My Day on a Plate: Laurent Gras

When the chef of Chicago’s L20 gets on his bike for a weekly 90-mile ride, he leaves his most outré creations–fake asparagus, tomato film—in the dust. For Laurent Gras, it’s a high-speed escape fuelled by no-nonsense carbohydrates, strong espresso, some PowerBar gels, and his relentless drive.

Let me start at 12 am, since that was the very beginning of my day off, which is always a little more interesting than my regular day here at L20. I’m a cyclist and I usually ride for five to six hours on my day off. Before I go to bed the night before, I eat a lot of carbohydrates. So I had a homemade pasta salad that was small elbow macaroni with canned tuna, carrots, green onions, and mayonnaise. My wife did all the cooking, which is usually what happens when I’m home. I also had 500 grams of Greek yogurt with fresh raspberries and sugar, so I had about 1,000 grams of food, as well as some Naked juice–half a bottle of Blue Machine.

I went to bed at 1 in the morning and I was up at 8 am. I had two Intelligentsia Black Cat espressos with steamed milk. We have a very nice small espresso machine at home, a Pasquini. Then at 10 o’clock I had my breakfast: one more espresso with steamed milk and a sandwich of challah bread with prosciutto. We get our prosciutto from Whole Foods; it’s nothing special, but it’s good and it’s very convenient.

At 10:30 I’m on the bike—I ride a Cervelo S3—and I’m usually there until about 3:30. I like to go northwest out of Chicago and I do 90 to 100 miles; that’s pretty average for me. I go out past Evanston and pick up roads that don’t have so much traffic on them. I do still have a little pain from my bike accident last Labor Day, but I’m pretty well recovered now. On the bike, I have two PowerBar gels and one bottle of First Endurance electrolyte fuel system drink. That’s what I start with, and then I buy three bottles of Gatorade on the road. The color is usually orange, so I guess it’s supposed to be orange Gatorade, but I’m not always so sure. Next I have a First Endurance Liquid Shot–it’s 400 calories–that you drink like a gel, and about a quart of water, and that’s it… oh, one banana. I burn about 3,500 calories during the ride. I grew up cycling on the hills in Monaco and I really love climbing, but there aren’t many places to climb out here in the Midwest. It’s all flat.

After I got home, about 4pm, I had lunch with my wife. I had a Spanish torta with eggs and potato, oven-roasted white asparagus with tomato and olive oil, some prosciutto again, cherry clafoutis, some water, and an Emergen-C vitamin drink. Then we went up to our roof deck and I had a Coke Zero. We’re in Old Town, pretty much the center of Chicago, just a little north of downtown, only three blocks from Lake Michigan. It’s a great place to be. At the restaurant, I usually have lunch at 4, too, but it’s a staff meal, and if I’m hungry the rest of the time I’ll just grab some fruit or bread or whatever’s quick.

So at 6, I had my PM snack, which was… leftover torta and asparagus. I also had half a container of Greek yogurt with strawberries. At 8, we had dinner, beginning with a green Boston lettuce salad–just green lettuce–along with a bottle of Domaine Baron de Rothschild Los Vascos Rosé and some delivery pizza from Nonna’s Italian Pizzeria. One was pepperoni and one was cheese only. It was thin-crust pizza, which is hard to find here. It’s a little bit lighter and I prefer it to Chicago style. Then I had fresh cherries, and that was it for the whole day. I don’t like to eat late at night unless I’m doing a bike ride, so no late-night snacks. It was a very simple day, and that’s usually how we eat at home. Every once in a while we’ll go out to a restaurant, not so much for the food, but just so my wife and I can be together. We do that once or twice a month. We went to Table Fifty-Two a couple of weeks ago. And that was very, very nice.

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