The host of Restaurant Hunters has told how his love of fatty foods almost cost him his life, when he suffered a massive heart attack last year at the age of 41.
Rob Petrone, from New York state, spent five years eating his way across the region.
He won six Emmy awards for his show, which began airing in January 2015 in the lower Hudson Valley, and featured the best restaurants with the most delicious dishes.
He said he fell victim to ordering the most lavish-looking items on the menu, in a bid to get more attention on social media.
Rob Petrone, 41, almost died of a heart attack while playing with his children last year
Petrone’s show saw him scouring the region for the finest restaurants, and tucking in
‘My Instagram account started feeling like a second job, and the pressure to post pictures of what I was eating (in exchange for likes and follows) was constantly on my mind at mealtime,’ he wrote in The Washington Post on Wednesday, detailing his ordeal.
‘Salads, sadly, don’t get as many likes as a tower of whipped butter and maple syrup-topped Japanese pancakes.’
Petrone said that he knew he had hereditary high cholesterol and a family history of heart problems: his father had a heart attack in his late 50s and, later, bypass surgery, while his mother needed a stent in her 50s.
Nevertheless, he continued to gorge on three burgers a week, topping-laden milkshakes and pizzas.
In February 2020, shortly before his heart attack, he told Westchester Magazine about his favorite milkshake.
‘This was my guilty, drive-home-from-work pleasure,’ he explained, saying he would order one of the epic concoctions regularly.
‘It’s thick, but not undrinkable. The cookies give it texture, but not in the way that chocolate chips do where it clogs the straw. He’s got this homemade whipped cream on it that is absolutely perfect. It’s everything that a milkshake should be.’
The television host gorged on sweet treats and fatty foods before his heart attack
A little over a year ago, he wrote in The Post, he was watching television with his children when he ‘felt a strange sensation in my jaw.’
Petrone wrote: ‘Alarms went off. I ran to the bedroom, where my wife was still sleeping, and shut the door. I told her I thought I was having a heart attack. She told me to take a moment and lie down.
‘I told her we needed to go to the hospital, immediately. She obliged.’
Petrone was rushed to hospital in an ambulance, with EMTs needing to shock his heart four times during the journey.
He recalled crying in the ambulance, thinking that he didn’t want to die and leave his wife a widow and his children without a father.
‘In the span of a couple of hours, I went from snuggling with my children on our couch to waking up in a cold, sterile operating room,’ he wrote.
‘I now had a stent in my main artery, which had been 95 per cent blocked.’
Petrone said that he suffered lasting trauma from his heart attack, and needed therapy to help him regain a healthy relationship with food.
Petrone said he remembered crying, not wanting to die and lose his wife and daughters
He said he had not had a burger since the heart attack, though, and was discovering a love of Middle Eastern foods and grilled vegetables.
He has stopped eating red meat and pork, very rarely eats cheese and other high-fat dairy products, and barely drinks alcohol.
Petrone has cut back on portions and sweets, and stopped eating fried foods entirely, while increasing the amount of fruit and vegetables he eats.
And he urged the U.S. to re-evaluate their relationship with food.
‘We live in a society that celebrates food in excessive ways,’ he wrote.
‘Pre-pandemic, many of us planned vacations around food, booking reservations months in advance for 20-course tasting menus and mapping out food crawls that involved eating multiple meals in one afternoon or evening.
‘We post pictures of over-the-top milkshakes with slices of cake and lollipops sticking out of glasses covered in frosting and assorted confections on Instagram, begging for people to like us drinking (eating?) a dessert with the same amount of calories as 16 cans of beer.’
His heart attack last year made Petrone question Americans’ relationship with food
Petrone said he had discovered a love of healthy Middle Eastern food since his heart attack
He said that he had fallen into the trap of adding excessive amounts of butter, salt and fat to his cooking at home.
‘I’d convince myself that I wasn’t being that bad because the products I was using were of the highest quality and usually served with a vegetable (a much smaller, insignificant vegetable side — but it was there),’ he wrote.
‘I had gone far down that rabbit hole of deliciousness, and I couldn’t escape.
‘I put on at least 30 pounds over the course of doing the show.’
He has lost 35 pounds since his heart attack, and now hosts a food podcast.
He said no food should be forbidden, but urged moderation.
‘I still believe there’s a place at the table for all foods,’ he wrote.
‘Some of our unhealthiest foods are also some of the world’s most culturally significant and should continue to be passed down from generation to generation. But these are often celebratory meals — and a random Wednesday in March is no reason for celebration.’
He concluded: ‘My heart attack forced me to bring balance and moderation to my diet. And as a byproduct, I’ve found balance in my life.’