After conquering the restaurant world, Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone, the founders of Major Food Group, are using fitness to fuel change. In his latest chat with Gotham, Torrisi dished on why he decided to run in the New York City Marathon and why he wants to inspire others to stay in shape and feel healthy while giving back in the process.
You decided to run the New York City Marathon this year in honor of the Robin Hood Foundation. What sparked this partnership?
RICH TORRISI: We get a ton of requests to do events and we had known the people who run Robin Hood for a little while. We started to have this conversation around consolidating the work we do for charity and we came up with this idea to start working directly with them because we had contacts there. We really liked the programs there. It was very inspirational for us to hear and see all of the things we were doing. So, we started working with them first and we came up with this idea to give all of our cancellation fees for reservations that we get from our restaurants to Robin Hood.
And then when we ran the marathon, a whole bunch of people ran for Robin Hood. It was a big community. The whole thing started snowballing. It became bigger and bigger. And then, a few months ago, we started Major Good, which is the charity arm of our company in partnership with Robin Hood.
How does Major Good operate?
RT: Major Good is a platform for good. We kicked it off doing six or seven of these dinners that Robin Hood sold from one of their donors, where Mario and I would basically create an event for the person who bought the dinner.
After opening 10 restaurants, I imagine you must constantly be surrounded by incredibly delicious food. How do you manage to stay in shape and lead a healthy life when outside of the kitchen?
RT: For me, my health has been fairly volatile through the restaurants. Every time you do an opening, you do a crazy amount of hours and every opening I would gain 10 or 20 pounds. Before opening the restaurants, I was in incredible shape, probably the best shape of my life and then I wildly fluctuated. A few years ago I just got really sick of that fluctuation. And the marathon was the impotence for that lifestyle. And then we started running it! Mario ran it and then we said, maybe we’ll just run this thing every year and make a tradition out of it.
And as active New York roadrunners, do you have recommendations for fellow chefs who are looking for a new wellness routine?
RT: I think a lot of people have similar reactions to the marathon. A lot of our chef friends have reactions like Mario did. But I think more than anything, the results speak for themselves. When you’re healthy and you stay on top of your exercise, and you like the exercise you're doing, you come into work and you have energy, and you look healthy and you act healthy. People want that. People want to taste that too.
Rich, can we look forward to seeing a new Major Food Group outpost opening soon?
RT: Always! Always growing, always building, never stopping.
Photography by: Photography by Angela Pham/BFA.com