Jared Simons: Chef Turns Plants into Ironman Power

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Jared Simons is the plant-based chef with a love of Ironman. Trizone caught up with the American athlete to chat about everything from food to weight gain and the alpha types who love Ironman 70.3.

One sport ends, another door opens

“I was a wrestler, I didn’t grow up doing swim, bike, and run,” Simons told Trizone. He had a talent for his sport, but his body wasn’t so sure it was for him. “I was getting recruitment letters for college, but into my senior season I was having nerve issues with my neck.”

“My parents had taken me to see so many different doctors and they all said I had traumatic neck damage,” said Simons. After years enjoying playing American football when he was young, plus his chosen sport of wrestling, Jared Simons’ neck was giving out. “The doctors told me I shouldn’t be playing contact sports, so my parents pulled me out of wrestling,” said Simons.

College dreams replaced by cooking school

With his future college pursuit off the table, Simons turned to the other aspects of his life. “I’d been working as a dishwasher at a restaurant, and since I was quite a heavy kid, I enjoyed being around food,” Simons said. “My dream of going to college and wrestling was over, and I was so intrigued by everything that surrounded me at the restaurant.”

Simons was convinced of his new path, but his parents weren’t yet onboard. “Being a chef definitely wasn’t glamorous at the time. The Food Network had only just launched and they were all famous chefs!” laughed Simons. “I told my parents I’d applied to college, but I had only contacted a culinary school in San Francisco. It was tough to convince them, but finally, I did and I went off to the California Culinary Academy.”

King oyster mushrooms, farrotto, spring peas.

Over the next four years, Simons worked exceptionally hard at culinary school and then in restaurants, but like many chefs, the long hours and stress took their toll. “I opened a restaurant when I was 22, then another when I was 26, so I was super busy. My extracurricular activities were very limited,” Simons told Trizone. “I was working a lot, eating poorly and drinking a lot socially. As the years went on I started ballooning up. When I was around 29, I was just over 205 pounds and I felt horrible.”

Fast-paced and stressful, the culinary business had been both wonderful and taxing for Simons, but a friend came to his rescue. “I had a customer who was gorgeous and she was my ‘trainer’ but we really just walked and talked!” laughed Simons. “One of my friends opened a gym and offered to train me and I took the leap.”

“He asked me what my goals were, and I said I wanted to look like Brad Pitt in Fight Club.”

In exchange for training the young chef, Simons gave his friend credit at the restaurant. “I got one hour of weight training with him, and I did one hour of cardio by myself every day,” said Simons. Summoning the fierce work ethic that had helped Simons reap the success of his cooking talents, Jared Simons was on his way to becoming an extremely driven athlete.

Turning plant-based

“In 2015 I jumped onto Vice’s food portal, Munchies, and I saw an episode titled the “Vegan Ironman”. It featured John Joseph from the New York hardcore band, The Cro-mags ,” said Simons. “I was intrigued by the endurance aspect and his diet and when I got home I told my wife I wanted to do a triathlon. I’d grown up surfing but if you took that board away, I hadn’t done structured swimming since high school,” Simons told Trizone.

Even while training prior to triathlon, Simons wasn’t healthy. “I was doing high-intensity training 70% of the week. I’d eat fairly clean, but every Saturday night I’d have junk food and I had high cholesterol. On the outside, I looked good, but on the inside, I wasn’t healthy.”

Living in the city of countless diets and health fads, Los Angeles, Simons had heard of plant-based diets, but he never thought he’d make it a long-term change. “I cut out one kind of animal product each week and by week six I was eating completely plant-based,” remembers Simons.

The hardest part of going plant-based for the chef? Cutting out dairy, especially butter.

“Every month I’d continue to fine tune the diet,” said Simons. “People around me started to see a physical and mental change. From a sustainability and health standpoint, it made sense.”

Not just influencing his own personal diet, Simons’ new-found love of plant-based foods influenced his restaurants too. “Ultimately I started a plant-based series at the restaurant.”

If you are looking for some food inspiration, then jump over to some of Jared’s favorites;

Walking a marathon isn’t what Simons is about

Jared Simons isn’t just another age grouper who likes to finish a race, he’s ferociously competitive. “I’m not going to be a pro, but Ironman races are definitely not just a bucket list thing,” said Simons. “I don’t want to just get through it. Seeing people walk the marathon to me blows my mind, it just doesn’t make sense! I’m not that guy.”

Now Simons has far surpassed his days of spending one-hour doing cardio on his own, and he works with two different coaches. “One coaches me overall with all the facets of triathlon, and I do regular lactate testing with him,” said Jared. “I’m a data guy, if I see the numbers it makes sense to me.” Simons has another coach for swimming, and he’s confident he receives huge benefits from both.

Alpha athletes in 70.3 make Ironman better

“I found my first Ironman easier than 70.3,” said Simons, “at that distance, the effort is dialed back just slightly. Yes, it’s longer, but it’s different.”

Through the vineyards Ironman Santa Rosa 2017

It’s not just the distance that makes these races different, it’s the competitors too. “70.3 is a lot more competitive than Olympic distance and Ironman, there are a lot of A-type personalities out there. At the full distance, everyone in the race is like ‘you’re doing it and that’s cool.” During the race, lots of people were like ‘I know you from Instagram, with the beard and the kit and the tattoos! It’s fun!”

Modelling for LA Apparel brand Love The Pain

“I bought a hat from them and took a pic running in it, and they reached out to me. I’m a style guy so I think most of the gear in triathlon blows,” laughed Simons. “These guys though, their aesthetic was great and the product is good, so I bought a lot of it!”

Unlike some athletes who reserve their stylish kits for race day, Simons trains in his Love The Pain kit too. “They decided I was a great customer and I love their stuff, so eventually they asked me to model some kits for the company,” said Simons.

Love The Pain is the answer to daggy racewear, and it’s no surprise people with a foot in the door of the latest lifestyle, food, and fitness trends like Simons are keen supporters.

Check out Jared’s inspiring Instagram feed. After hearing Simons’ powerful story, would you turn plant-based if it meant you were healthier?

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