NEW YORK - TV chef Paula Deen's revelation last week that she hid her Type 2 diabetes for three years pretty much sums it up: Kitchen pros at all levels struggle with obesity and its side effects in the high-pressure, high-calorie world of food.
On Thursday, a dozen obese chefs, restaurant owners, caterers and others will join the search for an answer to the question: How do you stay healthy while trying to earn a living making food?
That's when the Food Network premieres "Fat Chef," which follows participants for 16 weeks as they struggle to lose weight and learn a healthier way of life with the help of trainers, nutritionists and therapists.
"You have this abundance of food all around you," said pastry chef Michael Mignano, one of the dozen, who is 6-foot-2 and weighs 400 pounds. "You're doing parties, you have weddings. There's always a lot of food left over. You're constantly tasting, working late hours, eating late."
Art Smith, who doesn't appear on the show but shares the struggle, is also 6-foot-2 and ballooned to 325 pounds while gorging on refined sugar, caffeine, PB&Js -- anything that gave him an instant energy boost or filled him up at the end of an exhausting day as a chef for Oprah Winfrey. He ultimately lost 118 pounds and has kept it off through exercise and healthy eating.
Allison Adato, a former food beat writer for People magazine, is out in April with "Smart Chefs Stay Slim," a book offering insights and tips from three dozen of the biggest names in the industry. "Paula Deen's revelation may mark a turning point for some viewers and diners," she said.