How A Guy Who Cooks For President Obama Cooks For His Wife And Infant
Routine Behavior is a new series where guys who successfully juggle businesses, careers, and parenting talk about the routines that keep them on track. Up next is Anthony Hoy Fong, COO of Top Chef University, graduate of the French Culinary Institute, and occasional chef to the most powerful man in the world. When he’s not redesigning meals for school kids with Shaq or traveling the globe for his restaurant consulting business, the Auckland-raised Hoy Fong makes time for his wife and 4-month-old in Brooklyn, where he can barely walk a block without running into (and eating) some form of work-related inspiration. Here’s how he keeps it all together.
What time do you start answering emails in the morning?
I do work in New Zealand, West Coast, and East Coast, so I check it when the baby wakes up around 6, but I’m also answering them well into the night — 1 or 2 in the morning. Whenever the kid gets up, really. I’m one of those people who can’t not look at my phone if I’m up at 4 a.m. So sometimes the New Zealand guys luck out and get emails back. I use the baby as an excuse.
How do you reconnect with your kid when you get home from work each day?
The baby sleeps, and she’ll feed at 4 then at 8. When I get in, I’ll connect with the wife, and we’ll try to bang out a 1-pot dinner. We’ll countdown the clock till 8, when she wakes the baby up. We’ll eat dinner really quickly as the clock counts down. Then the baby will wake up and look up, smiling like it’s morning. We’ll feed her, play with her, and then she sleeps again.
What’s the one piece of kid-related gear that you can’t live without?
We have a couple. I’ve got that little Bjorn [carrier] which is good. We have this banana with rubber bristles on it; she love that. When she’s upset — she’s teething — she shoves that in her mouth and rubs it against her teeth, and it’s an instant soother. We’re alpha parents, so it’s nice to see her use her motor skills and grab it with both hands. She’s learning how to brush her teeth and therefore use motor skills. Win-win, and it’s really inexpensive.
How many times a week do you get home for dinner and do you ever cook?
When I’m home, I’m home, and we cook a lot. I try to cook every night that I’m home. Doesn’t always happen, but it’s healthier. You need to eat right when you’re a parent, but it’s exhausting being a parent, so you need to put the right foods in your body. My wife is a healthy eater — simple dishes you can cook in a half-hour. Bulgur wheat and farro in a pot of water while you make a fresh salad, and a protein on the grill — nice, light, and easy to execute. When I’m out of town, I go away for a week at a time traveling for work. My wife usually has a bowl of cereal. We try to load up on frozen meals. We’ll stew our pasta sauce. We have a big thing of pint containers and load those up. It’s the simplest and quickest with the best results.
How much exercise do you get in a given week and what kind?
We take shifts in the morning. We have a nanny. We’re fortunate. She comes in at 8:30. My wife will get up and work out at 6 in the morning. Sometimes we’ll alternate. She does barre classes, Soulcycle, and Barry’s [Bootcamp]. We do all those classes. I wish I could say something that sounds cooler like “going for a run.” I don’t want to Soul Cycle. But it’s 45 minutes, and a great workout.
I’m not really a farmers’ market guy. People say that, but it’s bullshit. You walk around, and it’s the same shit every time: radishes, kale.
What’s the longest you’ve ever played with your kid without looking at your phone?
Oh god. I’m so concerned about it now, so I do make an effort. But the longest is … an hour? If I do look at my phone — my wife agrees — we don’t do it in front of her. Because she looks at you, she’s learning, so you do it when she’s not looking. We use our phone to take photos all the time, so you can’t enforce a house rule of no phones with the baby because you’re tracking photos and videos all the time. And, we have all these apps and feeding schedules. I have one called Baby Center. Before she was born, when my wife was pregnant, we used it to track the embryo development. When she’s born, that app ends, but there’s another Baby Center app that takes you from day one — how old they are, what you should be doing, noticeable changes.
How often do you travel for work and do you look forward to it or dread it?
I’m on the road at least a week out of every month with consulting and projects all over the country. I kind of dread it. I miss the baby and feel guilty. When I’m home, I cook. When I’m not, everyone’s left to fend of themselves. Of course I miss the changes with the baby, so we Facetime all the time.
What’s your go-to when you need work-related inspiration?
That’s why we live in New York: it’s all around you here, especially in the food space. I like going out in Brooklyn with the new hip stuff there and the old institutions in New York. Tasting that food — that’s where I get my inspiration. It’s funny; I’m not really a farmers’ market guy. People say that, but it’s bullshit. You walk around, and it’s the same shit every time: radishes, kale. But I do think it’s awesome to try out the different neighborhoods, their diversity, new flavors, and new methods; checking out a new chef, or going back to Chinatown and tasting a source that’s a hundred years old or going to Balthazar and having the perfect french fries. That’s what’s so great about NYC.
What’s your go-to when you need to completely turn your brain off?
I like walking, that’s one good thing about the new baby: When she’s upset, the motion settles her. You forget about everything out there walking along the waterfront in Brooklyn down by Dumbo, through Brooklyn Bridge Park, follow the water line, walk past Smorgasburg, hang a left and go back down Atlantic. On the weekends, we’ll walk all the way to Prospect Park and there are so many great places. Talk about inspiration: Wilma Jean, fried chicken. They do it right.
How’s your attendance record at your kid’s events/games?
So far, I’ve been to all the checkups, the visits. My own business affords me freedom, but there are times when I can’t. It’s all or nothing. At the stage it’s mostly all. I didn’t miss a single checkup when she was pregnant; every doctor’s visit or wellness checkup, I’ve made so far.
What’s your kid’s favorite book at the moment?
We like a book from New Zealand. It’s important that she reads what I had called Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy. It’s a New Zealand classic about a dog that goes for a walk and links up with friends.
What’s your kid’s favorite toy at the moment?
She likes the Newton toy that looks like a polygon. She can throw her hands in it, and something will stick, and she’ll grab it. We put it in the crib with her.
What’s your favorite book at the moment?
I’m one of those people who reads four books at once. I read a lot of Seth Godin. Is that weird?
What’s your favorite toy at the moment?
The spiralizer machine, speaking of fun and fast dinner. It’s a Japanese Mandolin that’s made of the same material but has a hand crank on one side. You put the vegetable on it, push forward as you spiral it to create a spaghetti strand out of the vegetables like carrots, beets, or zucchini. Eat it raw or blanch it. It’s a fun, instant way to make food.
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