40-day, beer-only diet comes to an end for Chicago man with ... cream in his coffee
Chicago bar owner Patrick Berger’s Lenten fast follows a 17th century Bavarian monk tradition.
After 40 days of not letting so much as a crumb of food pass his lips, Patrick Berger’s Lenten fast might have ended in a Cookie Monster-like eating orgy.
Instead, when the finish line arrived at midnight Wednesday, the 46-year-old bar owner was asleep. And Thursday morning, after surviving on nothing but beer, coffee and vitamins, Berger was enjoying ... a cup of coffee with cream, a dairy product forbidden during his fast.
“It’s not like I can just plow into a steak right now,” said Berger, whose doctor has told him to slowly ease back into solid foods. So he was planning to have a bowl of “garlic soup” Thursday at one of his two Chicago bars, Paddy Long’s. He also owns Kaiser Tiger.
It’s been a peculiar — and at times, worrying — period for Berger during a quest that has roots in 17th century Bavarian monk culture. At the midpoint of his fast, Berger said that despite drinking three to four beers daily, he had not in any way grown weary of his foamy food.
Then, things got scarier as the coronavirus spread, with cases now popping up all across Illinois.
“Keeping it up during a global pandemic was certainly an unforeseen challenge,” he said. “[Facing] this whole kind of end-of-the-world vibe — the natural instinct to hoard food is a real thing.”
The 6-foot-4-inch Berger, who shed 34 pounds from his 291-pound frame during the fast, said he worried he might have developed a compromised immune system that would make him more susceptible to the worst complications of the virus.
With his bars closed, Berger and his business partner had to make the difficult decision last week to lay off almost all of the staff.
“We just couldn’t continue to pay them,” Berger said. Both places are set to reopen — albeit with a much-reduced staff — for “contact-less curbside pick up and delivery,” he said.
In the end, it was Berger’s wife who kept him from quitting the fast. “Ultimately, she was my greatest supporter,” he said.
As his “deflated balloon” stomach begins to expand, Berger said he’ll tuck into the thing he’s most craving: meat.
“I’m dreaming of a steak,” he said.
And to wash it down? Quite possibly, a beer.
“I’m sure I’ll have one today,” he said.