Q&A with Chris Santos

The expert chef and Food Network regular on his surprising coffee accompaniment, meditation and more.

Chris Santos is a true culinary heavyweight. Not only is he the Executive Chef at The Stanton Social and Beauty & Essex and a judge on The Food Network’s Chopped, but he's also a serious force to be reckoned with in the boxing ring. We caught up with the tattoo-covered fighter-slash-kitchen connoisseur to find out how he juggles it all — and of course, what's really in his fridge.

Typical workout:
I’ve never been the guy who can get on a treadmill and run or lift weights. I’ve been training as a fighter diligently for 14 years. To me boxing is very much like meditation — when I do it, I don't worry about anything else.

His boxing battle wounds:
I'm cutting the sparring down because in the last four or five years, I've had my ribs broken twice, a hairline fracture in my cheek bone, two broken bones in my hand, and I also had to get Cortisone shots in my shoulders and a couple of cervical epidurals. If I were a professional fighter, I'd be retiring right now. I'm still going to keep the same routine, but you've got to be smart. I can't be doing the Food Network with a black eye!

What we’d be surprised to find in his refrigerator:
Coconut water. I’m addicted to the stuff. I also always have a bottle of Hershey's Chocolate Syrup because I use it in my coffee instead of sugar. It's delicous.

Typical breakfast:
ZonePerfect bar, either the Chocolate Peanut Butter or Fudge Graham varieties with my coffee or a coconut water.

Ultimate healthy meal:
My girlfriend is Filipino, so she’ll make a roasted chicken with garlic steamed rice — she always eats healthy.

Ultimate decadent meal:
My favorite thing to eat is a Mexican dish called Chilaquiles, which is tortillas stewed in salsa verde with chicken, cheese and eggs. I've got these great sous chefs that I work with from Mexico, and they'll make it sometimes. I take it home, and I have been known on a Sunday to wake up and eat so much of it that I just don't move for the entire day.

Best vacation he’s ever taken:
In the late '90s as a young chef, I took eight months off from life and backpacked through Europe. I went to 14 countries and 40 cities, and we would hit up the restaurants for lunch and then I would beg and plead the chefs to let me stay and hangout in the kitchen at night. There are still moments and waves of inspiration that pop into my head that definitely stem from that trip.

What totally relaxes him:
Nothing (laughs). I love a good massage. As a chef, you're on your feet all day, you put a lot of pressure on your back, and you're lifting things, so it's good to get those knots out.

His biggest vice:
I am naturally a host, so I like to throw a party. And going out after work and having a good time with my friends and having to say, “I have to go to the gym in the morning.”

Where he feels most at home:
In a boxing ring or in a dive bar shooting pool.

The last thing he recommended to a friend:
I was impressed with the oyster bar Maison Premiere in Williamsburg. There were 40 different oysters to choose from, which I didn't eat because I'm allergic, but the drinks were the best drinks I’ve ever had in my life.

Three things on his bucket list:
I like to snowboard, but I’m terrible at it because I only go once in a while, so my intention is to become an avid and good snowboarder and go every single year. I would love to learn how to hang glide, and I really want to become a boxing referee. It takes about 20 years to get your accreditation, so I’m starting that process now.

Message he would send out to the world with one request (140 characters or less):
Believe in the power of karma. Be nicer, pay things forward. If you do good things, good things will come to you.

Practice indulgent nourishment

"Cooking is one of the best things you can do for your health.”

My holiday dinner party: Whitney Otawka

How the cookbook author creates a magical evening