to show how you can tell whether your child is insulin resistant or not. A whole lot of research going into it. I’m very excited.
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