Biking 300 Miles with Traci Des Jardins to Help End Child Hunger

Thom Fox, Kristi Gauslow, and  Tessa Vitale from Bon Appétit with chef Traci Des Jardins on a recent training ride

Back row: Thom Fox, Kristi Gauslow, and Tessa Vitale from Bon Appétit with chef Traci Des Jardins (in yellow) on a recent training ride

Editor’s Note: Thom Fox, longtime Bon Appétit executive chef turned Well-Being Indicator Program culinary facilitator, is writing about participating in the ChefsCycle charity ride June 27-29. Donate here to the Traci Des Jardins, BAMCO, & Commissary team! While this particular superstar team has surpassed its fund-raising goal, ChefsCycle hasn’t yet met its target. Every $1 you donate can help connect a child with up to 10 meals.

As a chef, when award-winning San Francisco chef Traci Des Jardins asks you for a favor, it’s hard to say no. Even when it’s to do a 300-mile, 3-day bike ride!

Thom Fox

Thom Fox

Traci and Bon Appétit Management Company go way back, to Acme Chophouse, our first partnership together next to AT&T Park, where our joint venture Public House is now. I was Acme’s executive chef, and Traci knew I did long-distance cycling. She told me she was putting together a team from The Commissary, another joint venture, to do the ChefsCycle, an annual charity ride in late June to benefit No Kid Hungry. Nearly 200 chefs and restaurant industry professionals ride from Carmel to Santa Barbara to help put an end to childhood hunger. We leave June 27.

“People who ride bikes tell me I’m crazy, but chefs are determined people, accustomed to long hours in discomfort,” says Traci, who’s been fund-raising up a storm through her restaurant Jardinière.

Joining us are Tessa Vitale, the Commissary’s General Manager and Pastry Chef Kristi Gauslow. As an experienced cyclist I’ve found myself falling into the role of the mentor/trainer. Everyone now has a good bike, functional cycling-specific clothing, and most importantly, a good helmet. (Don’t leave home without yours!)

One of our focuses has been to get everyone acclimated to sharing the road with cars, other cyclists, and people. For those not used to this, it can be a bit intimidating. Having trucks and cars whizzing by you at 40 mph can be a bit unnerving! And riding across the Golden Gate Bridge on weekends will give you a new opinion of people and their selfie sticks for sure.

We’ve also been working on using and recognizing hand signals for turning, slowing down or stopping — all key to riding in groups, which we will be doing over the 300 miles to Santa Barbara.

But everyone has moved through this phase spectacularly and thanks to riding frequently, long and short, multiple days in a row, our team is now all pretty comfortable “in the saddle.” Routes have ranged from San Francisco out to Fairfax and back (around 46 miles) to doing the renowned Paradise Loop in Marin County (50-plus miles).

I’ve been stressing that this not a race and going fast and hard would be neither smart nor possible for the three full days. It’s about finding that easy but steady pace, and treating it as an endurance ride. Three hundred miles is a lot of work, no matter how you slice it: it’s better to enjoy the scenery and the camaraderie.

With just a few days to go, everyone is making sure all is in working order. Lube the chain, checking tires and brakes.

Thankfully my colleagues on Bon Appétit’s Nutrition and Wellness team have been supplying me with tips and strategies on what to eat and staying hydrated. More on that to come. Wish us luck and please consider donating to help end child hunger!