Celebrity chef and fitness influencer Ronnie Woo used to count calories. As a model, Woo was responsible for staying a specific size all of the time, and was chastised for even slightly deviating from preset expectations.
With that backstory in mind, you may be surprised to learn that Woo’s new cookbook, Did You Eat Yet?: Craveable Recipes From An All-American Chef, doesn’t just include run-of-the-mill recipes for roasted chicken and brown rice. Instead, the chiseled chef offers his take on comfort food classics such as turkey hot and sour soup and salted upside-down buttermilk banana cake.
Yes, food is fuel for the body. But eating is also supposed to be pleasurable, right?
“I like to stay in shape physically, but mentally too,” Woo told Men’s Health in a recent interview. “And I think in order to get to that balance, you have to give into your cravings once in a while. I tend to do five days of pretty healthy eating, and then one or two days a week of letting myself eat whatever I want.”
With an uncanny ability to make us both hungry and thirsty, Woo, 38, is a rising star in the culinary world. He’s been on our radar since hosting his own show on Logo TV, Food To Get You Laid, and often appears as a guest on talk shows ranging from The Rachael Ray Show to Good Morning America. Woo counts an array of A-listers, including Gwyneth Paltrow, Mindy Kaling, Jessica Alba and Charlie Sheen, as clients for his private catering company.
Unlike other famous TV chefs, Woo didn’t train at the world’s best kitchens or always dedicate his life to the culinary arts. His professional life hasn’t been linear–making him all the more relatable.
A former model, Woo left the industry to earn his bachelor’s degree at UCLA, and then obtained a Master’s degree in marriage and family therapy. He also has an MBA.
Woo credits his eclectic career with shaping his style as a chef. Ironically, he says modeling, where self-indulgence was prohibited, motivated him to get into the kitchen the most.
“My modeling career might have given me the most surprising lesson of all, which is that eating is one of life’s greatest pleasures, and I shouldn’t be in an industry that deprives me of joy, which in this case is delicious food,” he told Out. “When I was modeling, I would refrain from eating my favorite things just so I could fit into sample sizes, and it was pure torture.”
Nowadays, Woo doesn’t hesitate when he wants to treat himself–and doesn’t think you should, either.
“If I want a donut, I’ll have a donut! I just won’t have, like, a hundred donuts,” he told Men’s Health.
That’s an important message for gay men to hear. There is an outsized focus in pockets of the gay community on having six-pack abs and a chiseled chest, with countless influencers preaching their own versions of “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.”
But Woo shows that self-denial isn’t the pathway towards beauty and success. That’s perhaps his greatest contribution of all.
While Woo lives openly on social media, he keeps some aspects of his life private. For example, he seldom shares photos of his husband, Doug. It isn’t necessary to display everything on social media, after all.
But when you do, you should make it count.
With a cookbook now under his belt, Woo’s career should only keep skyrocketing, and that’s a great thing. His brand of self-love is inspiring, comforting, and most importantly, delicious.