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Chef uses health transformation to help Mississippians with meal prep, healthy eating – Magnolia Tribune

6 minutes, 34 seconds Read
  • The first location was the Fitchef Kitchen in Vicksburg, but the demand quickly grew. Now, the company has stores in Flowood, Oxford, and Gluckstadt, and another planned for Jackson.

You know the drill. You’re tired. You’re bloated, cranky, have no stamina, your blood pressure is too high, and your motivation is too low. You’re not alone.

According to the Mississippi Department of Health, obesity rates in Mississippi’s counties are some of the highest in the nation. As of 2021, nearly 40% of adults in Mississippi were overweight, and 1 in 7 suffer from Type 2 Diabetes, a common complication that comes with obesity. 

The struggle is real, and it is known all too well by Chef Kevin Roberts, chef and founder of Vicksburg-based FitChef Catering.

The FitChef Story

Chef Kevin Roberts has lived and cooked all over the country. His dad worked at Grand Gulf, so Roberts’ family moved to Vicksburg when he was two. That’s where he stayed until the travel bug bit in his early 20s.

Roberts worked in kitchens in multi-million-dollar resorts in California and Florida and became the chef of a bed and breakfast in Denali, Alaska. He had found great success as a chef, but that’s not all he found. 

“I was always a big boy growing up,” said Roberts. “And I loved food, and when I got older, I loved drugs and alcohol. I lived that stereotypical chef’s life of drugs, alcohol, and food.”

Roberts said things got out of control by the time he recognized that changes had to be made.

“I had half my thyroid taken out at 19. I had ulcerative colitis, fatty liver disease, all kinds of stuff by the time I was 25,” said Roberts. “It was either die young or get healthy.” 

The chef’s focus shifted to his own healthy eating and exercise regimen. Roberts returned to Vicksburg, and after helping to launch 10 South Rooftop Bar and Grill, he left the restaurant industry in 2018 to pursue a career in personal training. 

“It was part of my package that if you hired me to be your trainer, I’ll also make food for you,” said Roberts. “I realized quickly that I was making more money selling food than training people.”

Roberts began making healthy and delicious packaged meals at his mother’s house and selling them out of his car at the gym. 

“People wanted meal prep, and that’s how FitChef started,” said Roberts. 

Meal prep with a mission

“Meal prep,” or preparing meals ahead of time, has been a standard practice to help alleviate some of the pressure of getting a full meal when it’s finally time to settle down and eat. Anyone can use meal prep to get a head-start on meals for the next few days, but it has gained the most popularity among folks on a health and wellness journey. 

The whole concept behind meal prep is the adage, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Cooking up batches of delicious and nutritional foods that meet your dietary needs can prevent you from swinging through the fast-food line later in the week when your meeting runs long. 

Meal prep can be overwhelming for anyone who hasn’t tried it before, especially if you need a quick diet overhaul for health reasons.

That’s where Chef Roberts comes in with FitChef.

“It started by me cooking for a handful of people and delivering to their houses,” said Roberts. “After getting a small business loan, I built our first kitchen in 2018, and we opened it on November 1. From there, it just exploded and grew.” 

The first location was the Fitchef Kitchen in Vicksburg, but the demand quickly grew. People ordered meals and picked them up in coolers placed in businesses. MaxFit, a health and fitness store in Flowood had designated coolers for FitChef meals until the Flowood FitChef location opened at Dogwood Festival Mall.

“We now have a store in Flowood, Oxford, and Gluckstadt,” said Roberts. “We have our original store in Vicksburg and are about to open a fifth store in Fondren.”

Roberts said making meal prep as easy as possible is his mission because even though the healthier options at your nearby restaurants seem convenient, they’re still loaded with sugars, preservatives, high sodium content, and more.

Roberts takes away the need for the quick drive-thru dash.

“Everybody has their own little niche of how they utilize our products,” said Roberts. “They can literally come in and get their meals for the rest of the week. That way, they’re not stressing out what they need to pick or what they need to eat. And they can plan for themselves because planning is the key to success.” 

The why behind FitChef

“The whole premise of the business is that we provide a convenient service that genuinely helps people. And that’s what it’s all about,” said Roberts. “Over the last five and a half years, I can’t tell you how many people have sent pictures before and after, testimonies, things like that.”

Roberts added that having customers tell him about their impressive life changes motivates him. He’s seen the difference that healthy eating has made in his life and wants to see that change for Mississippians. 

“I’ve had people tell me they’ve been able to lower their A1C medicines, or they’ve lost weight,” said Roberts. “We’ve helped hundreds of Mississippians lose thousands of pounds.”

Diet makes a difference

Obesity aside, numerous health conditions are fueled by either genetics, autoimmune issues, or dietary sensitivities and have to be maintained with diet. Hypertension, certain cancers, and cardiovascular diseases are just a few that can be made worse by poor diet choices. Autoimmune diseases such as Type 1 diabetes or Crohn’s disease require a well-balanced diet to help maintain symptoms. Folks with Celiac Disease, lactose intolerance, and other conditions have horrible issues with gluten and dairy and, therefore, have to cut them out or limit them from their diet. 

And as if there wasn’t enough stacked against you when it comes to making better choices, the middle aisles of your local grocery store are loaded with deliciousness high in fat, sodium, sugar, additives, and more. Those are staples in the standard American diet— which bears the ironic acronym SAD. 

Many common additives in the standard American diet are designed to be addictive. 

Roberts aims to break the addictions to processed foods

Chef Roberts said he still makes delicious, healthy food without all the additives and refined sugar products you see in processed foods today. 

“If you look at processed or fast foods today, you see these refined sugars, chemicals, and all,” said Roberts. “They all trigger those addictive receptors inside the brain.” 

That’s why making swaps for healthier foods can seem so difficult. 

“You’re releasing the endorphins when you eat all that stuff,” said Roberts. “So when your brain has that feel-good moment, it makes you crave more. Add more salt or what have you, adding intensity to that craving.” 

FitChef meals have the flavor without the extras. 

“We use things like coconut sugar, which has a lower glycemic index than refined sugar. We use erythritol in the form of Swerve,” said Roberts. “We use other natural sweeteners, monkfruit, and things like that that satisfy those cravings without spiking those addicting endorphins in the brain. It tricks your mind into thinking you’re getting the sugar that you want, but you’re getting a replacement.”

So, going down the healthy food route does not mean you have to give up your peanut butter cups. They’re on the menu at FitChef, along with many choices for breakfast, lunch, and dinner that follow just about any diet you could ask for, including keto and paleo.

For more information about FitChef Catering, visit the FitChef Catering Facebook page

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