Chef’s Weight Loss Spurs Healthier Menu at Square 1682

Chef Guillermo Tellez dropped 40 pounds. Now he's revamping menus to include a healthier options.

Photo of Tellez courtesy Punch Media

It took chef Guillermo Tellez years of poor physical workups and warnings from his doctor before he decided to clean up his eating habits. The tipping point came last fall when he learned at his yearly physical that his blood sugar was out of control and the diabetes diagnosis he’d gotten years before wasn’t going to be undone any time soon. Big changes were on order.

In just a few months, Tellez, the chef at the Hotel Palomar’s Square 1682 near Rittenhouse, has dropped 40 pounds, thanks to changes he’s made in his diet. “I realized I was eating food, but not really tasting it,” he says, adding that he took a class on how eat if you have diabetes. “I’ve learned to focus on portions, rather than giving anything up. Your body will start craving what you’re restricting, and you’ll end up putting weight back on.”

Now he’s bringing his new healthy outlook to his restaurant menu, debuting a new Wellness Program that, of all things, centers on the bar. As with his own eating, his goal isn’t to cut out anything (including calories), but to focus on what’s going into his recipes. The revamped bar menu includes seasonal cocktails that use all-natural ingredients. Tellez has banned processed sugar (buh-bye, white-sugar simple syrup) and instead uses sweeteners like coconut sugar, maple syrup and organic agave nectar. An espresso-laden martini called the Bumpkin ($11) calls for soy milk and pumpkin puree. Drinks on the all-natural bar menu range from $6 to $12.

Over in the restaurant, Tellez also sources produce and herbs from local farms, including ones in West Chester and New Jersey. He’s using vegetable purees instead of whipping cream to thicken sauces, he’s going lighter on butter, and, for the past year, he’s been pushing a unique, six-course tasting menu where veggies play a starring role.

“The vegetable tasting menu hasn’t been super popular yet. I think people are intimidated by it,” he says. “But the ones who’ve tried it absolutely love it.”

By promoting it alongside the new Wellness Program, the hope is that the vegetable menu—which can be tailored to meet all kinds of dietary requirements—will draw a bigger crowd of healthier eaters. It changes seasonally but right now includes an entree of pasta-less roasted-vegetable lasagna.

Tellez says the veggie-centered menu is closer to how he now eats himself. He’s retrained his thinking to divide his plate into quarters, filling one quarter with meat, one with starch, and two-quarters—or, half the plate—with vegetables.

“I’ve found that I’m actually eating more than ever now,” he says. “But I’m keeping my sugar and cravings in check, and I have more energy. It’s become a way of life.”