Michael Chernow was in the middle of run when he came up for the name of his new seafood restaurant concept, Seamore’s. “I had been struggling with a few ideas,” says Chernow. “I was zoned out in the middle of my route and it just clicked. I wanted to say that people should be eating more well-sourced and sustainable seafood. On top of that it just sounds like the name of a sweet old man who you’d like to hang with. It was perfect.”
Clearly the venture worked, as Seamore’s is now opening the doors to a shiny new Dumbo location, in Brooklyn. Half of the duo behind of The Meatball Shop, Chernow is no stranger to stumbling onto game-changing epiphanies while pounding the pavement. “I came up with the idea for the Meatball Smash sandwich during a run,” he admits. Scores of late-night Manhattan eaters are grateful for that concoction — a sandwich made of two meatballs smashed inside a brioche bun along with a healthy array of toppings.
We recently caught up with the New York-based restaurateur before his morning run to talk about how the practice has elevated his health, his business, and his relationships.
How long has running been a serious part of your life?
I made a pivotal decision over a decade ago that I was going to be a better person and put aside the stupid shit that I had convinced myself was okay. I decided I was going to take life seriously, and appreciating it for everything that it has to offer. Running has helped me on the journey to accomplish just that.
In what ways has it done that?
I like the added benefit of staying fit, but the most important part for me is the element of it being a bit of a moving meditation. The practice keeps me grounded, both literally and figuratively. Some of my best thinking has come from long runs. If I ever feel the need to take a deep breath, I know it’s time for me to go on a run. It has been an amazing salve for the anxiety that I feel in this industry that I am in. I go for a run and I always end feeling much better. Not to mention I’m usually able to figure out a solution to the problem I’m having.
Have you imparted that nugget of wisdom to others you work within the food industry?
I have a lot of people in my industry who come to me for advice when they don’t feel like they are operating at their full potential. One of the first questions I ask them is what their physical output is like, and how much they spend taking care of themselves in that way. I have started to see the correlation between people who feel like that, and the people who isolate themselves and don’t put effort into their own wellbeing.
The body can be either fragile or resilient, depending on the way you’re treating it.
Do you have a favorite route in New York now?
I love to do what I call the “triple bypass” — where I cross the Williamsburg Bridge, down to the Manhattan Bridge, and then to the Brooklyn Bridge, then back over the Williamsburg Bridge. I love running through the city, but it can be a little much sometimes. The great thing about hitting the bridges is you don’t have to deal with the cars, and you get some great hills. I have a house in upstate New York, just outside of Hudson, and every weekend I go for a great five to seven mile run through the woods.
Being out in nature like that is helpful for the spirit as well.
Being a food guy do you make yourself something after a run?
[Laughs]. You’d think so. But I am actually pretty boring when it comes to food. I usually just have a protein bar. I am currently pretty addicted to the ones that Bulletproof makes.
Do you have a specific time when you run?
For years, when I was a single gentleman, I had a morning practice that I would do then I would throw on my running gear and just start running. I had a route that I always did through downtown Manhattan. Now that I have a family I have to be a little more diplomatic with when I go. But when it’s important, you find time.
I also have a marathon coming up later this year so I need to prepare for that.
Which marathon are you doing?
I’m leading City Harvest as their team captain for the New York City marathon. I started working with the organization a lot last year. This year I wanted to find a charity centered on food that I could align with; since that is the space my livelihood comes through. They knew that I was a big running guy, so they asked me if I would be interested in helping lead their team for their 35th anniversary. It took me about one second before I said “yes.”
Do you listen to music on your runs?
I used to listen to hip-hop and Radiohead. I had a lot of magical moments that happen on my runs while listening to Radiohead. It just kind of gets me into that mindset. Recently I have started to enjoy to a lot of podcasts, and since I usually don’t get time to listen to them that has turned into what I put on during runs. I am doing the Joe Rogan and Tim Ferris programs. Their content is just really good. Even when they interview different people I find myself getting something different from them. Aubrey Marcus from Onnit is also another great guy to follow.
I still put on Radiohead when I need to give my mind a break, and meditate.
Since you travel a bit work do you enjoy running in other locales?
The first thing that I do when I get to a new city is to get the sneakers on and go for a run. The first few mornings I will go out. I had some pretty memorable runs in Tokyo. I actually got lost and ended up on a 16 mile run. I ran to the Tsukiji Fish Market and had some sushi. I checked out all the architecture. It was absolutely incredible. The great thing about running is you aren’t relegated to a route, so when one street gets too busy you can make a turn and find these peaceful nooks.
On another trip I was in London for two days. There were a lot of things that I wanted to see, but I didn’t like the idea of spending the day on public transportation, so I put a backpack on and ran to the sights. I ran all over the city, probably around 25 miles. People probably thought I was crazy because I was showing up every sweating, but it was awesome. I hit all the museums. I went into the Winston Churchill War Rooms. I highly recommend it as a way to get around.
Do you think taking running seriously has made you a better person?
I feel my best after a run. I feel like I am operating at my peak. I could be in the worst place mentally and after hitting the pavement in a real way I feel like I am on fire. I think it is important to remind yourself that you are a physical being, because these days we can really get caught up in the world that we created. There is nothing like that high that you get when you get somewhere around five to eight miles into a run. I know that it not only makes me a better man to my family, but it makes me a better man in general.