Questions For. . . George Foreman

1222801534George Foreman is many things to many people. To boxing fans, he’s a former World Heavyweight Champion and Olympic gold medalist. And, of course, he is also the man behind the George Foreman Grill.

Foreman will appear in Boston wearing yet another hat—spokesman for the UFood Grill. The healthy fast-food chain is currently asking customers to sample the UBerry dessert or the UnFries and vote for their favorite. On Thursday, Foreman will announce the winner of the contest, and customers can enjoy the winning dish for free on Sunday.

We talked to Foreman about his favorite healthy foods, whether endorsing the UFood Grill is a conflict of interest for him, and the similarities between boxing and business.

Boston Daily: How did you get involved with UFood Grille?

George Foreman: Originally, the name was not as such.

BD: It was the Lo Fat Know Fat.

GF: In other words, to know all about it. I had done the George Foreman grilling machine, and we sold 100 million of those things. Everybody all over the world asked ‘George, when are you going to get your grill into restaurants?’ Everybody’s come to me with one restaurant after the other.

Now, I wanted to go into the restaurant business, but I didn’t want any association with successful restaurants because most of them sell alcohol. At no point was I going to do that. But I still wanted the name George Foreman associated with a restaurant so people could be comfortable eating good food. At that time, I had a talk with [UFood Grill owner] George Naddaff and we talked about what their whole philosophy was about feeding people in a fast fashion, but keeping some integrity with it. When I saw that, I said I’d sure like to be involved.

I think eventually UFood is going to be so successful that it will push every other franchise to beat it. And I’ll still win. I’ll look up and see all the other major restaurants selling good, healthy food. I’ll come out ahead because I’ll have something to leave to my children.

BD: A lot of fast-food restaurants are hopping on the bandwagon now by selling apples and salads. You believe that UFood Grill means it?

GF: When you start out on a good foot, you can only get better. It’s hard to jump off the bad foot and get to the good foot. [Other chains] are going to have a lot of trouble because if you’re not sold on something, and really believe in it, you’re not going to be successful at doing that thing. You’ll always go back to the quick buck. I think UFood is always going to be ahead of the game because the philosophy was always there.

BD: What do your kids like to eat at UFood?

GF: We’re trying to get one here [in Texas] so all the kids can get in. I’m the main eater of it. I’d be happy to get a couple of these franchises around Houston so my kids can get a chance to eat the food all the time. It’s good food. Whenever you give it to the kids, they love it. I don’t care how healthy a piece of food is—if it doesn’t taste good, you can forget about children.

BD: What are your favorites?

GF: Everything. I even have a dessert there.

BD: You have your own dessert?

GF: The desserts in there where they do something with the yogurt? That’s good. I’m not a dessert man, but I can eat it with a good conscious. They have the beef tips, bison burgers, there are so many good things to eat there. I like the rolls and the vegetables. You can get vegetables with anything you want. And there’s a fry that’s not truly a fry.

BD: Do you think the UnFries or the UBerry will be the winner?

GF: I don’t know. There’s just so much in there. I love the place for all the food. I’m a burger man, so you go there you’re gonna fall crazy for burgers.

BD: You mentioned the George Foreman Grill earlier. Do you think it’s a conflict of interest to endorse a restaurant with grills when you’re selling grills for home use?

GF: That’s why I’m doing the thing. So many people travel. They say, ‘Man, I have a grill and home and I’m enjoying myself. I’m feeling good. I’m eating right, I don’t have to worry about the doctor.’ Then all of a sudden, they leave home and have to go back to their bad habits. It’s such a wonderful thing to be associated with the UFood Grill because people can travel to the airports and they’ll find this all over the country. It’s a wonderful compliment to the George Foreman Grill.

BD: Do you have a travel grill in the works?

GF: Boy, would I be happy with one of those. I’ve had to fit this big one in my suitcase for too many years.

BD: You take the George Foreman with you when you travel?

GF: Yeah, especially for training camp. I’d check into hotels and get permission and I’d have my George Foreman right there.

BD: What do you like to cook on your grill?

GF: I like salmon, of course. And asparagus. I could have asparagus and salmon 24/7. I love it.

BD: What’s harder for you—business or boxing?

GF: Boxing was a rough call. I had to get up in the morning and box when you’re not boxing. You have to think about it—it’s not something you can put down. Business is pretty much the same. You can’t just decide to take a vacation and let something go. If I let this go, there will not be business. It’s frightening.

BD: Even now that you’ve sold millions of grills?

GF: You cannot relax. It’s one of those things you need to worry about all the time. Because you’re selling. I tell my kids all the time— “I want you to get all the degrees in the world and study hard, but unless you learn to sell, you’re gonna starve.” So I work on selling all the time.

BD: How do you keep your five sons straight?

GF: Well, I named them all George because I wanted to give them something they’d always have in common. The first was Little George, who’s bigger than all of us now. The next one we call Monk, which was my original nickname. People called me “monkey” when I was little. The next one is Big Will after my grandfather. Then Red was supposed to be the last one. We called him the stoplight, but he wasn’t. Then the last one we call Joe.

BD: Why Joe?

GF: After my wife’s father, who was named Joseph. I don’t know how I remembered all that. Normally, I can’t remember those things.

BD: Did you watch the Olympics this year?

GF: Yeah, it was a lot of fun. There wasn’t a whole lot of boxing that did that well, but it was pretty inspirational. You find yourself jumping out of your seat saying ‘Come on, come on, come on.’ Take the breath right out of you. But we needed that excitement.

BD: Which UFood do you go to when you’re in Boston?

GF: I forgot the address, but I’m going to be making stops at all of them. Testing the food. I’m the official food taster.

BD: Will you eventually develop a specialty dish for UFood?

GF: See, you’re already into marketing. What ideas you’re giving me!

BD: You can feel free to use that one if you want to.

GF: That’s the next thing I’ll unveil.

BD: What will it be? A burger, something with chicken…?

GF: It’ll always be something that features a burger. That’ll be for certain.

You can sample the UBerry dessert or the UnFries at any UFood Grill location today and tomorrow and vote for your favorite. UFood will give away the winning item all day Sunday.