Don’t call Brittany Griffith a chef. The title makes her uneasy. “To me, chef is almost like a military rank,” Griffith says. “A real chef would bristle at people referring to me as a trained chef. I’m a cook. I love cooking.”
Whether she wants to accept the title or not, the fact is, Griffith makes her living by cooking food for other people. She’s a professional climber, yes, known for knocking out ambitious trad routes all over the globe, including the 5.12 Battling Begonias in Yemen, but she’s also an ambassador for Patagonia Provisions, the eco-conscious food division of the outdoor brand. Griffith cooks at events and climbing festivals, teaching customers how to use the ingredients that Patagonia Provisions sources. She’s even prepared Thanksgiving dinner for the Chouinards, the family that owns Patagonia. The job title of cook, Griffith admits, suits her better than pro climber.
“Climbing is just exercise,” Griffith says. “It’s a way to be outside and have adventures, but I’m not addicted to it like I am cooking. I have to cook every day. I’d sooner quit climbing than quit cooking.” Griffith had a talent for food from a young age. “I always had this weird instinct with putting ingredients together,” she says. “When I was a kid, I just knew a saltine cracker and Velveeta cheese would be incredible.” Since then, preparing meals has always played an integral role in her climbing adventures. “Food is the best way to interact with the community, whether it’s figuring out what to make with limited ingredients on a mountaintop or slicing onions with women in a different country.”
Griffith started climbing during a 1994 postcollege road trip with her boyfriend at the time. She was a natural and has spent the last 25 years putting together an impressive résumé that includes first ascents in Venezuela, Oman, and Kenya. She’s a 5.13 sport and trad climber who has been living the pro-climber dream for decades with the support of big brand sponsorships. At 51 years old, Griffith is still very much on the go, usually traveling more than 200 days of the year for climbing adventures and cooking engagements. But like many of us, her work has come to a halt during the pandemic. Instead of panicking or succumbing to anxiety, Griffith is choosing to focus on the silver lining and concentrating on what’s most important to her. “Everyone is always trying to do too much, but now our lives are broken down into just the necessities,” Griffith says. “Exercise, grow food, eat food. We don’t have to be distracted by five different things right now.”
Griffith says her routine at home in Salt Lake City isn’t that much different than her homelife before the pandemic. Now, though, she has much more time to do the things she loves because she’s not moving around—a position that she acknowledges she’s lucky to be in. “Even driving to the climbing gym used to take an hour out of my day,” she says.
“I have to cook every day. I’d sooner quit climbing than quit cooking.”
Griffith never bothered putting together much of a home gym, because she traveled so much and relied on Salt Lake’s climbing gyms while she was home. Now she’s been using a luggage scale to find different weighted items around her house and yard—a chain bike lock that weighs 15 pounds is great for weighted pull-ups. She also hung some old gymnastics rings in her garage and is using blocks of wood as pinch blocks. Her workout consists of push-ups, dips on the rings, hanging leg lifts, or just hanging from the two-by-six-inch beam that supports the whole garage. And she’ll make games out of it all: while hanging from the beam, she’ll try to touch her toes to the rake in the corner, or do a set of push-ups and then pick some greens in the garden.
“I think the key to exercise is to keep it simple and do things you like to do,” Griffith says. “I hate running, so I don’t do it. So much stuff we choose to do is crazy, just because someone says it’s good for us. Who likes CrossFit? Is that fun for anyone?”
Griffith takes a similar approach to nutrition, insisting that her diet has been consistent since she was a child. Instead of following a rigorous nutrition plan or adopting trendy diets, she sticks to one guiding principle: she only eats food that makes her feel good. She relies largely on vegetables (preferably those grown in her own garden) and meat from her local butcher. She loves the smoked salmon from Patagonia Provisions and says her one true guilty pleasure is chips and salsa. “I don’t think hamburgers are bad for you, they just don’t make me feel good, so I don’t eat them,” Griffith says. “Everyone is different. Everyone’s diet should be different. I was lucky. I figured out what works for me when I was a kid, so I didn’t have to go through that Whole30 process when I was an adult.”
Griffith says the current situation is a good opportunity for us to figure out which foods work and which we should scrap from our daily routines—we’re all cooking our own meals during quarantine, which gives us greater control over the ingredients. “Cooking for yourself is the root of good health,” she says. “It’s interesting how these ideas of simplicity are coming together right now. You have to stay at home, and you have to make your own food.”
Although she admits that the prospect can be intimidating for people who have never spent much time in the kitchen, she has some advice: “You don’t have to go to school or even take a class to learn how to cook. Just don’t be afraid. Make what you like, experiment.”