x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Sit-ups and squats top the breakfast menu

The Life: Managing 18 restaurants and bars can make it hard to keep off the weight, so Mark Patten of Dubai's Atlantis heads to fitness boot camp.

Mark Patten, the vice president of culinary at the Atlantis, The Palm. Charles Crowell for The National
Mark Patten, the vice president of culinary at the Atlantis, The Palm. Charles Crowell for The National

As the vice president of culinary at Dubai's biggest hotel - Atlantis, The Palm - Mark Patten oversees 18 restaurants and bars, including Nobu and the resort's newly launched American-style burger bar. That entails a lot of tasting, only one of the reasons the 42-year-old Australian gets up at 5.30am for a fitness boot camp.

What was your motivation for joining the fitness boot camp?

I have 1,300 staff and I have 440 chefs, and we turn over about 15,000 meals a day. We operate 24 hours. From the back door of our loading bay to the other side of the waterpark it's close to 3km. I use my feet and I walk everywhere. And if you're not fit, watch out, because you'll really suffer. I've got so many restaurants that I have to do food tastings for. If I'm looking at changing a yoghurt, I might have to do a tasting of 27 yoghurts.

What does the boot camp involve?

It's four days a week, from 6am until 7am. It's on the beach of the Palm Jumeirah. They're quite specific on what they do each day. One day might be upper body and you'll spend a lot of time doing that. One day you could be doing maximum workout, which means all the repetition you're doing, whether they're push-ups, sits-up, lunges, squat jumps, it's maximum repetitions. Thursday is running. You might do 400 sprints and you don't stop for one hour.

Sounds intense.

People are yelling at you.

How long have you been doing it?

I've been doing it for the last few years, on and off. This year, I started in April. I'll do it month after month after month and right through summer. This morning it was 40 degrees. I might even continue it through December, then I might take a month off. When I started here in 2007 I was 119 kilos and I didn't feel great. I'm 100 kilos today.

Are there other benefits?

Chefs I suppose have a reputation of being unhealthy, maybe overweight, smoking. The thing is, in our industry, we can't afford to do that anymore. We have to be very focused on our health - the mental health as much as your physical health. That type of work out allows you to concentrate at a higher level, I believe. Sometimes we don't realise when we're working so hard, what it's doing to us from a mental aspect. You've got to have time to clear your mind.

So are you trying to persuade your chefs to take up boot camp too?

Yes! My number two, Sascha, is now going and he's super fit. I brought him there last November. Now there's five of us from Atlantis.