Island chef can whip up a souffle or a bodybuilding competition win

September 17, 2021
By T Michele Walker

You can always count on a chef to whip it, whip it good (Devo). And when you’re a professional Boca Grande chef like Trish McIlroy, that “whipping” extends to bodybuilding.

Trish McIlroy is the NPC Ironman first place winner of the Masters 40+ division, a competition that was just held at the Sarasota Opera House on September 11.

“And the big win for me,” said Trish on her Facebook page. “First Place Masters 40+. I kept standing there thinking, ‘Dang, they haven’t called my number yet. I might get third. Wait, I think I’m getting second.’ Then holy ****! I won the class!”

A single mom for 27 years, Trish McIlroy is originally from Indianapolis, Indiana, where she has worked as a professional chef since 2007. Preparing gourmet fare for such notables as The Von Trapp family and Desmond Tutu, Trish enjoyed a successful career in Indiana.

“I’ve always wanted to live in Florida, and I was noticing that a lot of my clients were getting older, retiring, and spending less time in Indiana and more time here. I thought, why don’t I live in Florida, and then in the summertime I will go back to Indiana and cook for some clients.”

While Trish’s daughter was getting ready to graduate college in Boston, her son, Cameron was preparing ready for high school. “I thought that it might be the best time to make the move so he’s in just one high school for the full four years. That was the deciding factor to go ahead and make the big move, He went to Lemon Bay High School, and he is a Boca Grande Woman’s Club scholarship recipient. He now attends Indiana University for business school.”

Life in Florida has been sunny for Trish, as she works as a professional chef in Boca Grande.

“I’ve been on the island since 2017; I have monthly retainer clients that I work for throughout the season,” she said. “Sotheby’s recommends me to their renters as well as other people that rent their homes. I do have a website, bocagrandechef.com.”

It was the spring of 2020, right before the pandemic, when Trish had an awakening.

“I felt like I was having an identity crisis,” she explained. “My son was getting to graduate high school. I been a single mom for 27 years and I don’t think I was willing to recognize how much that was affecting me, that he was getting ready to leave.”

Trish’s challenges weren’t just emotional, but physical.

“I was definitely eating my feelings,” Trish admitted. “I was gaining weight and not taking care of myself very well. I looked in the mirror one day and thought, ‘Man, I’ve got to get this together and figure out who I am now that I’m not going to be a full-time mom all the time.’”

During a time when most of us were gaining the “COVID 15” as they call the weight gained during the shutdown, Trish went in a different direction. “I was always interested in doing a bodybuilding competition. I wasn’t sure if I had what it took, but I thought the only way I’m going to find out is if I start the process. I started searching for a coach and I found Holly Beck.”

Trish couldn’t have been in better hands. Holly Beck is the owner of Becks Body Culture, an IFBB Figure Pro (since 2009), an Olympia Athlete (2011), NPC State Judge, Personal Trainer, Competition Prep and Posing Coach located in Sarasota, Florida.

 “I met with Holly in March of 2020 and just told her what my goals were. I just wanted to start the process and see if I could even become competitive. She’s always very honest and said ‘We’ll see how your work ethic is if you follow the plan and we’ll see what your body does.’”

For Trish, the results were amazing. She trained for 18 months, all culminating on stage at the Sarasota Opera House for the September 11 competition.

“It’s been such a whirlwind,” admitted Trish. “I had no expectations since it was my first show. I went in and felt that if I even placed in one of my classes, that would be great. It was just completely shocking that I placed in every class and won two of them.”

Trish place first in Masters 35+ class B, first in Masters 40+, second in Novice class B, third in Open Class B, and fifth in overall True Novice, winning five trophies, two Ironman Class Champion rings, and two beautiful watches.

With one more competition to go in Lakeland, Florida on the 25, Trish is looking forward to some downtime and perhaps getting back to her day job.

“My goal is to get my IFBB pro card. And after this competition on the 25, I will go into what they call the offseason. I won’t be prepping for a show anymore, so I can add more food and build more muscle, so it’s a little more relaxed and less restrictive. When you go off-season, you can have a cheat meal and go back to your date nights and hang out at girl’s night out and things like that. I can get a bit of socialization back in my life in the offseason, which will be nice.”

Trish is also looking forward to doing some cooking.

“I love the island,” she said. “It feels like this little secret place in heaven. The people that live there are just so nice and down to earth.”

For those looking for fitness tips, Trish has a few secrets to share.

“It’s so interesting because before I started this process, I was a HIIT cardio girl, killing myself in a gym,” Trish said. “I would do cardio classes every day and not see a lot of results. In the fitness industry and bodybuilding world, they say you ‘Build your body in the kitchen, and you sculpt it in the gym,’ which is completely true.”

“Women are afraid to get into the weight room. They spend a lot of the time on the cardio and actually, you’re just burning away everything that you’re working to build up in the cardio classes.”

At age 48, Trish is just getting started. “It’s all these building steps. Now that I am nationally qualified, I can go to a national show. The only way you could earn a pro card in bodybuilding is if you compete nationally and win a show in your class. At the competition, I entered the bikini open that is not restricted by age. I was going against girls that were my children’s age and I placed third. I felt like a winner just because I had physically gotten my body to a place I never thought I could get it. It feels amazing.”