From growing up in Chelmsford to working the Greater Boston restaurant circuit to becoming Tom Brady and Giselle Bündchen’s personal chef, Allen Campbell’s impressive career makes him one of the leaders in sports nutrition. Now, the North Shore native capitalizes on his network for a new video series on healthy living, featuring pro athletes from Boston and beyond. After a decade spent in food service and not paying attention to his health, Chef Campbell knew it was time for a lifestyle change.
“I got to my mid- to late-twenties and I decided it wasn’t working,” he says. He got sober, started paying attention to what kinds of foods he ate, and took up CrossFit, calling the fitness component “the fun part.” Starting with small changes, which eventually snowballed to big ones, he slowly formed the healthy living philosophy he sticks by today—cooking with health as the number one priority, and focusing on whole, unprocessed foods.
When Campbell met Tom Brady’s former personal chef, who put in his notice not too long after, it seemed like fate—and it skyrocketed Campbell’s career. His outlook on nutrition “just happened to be exactly what Tom was looking for,” says Campbell, saying that working with Brady and Bündchen’s family turned into a fantastic fit. “We just saw eye to eye from the very beginning.”
Specializing in sports nutrition, Campbell has written two books—The Game of Eating Smart, in collaboration with Julie Loria and MLB, and the TB12 Nutrition Manual—and he contributed to all the recipes featured in the New York Times bestseller the TB12 Method. He’s the owner of AC Kitchen, an organic food and lifestyle brand focused on local organic produce and wild protein. He has a meal plan program, a home delivery service, and a chef placement program for folks looking for a personal chef to improve their eating habits.
Campbell’s worked with plenty of other Boston-based or -raised athletes, too, like Patrice Bergeron, Jack Eichel (a fellow North Shore native), Charlie McAvoy, and Kevin Hayes, who’s featured in the first episode of Campbell’s new series, “The Chef Allen Show.” In episode one, Campbell accompanies Hayes to a training session at his gym, then brings Hayes to his kitchen at home to whip up a couple of healthy post-workout treats. Campbell and Hayes both grew up in the Boston area and share similar backgrounds, says Campbell, so to “get in there and talk to his trainers, and bring him back to my kitchen and show him what really happens . . . was a lot of fun,” he says.
MALK Organics (which creates filler-free oat and almond milks) sponsored the first video, in which Campbell shows Hayes how to make chocolate milk and brownies without any dairy. “There’s a superstition, mostly in baseball, to drink chocolate milk after a game,” says Campbell, so he’s developed a healthier postworkout drink with ingredients like electrolyte-rich coconut water, protein-rich sacha inchi seeds, raw cacao, MALK, and raw local honey. His brownies flip the script on the traditionally indulgent dessert, too, making substitutions like coconut oil for butter, oat flour for regular flour, and coconut sugar for white sugar.
In his cooking and recipe development, Campbell avoids potentially inflammatory ingredients like white sugar, gluten, and dairy. When he has the time, he makes his own alternative milks out of nothing but almonds, water, vanilla, and a pinch of salt. “That’s hard to find in the market and that’s how MALK makes their almond milk,” he says—all whole foods, with no gums or fillers. “When [MALK] reached out to me, I was already buying their milk,” says Campbell.
He plans to film eight episodes of “The Chef Allen Show,” each featuring a different sponsor and pro athlete, and since his network of athletes is mostly Boston-based, viewers can expect appearances by some Red Sox and Patriots players. All episodes will be available on YouTube and across social platforms.
His best piece of advice for folks looking to start improving their nutrition? “It starts with baby steps,” he says. Maybe you start by taking a look at your dinnertime. “Are we eating at 10 p.m., then going to bed at 11?” says Campbell. That’s one of the worst dietary habits, he says, since sleeping on a full stomach can interfere with proper digestion and sleep quality.
Or maybe you’re consuming lots of processed sugar daily, or you’re not getting enough protein (shoot for at least 50 grams a day). Once you’ve identified dietary habits you want to change, it’s about “making [eating well] a plan, a priority, just like everything else,” he says, like our careers and our families.
But Campbell doesn’t preach a restrictive lifestyle. “I love all things that everyone from here loves. I still love Italian food, and I still love the taste of Mike’s cannoli and all that stuff.” For him, it’s all about finding healthier alternatives to foods that don’t make him feel like his best self. And he says that sometimes, if, for example, a relative has baked muffins with white sugar, it’s “when in Rome.”
Campbell stays approachable in his dietary philosophy, remembering how set in his ways he was before he got sober and started eating better. Healthy eating isn’t an all or nothing game—rather, it’s a series of decisions. “Every time you eat food, are you contributing to success, longevity, wellness?” he says. Because our bodies deserve that extra care—they’re “all we really have to carry us through this journey,” says Campbell.
Find Chef Allen’s recipes and more at allencampbell.com.