Local Chefs Kick Off Weight-Loss Competition for American Cancer Society

Sixteen chefs and mixologists met for their first of many weigh-ins for the Fit for Hope DC Challenge.

The American Cancer Society's first Fit for Hope DC Challenge kicked off Monday afternoon at Graffiato, where 16 local chefs met for their first of many weigh-ins. Monica Pampell (center) will train her team with bi-weekly workouts and weigh-ins. Photographs by Melissa Romero.

Sixteen local chefs and mixologists kicked off the American Cancer Society’s Fit for Hope DC Challenge Monday afternoon at a weigh-in at Graffiato. 

“There are two really great parts to it, the first one being that it’s amazing to have an opportunity to support [the society] through the restaurants,” said Ripple executive chef Marjorie Meek-Bradley. “Second, clearly every chef could be in a little better shape.”

Meek-Bradley and 15 other chefs, including Art Smith, Mike Isabella, and Bryan Voltaggio, will compete on two teams for the 12-week challenge, culminating at the society’s Taste of Hope event on September 24. The three contestants who lose the most percentage of bodyweight will receive a makeover from Bloomingdale’s.

Monday marked the first meeting and weigh-in for the competitors. While mingling and munching on refreshments, each chef stepped on a scale, got their blood pressure taken, and had their waist, leg, and arm circumference measured.

Olympic taekwondo trainer Jason Yoo (third from left) will train one team for 12 weeks with cardio, kickboxing, and strength-training. 

Leading the two teams are personal trainer and wellness coach Monica Pampell and Jason Yoo, an Olympic tae kwon do trainer. Pilates instructor Chauna Bryant will act as supplemental trainer and will assist both teams. Team Monica and Team Jason will each meet twice a week for group workouts and weigh-ins, and each participant will raise $2,500 for the society through healthy happy hours or Fit for Hope menu items.

Said Yoo to the group of chefs gathered at Graffiato, “You’re going to bust your ass. We’re going to give 100 percent and expect you all to do the same.”

While it’s expected that many of the chefs’ competitive streaks in the kitchen will overflow into the gym, Pampell says the purpose of the two teams is mostly to provide a social support network and raise awareness for the American Cancer Society. “Each of us have about seven chefs from around the area on our teams, all of whom have weight-loss goals. But more important, they’re interested in raising [. . .] awareness that health, fitness, and wellness are vital components to cancer prevention.”

Readers can follow the Fit for Hope challenge and donate to individual chefs at the Taste of Hope DC’s website