When you’re a music and fashion icon like Lady Gaga and you’re headlining a fashion-obsessed music festival like Coachella, the pressure to perform is on. Add to that the travel, and the heat, and a nation of trolls who think it’s OK to rag on a woman’s body just because she’s a celebrity, and, well, it seems to us regular folk that’s an awful lot to handle. With all that on her plate, we wondered what’s on her literal plate. So we went to the source—Gaga’s longtime friend and tour chef, Bo O’Connor—to find out how the star fuels up to deal with it all.
We caught up with O’Connor, who served as the personal chef for Gaga on her last tour, at Buick Encore’s Backstage Classes and learned all about what she eats on the road. O’Connor’s approach to food is one we can totally get behind—and some of the advice is especially pertinent to all the fans braving it in the desert at Coachella this weekend.
Let’s start with a little bit about you. How did you get into cooking?
O’Connor: I’m self-taught, never went to culinary school. I was looking to do my own thing but then got the opportunity to tour with Lady Gaga before opening my restaurant, The Pomeroy in Queens. The menu at my restaurant today is very much me as a chef. It really showcases fresh produce, fresh vegetables, a lot of healthy options.
So what would you say is your chef-losophy, then?
[Laughs.] I see what you did there. For me, my philosophy is balance. I hear people say all the time, “Oh I never indulge,” or, “Oh I never have a cheat meal or drink wine or beer.” I think that’s very difficult to sustain, and I think finding that balance of being healthy and indulgent when you can is the best way to live life. Personally, I don’t think living life and always feeling deprived is a good thing. For me, that’s not who I am.
Let’s backtrack for a minute. How did you first get linked up with Lady Gaga?
We grew up together. We went to an all-girl Catholic school from kindergarten through 12th grade. We were best friends, and she was the maid of honor in my wedding. When she had the last tour, we had a discussion about me coming along with her. It felt right. It was a nine-month tour and it was really one of the best experiences of my life. Traveling the world, seeing all these different markets.
So, what’s a typical lunch or dinner you would make for Gaga?
Something like quinoa with black beans, grilled shrimp, beautiful veggies. We want it to be healthy, tasty, filling, nutritious, and full of fiber. I really focus on meals that are good in taste but also healthy for your body. What we eat is what our bodies are. Being on tour or just performing all of the time, it’s exhausting. Being able to provide your body with good nutrients, including those that are in vegetables and fruit, is everything.
And what if she’s just not feeling vegetables?
We’d deviate a bit. If she wanted a burger and fries, we wouldn’t be doing fast food. So instead, I’d make her a turkey burger, gluten-free, lots of spices, and baked sweet potato fries. At least she’s feeling that she can indulge a little bit and have something similar to a real burger but is still good for you.
Talk to me about snacks. I want to know what Gaga noshes on when she’s peckish.
Now there are so many things that come in travel size or individual servings that are actually good for you. If Gaga gets really hungry, I carry little packs of almond butter, and that prevents us from grabbing something from like, a gas station. [I’ll] combine that almond butter with other things. Scandinavian crackers, full of fiber, may not be the most tasty on their own, but if you throw them together with the almond butter and some banana, you have something that’s filling and satisfying.
It must be hard for an artist to stick to a healthy diet when she’s on the road. What’s the secret?
It’s really about planning. That’s why Lady Gaga has personal chefs. She has a million things on her plate. To have someone who plans her meals, and sets things aside for her, then she knows that there’s no cheating.
People think it’s so hard, the planning. But it takes 5 or 10 minutes at the beginning of your week. Think about your meals, where you’ll be going, what you may need to prep ahead of time. Put a few things in the car. I also always think variation is key. If you’re prepared that’s great, but if you only have one thing, then you’ll want what you don’t have. Bring something sweet and savory along for the ride.
Any last words on making healthy decisions more doable?
Water. Water. Water. Don’t drink soda. Don’t drink diet soda. Just drink water. Carry a bottle of water wherever you go, because otherwise you’re really thirsty, and you’re more inclined to eat and snack on different things. When you’re dehydrated, you also look worn. Tired. You don’t want that. I know Gaga definitely doesn’t want that.
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