“I started working out seven years ago,” says Anthony Martin, the executive chef and partner at Tru in Chicago. “I wanted to make the health aspect of my life as important as my career. I’ve seen a lot of chefs not being healthy and I didn’t want that.”
For Martin, getting into shape meant eating three square meals a day — often high-protein and vegetable-heavy dishes without processed ingredients or sugar — and working out regularly, both with weights and in the boxing ring.
Though initially his dedication to health was to avoid an unsavory fate as a chef, Martin soon found that the effects of eating right almost immediately enhanced his performance on the line. “To be a chef requires long hours and mental focus. The food at Tru is fine dining — we serve 12 to 15 courses per meal and each one of those is very refined. Getting my body strong helps support the lifestyle,” he says.
While this recipe for a tofu, broccoli and snap pea saute is not one Martin would serve at Tru — where tweezers are employed to lay an heirloom garnish onto plates — it is the sort of meal Martin, a lauded chef with a discerning palate, feeds himself to keep his energy levels high and his performance strong. Eating this way seems to be paying off for Martin too. In 2010, the Chicago Tribune awarded Tru 4 stars and named Martin chef of the year.
Though straightforward, the dish reveals how the disciplined chef likes to balance flavors and textures. “You have the natural sweetness from the honey, all the different textures from the veggies, some red pepper for heat and the awesome toasted flavor of grilled tofu — it all comes together really nicely” he explains. “I eat this dish, or something similar to it, a couple times a week.”
Soy-Glazed Chicken and Tofu with Spring Vegetables
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 large chicken breast, skin removed and diced into 1-inch pieces
Salt and pepper, to season
3 ounces firm tofu, cut into 1-inch cubes and lightly dusted with flour
2 ounces chopped broccoli florets
2 ounces fresh snap peas
1/3 cup honey
¼ cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
3 ounces shelled edamame beans
1 pinch red pepper flakes
Set a saute pan with 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper and, once oil starts to smoke lightly, place the chicken into the hot pan. Saute the chicken until it is cooked through. Remove chicken from the pan and set aside.
Wipe pan clean and set it back over medium-high heat. Add remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Once the oil begins to lightly smoke again, add the floured tofu and saute until golden brown on all sides. Remove tofu from the pan and set it aside.
Next, add the broccoli and peas to the pan and saute until tender. Reduce heat to medium-low and push the vegetables to one side of the pan. Add the honey to the other side of the pan and heat it until it begins to simmer. Add the soy sauce and bring everything to a simmer.
Stir in the edamame and red pepper flakes, cooking for 30 seconds, before adding the chicken and tofu into the pan. Saute everything together until all ingredients are evenly coated and glazed.
Kitty Greenwald is a Brooklyn-based food writer and recipe developer. She eats a lot for work and pleasure. Her column Slow Food Fast appears in the Wall Street Journal.
Photos by Anjali Pinto