The Meatball Shop’s Michael Chernow Is Serving up Wellness Next
"Say 'hell yeah!' if you love fitness," shouted the instructor in an 8:00 a.m. spin class at Monster Cycle in Soho last week. "Say 'hell yeah!' if you love Seamore's." The second prompt probably confused many riders (unless they'd recently sat down to an amazing Reel Deal meal and just assumed the instructor also loved the dogfish...), but the front row cheered enthusiastically, since they were all employees of the popular nearby restaurant.
They were there for a group workout organized by their boss, restaurateur Michael Chernow, who's best known in New York City as the strikingly handsome, genuine co-founder of The Meatball Shop and now, nationally, as the host of the TV show Food Porn.
But after setting a 2015 New Year's resolution to "bring sustainable seafood to New York City" and then finding almost immediate success after opening Seamore's (to that end) in July, he's taking even more steps towards positioning himself as a healthy lifestyle guru.
"I wanted to create this all encompassing wellness lifestyle brand," Chernow says of the restaurant, while sipping matcha (naturally). He's also now a Lululemon Men's ambassador, and is launching a huge new project with three partners (including sommelier and MD-in-training Sagan Schultz, the CEO): a post-workout recovery beverage called WellWell.
The next coconut water?
WellWell is bound to make waves for tapping into the popularity of functional post-workout drinks like Gatorade and cold-pressed juice, all in one bottle. Made with a clean-ingredients mix of cold-pressed, organic tart cherry, watermelon, and lemon juice, it's meant to help exercise enthusiasts and athletes recover by restoring electrolyte balance and managing inflammation (via potent antioxidants).
It's set to debut later this month at Whole Foods, and in NYC at La Colombe locations and boutique fitness spots like Mile High Run Club and Throwback Fitness. And the team has done a great job rallying that world around WellWell, with a list of ambassadors from top studios, t00, like The Fhitting Room's Ben Wegman and Bianca Vesco of Brooklyn Bodyburn and BFX.
Seamore's as wellness brand
Of course, the link to the fitness world has something to do with Chernow, who is super focused on his own workouts and says that fitness "saved my life, basically," after a rough patch in his 20s that involved the pretty typical restaurant world cocktail of drinking and drugs.
He's trained in Muay Thai, is a big runner, and is at the gym lifting nearly every day now, and he wanted to share how good working out made him feel with his staff. "Me investing in the staff comes first," he says. The Monster Cycle ride was one in a series of workouts that are now organized for every Wednesday. So far, servers, managers, and kitchen staff have also done hot yoga at Y7 and run the streets of Soho together.
"It’s totally voluntary, but it’s growing," he says. "On our run, half the people there had never run more than a mile before. We had a guy who’s in the kitchen, he wanted to come to the run. He was late and saw us running, no joke, off the subway, in his jeans and Air Force 1s...he did the whole entire run." Now, they're planning many more classes and even putting together a marathon training program for staffers who are interested.
"I think we’ll influence others around us in the industry, because there’s nothing better than having a crew of people around you that believe in your brand and live the brand," he adds. "If we start with us internally, it’s just gonna emanate out."
It all sounds so inspirational that it starts to feels too perfect—Chernow's perfectly sculpted, tattooed muscles holding his adorable baby and puppy on Instagram, his commitment to changing peoples' minds about sustainable fish, his passion around how WellWell, and how much he cares about his employees' wellbeing.
In the course of reporting this, I finally arrive at a moment where I think, "Aha! Maybe it is all show." As the Monster Cycle class is finishing, the instructor asks the room, "Where's Michael?!" and I realize he missed the team ride. But there's immediately a shuffling sound and the door of the studio swings open, "I'm right here; I love you guys!" he yells. His morning had unexpectedly involved evacuating his wife and baby out of their building after an underground fire, but he arrived in time to high five each employee on their way out. —Lisa Elaine Held
Great New York restaurants are going so healthy. Next up: How bone broth pioneer Marco Canora is reinventing healthy fine dining at Hearth
(Photos: Seamore's, Instagram/MichaelChernow, Instagram/TheMonsterCycle)
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