Robert St. John column

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 2, 2008

St. John: Dieting chef relishes chocolate cake so good it’s ‘evil’

I am on a diet.

A diet is a serious problem for someone in the restaurant business. It also poses a predicament with my second day job— being a food writer— which requires, at a minimum, eating a lot of food and then writing about it.

There are several food items I miss. Most of them have to do with bread in one way or another. I love cake. I miss cake. I especially love chocolate cake, and I especially miss chocolate cake.

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My favorite chocolate cake is served at Newk’s Express Cafe. It’s better than my grandmother’s, which for me, is a solemn statement. I’ve never said that about anything.

Newk’s chocolate cake is evil. I suggest you never eat it. Don’t do it. You’ll be hooked. It’s addictive.

I don’t know what they call it at Newk’s, probably just “chocolate cake.” I call it “evil.” I really do. When I order it I say, “Give me some of that evil chocolate cake.” And they do. And I eat it. I have had that exchange over and over for the last several years, which is why I am currently eating chicken breasts and broccoli and dreaming of cake.

My son loves it, too. When we have dinner at another restaurant in town, we often stop at Newk’s for dessert and take their evil chocolate cake home. That is, unless we ate dinner at Newk’s, this makes it much easier to just eat the cake there.

Don’t eat Newk’s chocolate cake. Just say no. Be strong. If you fail to heed this warning, don’t email or call me from the Newk’s Chocolate Cake Rehab Center, because I’ll just say, “I told you so.” And when you wind up on a non-cake eating diet because you ate way, way, way, way too much chocolate cake don’t say that I didn’t warn you.

The Newcomb family hires a woman in New Albany, to make all of their cakes. She currently makes over 1,200 cakes every month, though that number might have changed by a few hundred since I have gone on this diet.

I have never met this woman, but I often picture her as an angelic, Godiva-like figure in flowing chocolate-brown robes who floats around her production kitchen, a halo glowing around her head, sprinkling magic-tasting cocoa-flavored fairy dust all over her chocolate cakes. If I were a single man, I would marry her tomorrow, sight unseen.

Newk’s also serves strawberry, pineapple, caramel, banana nut, and carrot cake on a rotating basis. They’re all good. But when you eat a slice of the others, you just feel like you’re eating a slice of cake— nice, moist, make-you-happy cake. When you’re eating Newk’s chocolate cake you feel like your sinning. In an instant, you become a sinful, sinning, sinner with a leftover dab of sin-filled chocolate on your nose and an empty glass of milk in your hand. Amen.

Trust me, don’t ever order a slice of Newk’s chocolate cake. Look at it, analyze it, admire it, maybe take a sniff or two. Whatever you do, don’t order it. If you surrender to temptation, or accidentally order it and it ends up on your table by chance, be a nice guy and give it to a friend. They’ll love you forever. Just don’t take that first bite. Don’t do it.

I love cake. I miss cake. I love moist cake and rich chocolaty icing. I love the chocolaty, chocolate-filled, chocoliffic, chocolateness (my words).

I am eating asparagus and gulping down low-carb protein shakes but I’m dreaming of chocolate cake and an ice cold glass of whole milk.

As of today, I’m 20 pounds down and have 20 more to go. I plan to act sensibly when choosing foods and quantities once I give up this diet and start eating regularly.

The first food item I plan to eat—you guessed it— Newk’s chocolate cake. That moist, chocolaty, three-layer slice of evil on a plate that helped put me in this position in the first place. I can’t wait.

For this week’s recipe, Robert’s Chocolate Cake, go to the column link on <> .

 (Robert St.John is an author, chef, restaurateur, and world-class eater. He is the author of seven books including the newly released New South Grilling.)