The New York Diet

Mr. Chocolate, Jacques Torres, Stashes Cocoa Nibs in Pockets, Rides a Scooter to Sushi

Photo: Melissa Hom

Chocolatier Jacques Torres lost twenty pounds last year by limiting exposure to red meat and rich foods — like the cookies he faces every day at his Hudson Street headquarters. Lucky for him, he doesn’t put chocolate in this category. Torres snacks on unsweetened cacao nibs and sticks to what he deems healthier candies: dark-chocolate bark and chocolate cereal. You can ask him for sweet diet tips at the 92Y on Wednesday when the FCI pastry dean joins Dorothy Hamilton and chef friends (Tom Coliccho, Dan Barber, Andre Soltner) for a panel called “Doing What You Love.” The subtitle of this week’s New York Diet could be “shed pounds while eating what you love.”

Saturday, January 23
Morning is usually pretty simple. I have a decaf Illy coffee when I wake up and just a slice of high-fiber bread, with a little bit of honey or fruit spread. I won’t have much before I go to work at 8:45, 9 a.m. Basically, I don’t want to put too much calories in and I don’t like eating much in the morning.

When I come to work, I certainly will have another decaf. But what I also do — do you know about cacao bean? Cacao bean doesn’t contain any sugar. They have some fat, but they are high in energy … a lot of good things for you in the cacao bean, but not many people can snack on that; it has some nuttiness to it, but it’s quite bitter. And it’s like espresso. If you get used to it, you crave it. That’s why I have decaf coffee; otherwise, it’s too much.

I love to snack on that in the morning. I have a few of those. You can even put it in your pocket. It’s the center of the cacao bean, and when you roast it, it’s called nibs. It doesn’t have much calorie. It’s a good and healthy thing.

I like to pack my lunch the day before. I will do, again, a couple of slices of that high-fiber bread and I will take maybe one slice of cheese — Gruyère or some other flavorful cheese. I will put some turkey, maybe some chicken … some protein in it. Maybe a couple of slices tomato. Maybe some lettuce. Another piece of bread on top. And I put that in a Teflon pan with a little bit of cooking spray, roast it on both sides, and then wrap it, take it to work, and have it cold.

I’m of Spanish descent, so I like my rice. But I like my rice a certain way. Saturday evening I made paella. And I love to do that on the weekend. I have a certain size paella pan for one to two people. I take a half-cup of rice, a little bit of squid, a little bit of fish, a little bit of tomato and onions. I sauté all that and put my rice in; I deglaze that with a little bit of fish stock, and I cook that with saffron, salt, a little bit of pepper, poivre d’espelette, and if I have a few shrimp or sea scallops to put on top, I do that.

I cannot have much wine because I want to lose some weight, so maybe a glass or two, but no more than that. But the problem is that I love red wine, you know? I just love red wine.

So I kind of restrict myself. The diet works, you know, when you’re very serious about it, and you lose weight, and then you’re so happy that you slow down the diet and then you gain back some weight, and then you freak out, so you go back on a diet, like everyone else. So I try to stick with it. It’s a lifestyle change. You have to work on it.

Sunday, January 24
I spend my time on a boat. I don’t know if you know that, but I have an apartment in Manhattan. But when my wife is not here — when she’s in California for her store — I live on my boat most of the time. Sunday morning is my day off. So in the morning when I wake up, I have the beautiful view of Manhattan in front of me. I mean the whole island of Manhattan. The boat is next to the Statue of Liberty. There’s a marina there. So the view is just amazing. I get up in the morning; sit down; certainly put the French channel on the TV and listen to the news; have a good croissant or pain au chocolat with my coffee; and my neighbor is nice enough to drop off the New York Times. So I just enjoy my Sunday morning.

We make dark 60 percent cocoa-content chocolate with cereal in it, corn flakes. So I’ll always have at least one of those little bags on the boat. And that will be the snack on Sunday. I’ll allow myself a little bit more than cacao. And I love that because it’s kind of healthy. And I always have a lot of fruit on the boat. I don’t eat that much veg, but I eat a lot of fruit. A lot of citrus: oranges, some mandarins. I also like something you see it a lot in Chinatown … I don’t remember the name of that. I call it persimmon but it’s not. Persimmon has to be soft. Those you can eat hard, and they’re still sweet. It looks a little bit like a tomato. Blueberries are one of the things that I will have. Black grapes, I love to have grapes. Always a couple of apples and a couple of pears. So I always have a choice of fruits.

Lunch will certainly be something grilled, I love fish. That’s something that I just love to eat. I go to Citarella at get some fish on Saturday — usually striped bass, black sea bass — but I also fish a lot during the year and freeze some of my filets. All over, Sandy Hook to Long Island. You name it. When weather permits, every weekend I’m out. I love to cook the fish en papillote. I put it into some foil with fennel, and cover it with a little bit of olive oil, some spice, maybe a little bit of tomato and onions, and close the foil like a pocket. On my boat I have a grill, so I grill that inside the foil. A very slow grill.

