In other words, he's a chef that can knock you out with a high kick and then tantalize your taste buds with a dish in apology. So as he readies for the reality show's June 7th debut, About Martial Arts Guide Robert Rousseau took the chance to pick his brain about the similarities between martial arts, cooking, and more.
About Martial Arts: Congrats on being a finalist on The Next Food Network Star television show.
Jeffrey Saad Thank you so much. It's pretty awesome.
About Martial Arts Were you someone who regularly watched the show, and how long have you known that you wanted to take a shot at it?
Jeffrey Saad Well, it all started about a year ago. It was the first season that we had watched, Season 4, about a year ago exactly. We just got totally hooked on the Food Network, on the show, and decided that was what I was meant to do and had to do it.
About Martial Arts: Awesome. I know you can't go into specifics. But has the show already filmed? I know it hasn't aired yet (it debuts on June 7th on the Food Network).
Jeffrey Saad: Yeah, it's already filmed and it airs this Sunday (the 7th), as you know, at 9 o'clock, 8 central.
About Martial Arts: I know you can't go into the specifics, but is there anything you can tell about the experience in general?
Jeffrey Saad: You know, as a martial artist people understand what it means to be prepared so that all of a sudden when you have to perform, you're able to. . . There's a real analogy there. It is unbelievable how as much as I'm an experienced chef, cook, restaurant owner- you know it's like doing a million sidekicks to warm up- it's still unbelievable when all of a sudden out of nowhere, bam, you have to be ready and perform. It was so challenging; it was so intense. And no matter how much training you had or how ready you are, it was still unbelievable how you had to bring it all in a moment's notice against a bunch of other people who were just as trained. So it was much more challenging than I thought it would be. It was super interesting. Very cool.
About Martial Arts: Yeah, it's an interesting connection you made. I know that you're also a second degree black belt in martial arts. When did you begin training and what kind of got you involved?
Jeffrey Saad: I went to Iowa State University for my undergrad and met a guy there named Master Pok. I remember being 18 years old and seeing this 67 year old man hold his legs straight up in the air, almost completely vertical, while he talked to us about the importance of stretching and being limber and I was hooked. I mean, I went up through- you know every school has different belts and stuff- but I went three fourths of the way through it with him. Then throughout my Iowa State education, (I) continued to work with different instructors and then I continued on campus. Got my black belt under Master Brandt in San Francisco. And then I continued on here in L.A. with Scott Lewis at the Southern California Tae Kwon Do Center and got my second degree black. I'm studying for my third degree this coming December.
About Martial Arts: Then your black belt is in Tae Kwon Do?
Jeffrey Saad: It's Tae Kwon Do, yeah. Kukkiwon Tae Kwon Do.
About Martial Arts: Have you taken other styles as well?
Jeffrey Saad: I did some Chinese kickboxing with this guy named Jeff. I forget the name of the school off the top of my head now (in San Francisco). I did it for about a year and that was intense I don't know what forms you're familiar with, but more knockouts were done by kicking people to the legs than anything else. It was a whole different style and it was really interesting. I still use some of the hand techniques and the endurance from that training, but I've really stuck to Tae Kwon Do as a general rule.
About Martial Arts: You kind of already answered this a little bit, but to see if you can take it a step further, are there any particular characteristics that you need to be good at both martial arts and cooking?
Jeffrey Saad: You need to be incredibly peaceful in your head, even if your body is flying in another direction. Very much like martial arts, you've got your eye on the target and you may be spinning, kicking, twisting, sweeping, but your eye never leaves the target. You know it's so much the same way with the cooking. In competitions, you've got to absolutely keep your focus on the clock and the results and what you have to accomplish, but the whole while your body is furiously running around and doing everything it needs to do to get the job done. Definitely when you're in a competition cooking, same thing- you try to judge your competitors' energy and just let it pass to the side of you verses constantly butting up against it taking away your own energy. So a lot of that similarity as well