Joe Bastianich is just hours away from competing in his first Ironman. The 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and marathon are a grueling set of tasks for anyone -- not to mention the strict diet that comes with it.
But there's an added wrinkle for Bastianich. He's the owner of more than a dozen renowned restaurants from New York to Los Angeles. You may recognize the name of his partner, Mario Batali, the larger-than-life celebrity chef with a bright red pony tail and Crocs to match. Together they've created Babbo, Del Posto, Esca, Osteria Mozza and many other restaurants serving some of the best Italian food in the U.S., which makes the idea of competing in the Ford Ironman World Championship on Saturday seem that much stranger.
For Bastianich, though, the change from eater to athlete was a mental one.
"The real a-ha moment is when you begin to look at food as fuel for your athletic ambitions rather than a hedonistic reward or pleasurable experience," he says.
It started with a desire to slim down some years ago. Bastianich began running and has completed several marathons since. He continued to push himself, competing in half-Ironmans, but the ultimate test will come this weekend in Hawaii. He credits his strict training schedule as the stabilizer when it comes to eating.
"For me, the great moderating factor is what's the next race or the next workout," he says. "If I have to go ride 50 miles on the bike the next morning I can't have a bottle of red wine and a ribeye steak at eleven o’clock at night."
Not that he doesn't want to. He concedes to the occasional hot dog or plate of French fries. He's unabashedly unapologetic when it comes to wine though. He has his own eponymous label and would just as soon throw in the towel as his Tocai.
"I'd rather just put a bullet in my head," he says. "Wine is going to be a part of it for me."
That doesn't mean he's getting drunk, but a glass every now and then is not to be eschewed. As an Italian, Bastianich believes wine on the table is food. He may eat more moderately these days, but hasn't given up on taste either, focusing on protein-rich meals, lots of vegetables, bread and even pizza.
Bastianich hopes all his hard work will turn in a time of under 13 hours in the Ironman, but regardless of where he finishes, he plans on celebrating the accomplishment with a large bowl of pasta and a couple beers.
The real party begins on Sunday, though, as he hosts a lunch and dinner at the Four Seasons Kona, complete with a tasting of his latest vintages.
"That night I'll have more than a couple glasses of wine," he says, "to sort of make up for the last six months."
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