For dinner, I went and bought some ground turkey and I did a bolognese with it. And I ate that with whole-wheat spaghetti. No dessert. Usually what I have is some bark. Bark is that chocolate that we spread into a sheet pan with hazelnut, pistachio, and almonds. It’s like the thickness of your pinky. So that’s one of the things I will have after dinner. It’s a little bit like having a coffee because it’s dark chocolate, but you have the nuttiness of all those nuts inside. It’s really good.

It’s funny, but a reporter came here and I gave her a tour of the whole factory. Maybe twenty minutes after starting the tour she asked me, “How many chocolates do you eat?” And I said, “Oh, I basically don’t eat any chocolate during the day. I work with it, so I don’t really eat much chocolate.” And she said to me, “You ate twelve different things since the time we started the tour.” It can be a tiny little piece of nuts or a tiny little piece of chocolate, but she said, “twelve times you put something in your mouth. So don’t tell me you don’t eat any chocolates.” And I tell her, “Listen, I don’t even realize that I eat chocolate.” So I cannot answer the question, but I can tell you that I eat some chocolate during the day.

Monday, January 25
Monday morning, it’s a work day, so coffee and a piece of bread just to keep me going. Go to work, maybe some nibs, maybe some chocolates with corn flakes.

If I had time to make my sandwich the day before I would have had that, but I went to Sunrise Mart. It’s a Japanese store, and I went to the sushi counter and had some sushi. I love spicy tuna and the rice with smoked eel on top. It’s four or six pieces in a little package. I sit over there. It’s usually a lot of Asians there. I have a scooter that I got maybe six months ago, so I just park in front. If I go to a sushi restaurant, it takes too much time. If I go over there, it’s fast. In twenty minutes, it’s in and out.

Snacks are always something I have in the store. I try to stay on the healthy side of the chocolate that I have. So it can be the bark; it can be chocolate with cereal. I stay away from the cookies. I stay away from things a little bit richer, but they’re difficult to stay away from.

For dinner … do you know couscous? You basically cook some vegetables, but you don’t want to use too much water and lose too much flavor. Then you also cook some chicken or some lamb, but I usually stay with the white of the chicken. And then you add some couscous. I do that at the boat, and I put it in a couple of containers so I have a couple of dinners from that. This is a healthy, but also a hearty food. It really fills you up and this is one of the ways that I will have veg.

Tuesday, January 26
Tuesday morning, breakfast is the same.

Tuesday for dinner, I had my couscous. The same as Monday. That’s usually good for a couple of days.

Wednesday, January 27
Wednesday same breakfast. It’s a boring breakfast, but it’s what keeps me going. Snacking, nibs in the morning. I always have some of that in my pocket.

Wednesday, I had salad for lunch. That’s something that I like to do. Just a green salad and we have nuts here at the factory, so I add a little bit of pignoli, and little bit of pistachio. And I love to get a red pepper and put it directly on the flame on the stove so the skin is going to burn. Then I remove the skin and the flesh has that smokey flavor after that. I put that in the salad, warm, and add a little bit of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper. That’s it. From start to finish, it will take me maybe ten minutes.

Later, I went to the school, the French Culinary Institute. So when I go there, I usually go a little bit further. There’s a place in Chinatown where I get lobster. And listen to this, lobster lately, you can get at $5 a pound! It’s unbelievable. So what I did, I bought two small lobsters, around a pound each. I take it on the boat, and boil it for four minutes. No more. Most people boil them for too long. This is the time now when you get them, in the winter. They’re really fresh and they’re really good. I put a little bit of butter on top of it, and that’s all. They are a little bit salty because the water you boil them in is salty, and you don’t need any spice on them. I put the carcass, they go back in the water [off the boat]. It’s natural like that.

Thursday, January 28
This morning, same thing: Slice of bread for breakfast and I had a sandwich.

I do go out to eat. Like tonight, I’m going to a little place called Socarrat. It’s a paella bar. It’s a Spanish place. The name of the owner is Lolo. He’s a friend of mine, and I usually tell Lolo that I’m coming. So he preps some small tapas; he has the most delicious tapas. So during the time that you enjoy your tapas, they cook a fish paella for you, or whatever paella you want. And they bring the paella for however many people you have. I get the fish paella. I think I used to be a fish in another life. My dad was full Spanish, my mom was half-Spanish. And I grew up in France. Ibiza, that’s the place that my family comes from. It’s a small island in the Méditerranée. And their diet is mostly fish, too. I cannot live too far from the water.

Mr. Chocolate, Jacques Torres, Stashes Cocoa Nibs in Pockets, Rides a Scooter to