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Battling the Bulge 

Another chef chases the title of 'formerly fat'

After two months of work with nutritionist Holly Unger, chef-restaurateur Brandt Evans is already seeing results. "I don't do scales," says the strapping 42-year-old. "But I'm already down three or four belt loops, and I'm feeling great."

Evans — chef-owner of downtown's Pura Vida and chef-partner in the Twinsburg-based Blue Canyon Kitchen & Tavern — gives all the credit to Unger. "She's the best whip ever," he laughs. "I'm finally being held accountable for what I eat."

Unger and the veteran chef initially met at Tri-C, where they both are involved icommunity education programs. "I was doing all these healthy cooking classes — and look at me," says Evans, who estimates he's gained more than 100 pounds in recent years. "I felt like such a hypocrite."

For her part, Unger says she could sense that Evans was ready for a change. "It was just in his eyes," says the bubbly nutritionist. "He really seemed to be ready to get healthy."

With the goals of helping Evans lower his blood sugar, improve his joint mobility, and drop 175 pounds, the duo has developed a common-sense diet plan that includes daily, moderate exercise, and trimming back on fat, carbs, and calories.

Evans says he's discovered he's gluten-intolerant, so he avoids wheat-based foods. He also finds himself trending more toward vegetarianism. But his diet plan continues to evolve. "I've learned there are no hard rules when it comes to weight loss," says the busy chef. "Your journey is your own, and it's one step at a time."

The chef checks in with Unger daily and meets with her once each week. Afterward, she posts a progress report on Evans' blog. You can follow along at chefbrandtevans.net.

Café Society: When Arts Collinwood closed its adjacent café in June, it did so to preserve its future, explains Amy Callahan of the arts organization. After two failed concepts by independent operators and a rocky period of management by Arts Collinwood itself, the decision was made to close the doors and begin the search for a better solution.

"We felt that the next person to take over the café is really important, and we wanted to do it the right way," says Callahan.

A Request for Proposal (RFP) was issued seeking a restaurateur to lease the space at 15601 Waterloo Rd. Submissions are being vetted by a café committee in conjunction with a professional restaurant consultant. This is no giveaway, stresses Callahan: The victor must have the financial means and experience to operate the café as an independent, profitable venture.

The attractive corner storefront has been home to Café Marika and Waterloo Café. When it was initially designed and built, the café was intended to be a revenue generator for the neighborhood arts organization, which operates a gallery immediately next door.

"We want something symbiotic – somebody who brings people in but also appreciates what we do," Callahan says of the ideal tenant. "We have received a couple very good, very serious prospects. But I don't have any actual business plans in my hand yet."

While this space and the RFP process are wholly separate from Alan Glazen's ambitious Project Light Switch, the café and Arts Collinwood definitely is benefitting from the buzz.

"Everybody that walks into the café says what a great space it is," notes Callahan. "We just need the right person to make use of the potential."

Interested parties can find the RFP at artscollinwood.org, or contact Callahan at 216-692-9500.

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