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Survival Instinct: Matthew von Ertfelda
by Andrew Davis

This article shared 7121 times since Wed Jun 18, 2003
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When Matthew von Ertfelda says that he wants to squeeze every drop out of life that he can, you tend to believe him.

The cosmopolitan 'Survivor: Amazon' runner-up was born in Hong Kong and was raised in Massachusetts. In prep school, he graduated with honors and played football. He then graduated (with distinction, of course) from the School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University in New York ... and followed that with a diploma (with honors) from L'Ecole de Gastronomie Française Ritz- Escoffier in Paris. He's crossed the Darien Gap in South America, organized a cannibal-hunting trek in New Guinea, participated in research expeditions, and competed in triathlons as well as marathons. In addition, the Washington, D.C.-based restaurant designer loves (among other things) rock climbing, screenwriting, cooking, and weightlifting. Obviously, the man doesn't sit around for long. I recently talked with von Ertfelda about 'Survivor,' good wine, and—of course—health and fitness.

Windy City Times: Do people treat you differently now [after 'Survivor']?

Matthew von Ertfelda: It's funny. I obviously attract a lot more attention when I go out. People come up to me, introduce themselves, and console me. (Laughs) It's definitely a neat feeling to be recognized and to know you have more supporters than detractors.

WCT: Detractors?

MVE: Well, you never know. I never really knew how they would edit me and if [the result] would be favorable or unfavorable ... or if they would take a remark out of context.

WCT: I think ['Survivor' winner] Jenna would agree with that.

MVE: Yeah, there was definitely creative editing but, overall, it was pretty accurate.

WCT: How surprised were you by Jenna's margin of victory? [She won 6-1.] Frankly, I was stunned.

MVE: A lot of people told me they were shocked. I personally was not shocked at all. I knew before I left the Amazon that I had lost the game, based on what I knew about the jury. I was never part of the social clique that made up most of the jury. Also, I think jealousy, sympathy, and pride played roles in the vote ... and, to be honest, I'm not bitter about the execution at all. Jenna won some critical challenges in the end, won over the jury, and won the game.

WCT: What was the worst part about 'Survivor?'

MVE: It had to be the dehydration. At one point, I was almost hallucinating.

WCT: For an execution, you were pretty well-compensated.

MVE: Yeah! But I never really did it for the money; I did it for the challenge. Had I won the million, I would've donated a portion of the funds to various charities.

WCT: Speaking of the million, you said that if you had won you also would've treated yourself to a 1929 bottle of ...

MVE: Chateau d'Yquem. I like good wines. A glass or two a night can be healthy. I have a real penchant for dessert wines and Chateau d'Yquem is the best of the best and [1929] was a great year. Right now, I'm going to have to put [the wine] on the back burner. Now, I have to make a million.

WCT: Is it true that you speak seven languages?

MVE: (Laughs) My father loves to say that I speak seven languages. I don't even consider myself to be fluent in English. No ... I actually consider myself to be proficient in three languages: English, French, and Mandarin Chinese. I've studied and can certainly converse (although not expertly) in German, Spanish, Bahasa Indonesia, and Swedish. I love to study languages and make a fool out of myself. Even if you only know a couple of words when you go to a foreign country, it can really open doors.

WCT: You're a pretty busy guy. What type of diet and exercise regimen do you have?

MVE: I've been working out since I was a little kid. Now, I do about 45 minutes of bodybuilding and 20 minutes of cardio Monday through Friday and on weekends I run outside for about 1-1/2 to 2 hours, depending on how sunny it is. During the week, it's like this: One day I'll do tri[cep]s and bi[cep]s, the next day shoulders and back, the next day the chest, followed by legs, and then I'll go back and do the cycle. I always allow enough rest in between [working out] muscle groups. I also tend to do a high amount of reps with low weights because I'm not trying to bulk up. My brother is a bodybuilder ...

WCT: Yeah, I was going to ask about him. How much of an influence has he been?

MVE: He's in incredible shape. There was a time when he was literally bigger than Arnold Schwarzenegger and he used to beat the living daylights out of me. (Laughs) I learned that I had to build some muscle mass just to survive—no pun intended—in my family. He's really religious about his diet and exercise.

WCT: And what about your diet?

MVE: I try to avoid sweets. I try to keep my carbohydrate intake low. Sometimes I binge, I'm embarrassed to say, but generally I try to maintain some type of seesaw. I'm in the food and beverage business so, during market research, I eat and drink in various restaurants but the next day I may do an hour of cardio and eat a light lunch and dinner.

The thing is, if I do have a fattening meal, I'll feel guilty and the next day I'll make a special effort to [regain] the seesaw. I think guilt can be good.

As for working out, my boss says I'm obsessed. I don't think I am but I really like working out; it gives you that natural high and boosts my efficiency and productivity at work.

WCT: You also like one of my favorite sports: tennis.

MVE: Sure. When I was a kid, my dad constructed a tennis court on the property. Unfortunately, when I became a teenager, I was good enough to beat my brother and father ... and then they refused to play with me. I still [hit] the ball around [on occasion]. I love all sorts of sports as long as they aren't too sophisticated.

WCT: Being such a world traveler, I assume you've been to Chicago.

MVE: Yeah, I was there recently and went to the restaurant mk. It's a wonderful (and, unfortunately, expensive) restaurant with probably the best wine list I've ever seen.

WCT: Being a chef, what's your favorite healthful dish to whip up?

MVE: I really like chicken with herbs, garlic, and olive oil ... and I never, ever use butter.

This article shared 7121 times since Wed Jun 18, 2003
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