Why he's interesting Whalen has been a mainstay on the Cleveland dining scene with his 10-year-old Tremont restaurant, Fahrenheit. In the last year, he's been busy showing off his culinary chops with his Rosie & Rocco's Italian eateries inside the Horseshoe Casino and Cleveland Browns Stadium, and Rocco's at the Q inside Quicken Loans Arena. He also sweated it out on the Food Network's reality show Fat Chef, where he lost 130 pounds.
That first recipe Fresh cavatelli. "I was 6 years old. Red sauce, pasta, neck bones and meatballs."
His favorite dish to cook Kobe beef short ribs. It's the No. 1 seller at Fahrenheit and has been on the menu since the restaurant opened. "I sell more of that beef than anyone else in the state of Ohio. I've made many people smile from that one dish."
Taste of Tremont "The best thing I ever did was open a restaurant in Tremont. Michael [Symon] is my friend, but above that, he is my mentor and someone I look up to. We were never worried about competition. Zack [Bruell] opens Parallax, Dante [Boccuzzi] opens Dante — the next thing you know it's a mecca for not only weekend nights, but weekday nights. Tremont is the best dining neighborhood in the city. Hands down, bar none. I will make people mad when I say that, but I don't care."
Finding the motivation After years of struggling with his weight, Whalen finally got serious about getting healthy. "How about being winded just going up the stairs? Not being able to be on your feet too long because you're carrying so much weight around. I just thought about having this great career and then I die at 40. Right? It wasn't for my bikini body, it's about being a better person."
Working it out Whalen hits the gym five days a week with a mix of boot camp three days and spinning/aerobics the other two. "I like boot camp. It's a vigorous pace and it's an hour of a mental and physical washing machine."
Seasonal splurge His wife's breakfast casserole made with organic eggs, sharp Vermont cheddar, vegetables and ground sausage from the West Side Market. "She makes it for the holidays. It's totally against my diet, but I've got to have it."
Political aspirations "If there's a chance for me to run for mayor I would do it. Why not? I think I have a good grasp of the people of Cleveland. Maybe I would win, maybe I wouldn't. But I would go for it."
His must-have ingredient Hot sauce. "I need it. It brings out flavor. It gives your dish balance."