There’s a special feeling, an inner fulfillment, when you do good and give back.

How does a busy, successful chef who is passionate about food stay healthy and in shape? Just like many worthwhile things in life, it requires hard work and perseverance, says Chef Chris Valdes, who shares his love for the culinary arts on his YouTube channel, Cooking with Chris, and through his catering business, Best Chefs Catering. He eats healthy — most of the time. He also goes to the gym four to six times a week — even though he doesn’t really enjoy going. As with everything he does, success comes from giving it his all.

“As a chef, my world revolves around food, so I must be willing to compromise when it comes to my diet because I want to enjoy what makes me happy — and that is food!” said Chef Chris. “But at the same time, I have to balance that passion with being healthy. If I can strike that balance, anyone can.”

Years ago, Chef Chris reached a weight that made him feel unhealthy and unhappy. He worked hard to lose weight and gain lean muscle. He admits that during his gym sessions, he thinks and talks about the wonderful foods he will be able to eat because of the calories he is burning. Chef Chris also admits that the meals he makes for clients often are quite different from the meals he makes for himself every day. Meals at home, he says, may consist of egg whites for breakfast and tuna, veggies and brown rice for lunch.

“My job as a chef is to indulge my clients’ palates and thrill them with a roller coaster of flavors to create a memorable dining experience,” he said. “I think it’s important to have variety in your diet, avoid depriving yourself and enjoy your favorite foods — in moderation. I do keep up on all the new food and diet trends, but I don’t live by them.”

His Cooking with Chris followers often ask him to share recipes that are healthier or gluten free, like his gluten-free chocolate chip cookies. However, the Miami native is best known for creating innovative Caribbean-infused dishes using fresh, seasonal ingredients. On his YouTube channel, Chef Chris shares delicious, easy recipes such as arroz con pollo risotto, shrimp creole and seared salmon with honey lime corn salsa. He also shares a lot of laughter and craziness to make the cooking process enjoyable. It is well known that his motto is “Cook. Laugh. Eat.” This motto is likely a reflection of his upbringing in a Cuban family that honored food, family and fun.

Chef Chris began cooking at an early age at home with his mother, a habit he says strengthens the family. His passion for cooking continued to flourish in high school, where the caring teachers of Felix Varela nurtured and encouraged him. They also entered him into a cooking contest, which he won. The prize — a scholarship to Le Cordon Bleu. Soon after graduating from the prestigious institution, Chef Chris started his catering company, Best Chefs Catering, serving both corporate and social clientele. Today, it is regarded as one of the best catering companies in South Florida and boasts a client list that includes more than 100 well-known South Florida businesses and organizations.

Chef Chris’ energy, passion and drive combined with his superb cooking skills have launched him to celebrity status. He was a featured chef in the Grand Tasting Village at this year’s South Beach Food & Wine Festival, and he recently returned from Saborea Puerto Rico, the largest culinary festival in the Caribbean, where he was the only chef from Miami. Chef Chris has been featured on Telemundo and in numerous magazine and newspapers articles. He appeared on the February cover of the Luxury Dining Guide of Miami Magazine, sporting a blue, leather chef coat he designed. At the magazine cover launch party held at Mariposa Restaurant in Neiman Marcus, he shared his inspiration and desire to further impact his craft by artfully converging food and fashion.

Last summer, Chef Chris was one of 19 chefs chosen to participate in the Third Annual Flavors of Miami Culinary Gala at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel, which benefitted the American Liver Foundation (ALF). He is honored to once again be an invited chef at this year’s event.

“I am very grateful to be chosen to help the ALF with this important fundraiser by doing what I love best in order to help support individuals and their families affected by liver disease,” said Chef Chris. “Giving back to the community is very important to me and what I do. There’s a special feeling, an inner fulfillment, when you do good and give back.”

Much of the talented chef’s philanthropic work focuses on children and youth. Chef Chris delivered toys to children in Puerto Rico after the hurricane. He also inspires future chefs with his story and enthusiasm. He gave a keynote speech to students entering Miami Dade College’s Culinary Institute and returned to Felix Varela High School last fall to be Principal of the Day. The school gave the alumnus a hero’s welcome, complete with large signs and a marching band. Chef Chris visited his favorite teachers, baked with autistic students and motivated a new generation to pursue their dreams.

“This place was a launching pad for me,” Chef Chris explained. “My teachers gave me the confidence I needed to believe in my talent and my abilities — and to believe in myself.”

For more information about Chef Chris Valdes, visit Connect with him on Facebook: @chrisvaldes91; Instagram: chrisvaldes1; and YouTube: chrisvaldes.

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