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Chloe Hamilton: Burning calories while eating? No thanks...
March 09, 2013
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Yesterday morning I was rudely awakened by BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, informing me a breakfast of bacon and sausage would likely lead to an early grave. A cheery wake-up call if ever there was one, especially since I’d woken feeling particularly ravenous. Imagine my curiosity then, when my first call of the morning was from a company launching the UK’s first ever ‘calorie-neutral’ restaurant, where patrons exercise between courses.

German domestic appliance company Miele will set up pop-up restaurant, Steam, in Covent Garden next Wednesday. If the restaurant proves popular, the company hopes to roll them out across the country.

Quite apart from wondering what on earth to wear to the sporty eatery, (Trainers? Tracksuit? A smart dress?) it’s obvious to me that Miele has created a monster.

Diners, or ‘steamees’, will be invited to chow down on food cooked by award-winning head chef, Frederick Forster, before participating in a number of activities to ensure they offset their calorie footprint. Activities include stretching to aid digestion and sitting on vibrating seat-pads to increase calorie burn. The food is steamed to preserve the natural flavours, vitamins and textures and chef Frederick Forster says his aim is to show that healthy food can be tasty too.

Of course Steam will be a unique experience, rather like a pole dancing class or climbing Kilimanjaro. But, if I’m honest, it’s about as appealing as downing a large bowl of pasta before doing two laps of the school hockey pitch. Not very.

As well as possibly inflicting shocking indigestion on its diners (whatever happened to leaving two hours between eating and exercising?) Miele has seemingly invented an entirely pointless dining experience and is selling it to us like it’s the next big thing.

The concept neatly sidesteps the whole purpose of eating, which is to take calories and energy from our food. In the same way as eating a stick of celery is counter-productive, so too is this meal deal.

Sure, you might have a jolly old time vibrating and stretching with friends. And I don’t doubt the food will be delicious (beef fillet with beansprout salad, quail egg cocotte with mushroom and leek fondue, and prawn stuffed lemon sole with herb butter sauce.) However, a restaurant which gives with one hand while it takes with another is baffling to me.

We wouldn’t jump at the chance to watch a film if we had to have our memories wiped once we’d left the auditorium, so why must we rave about a restaurant that robs us of precious calories? If I’m paying for them, they’re coming home with me.

The news that processed meat is bad for our hearts can’t have come as a surprise to many. We all know what’s healthy and what’s not, but we’re too greedy to say no and either too lazy or too busy to put in enough hours at the gym to justify our calorie intake.

Instead of fear-mongering with terrifying statistics, or setting up restaurants that promise an evening of calorie free dining, we should be promoting the art of moderation, a skill we can apply to all aspects of our lives.

Granted, Steam encourages healthy eating and, in that, it has my whole-hearted (if slightly hungry) support. But asking us to exercise while we eat? Well that’s one step too far for me, I’m afraid.

The Independent

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