Chef to bring vegetarian message to GH on Thursday

Chef Mark Anthony made a lifestyle change five years ago that he says helped him lose 80 pounds and cut his cholesterol level in more than half. From steak, shrimp, fast-food burgers and fries to fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains - and from 305 pounds to 225 - Anthony has some tips of his own he shares with people around the country.
Lydia Coutré
Jul 26, 2011

“I just like to show people what’s worked for me,” Anthony said. “… I told people just to simplify the way they eat. Just eat more fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains. And it’s better to eat something that is a plant — not something that was manufactured in a plant.”

While working as a chef in a hospital, Anthony said he saw how big of a problem cholesterol is and decided to shift to a vegetarian diet. Since then, he has traveled throughout the country performing “Dinner and a Message,” a live vegetarian cooking show. Last year, Anthony said he did 240 events in every continental state.

Anthony will share his knowledge and a full meal with residents at 6 p.m. Thursday in the Grand Haven Community Center, 421 Columbus Ave.

“The live cooking shows are great,” he said. “I actually cook a whole meal for everybody right in front of them. It’s a free event, so nobody has to pay at the door or anything, and it’s not a sales pitch for anything. It’s fun.”

Anthony said he is completely funded by donations, which have covered his expenses for two years.

Wanda Hanson helped the Seventh-day Adventist Church bring Anthony to Grand Haven. Hanson, a vegetarian for more than 50 years, said it is important that people know the principles of vegetarianism.

“So you need to understand the appropriate needs of the body,” Hanson said. “If you’ve not been a vegetarian, it’s hard to learn how to change your diet and how to find recipes, how to make food palpable and enjoyable for people.”

Anthony hopes to make vegetarianism more accessible.

“You don’t have to do everything all at once, but you do have to be on that path and continuing motion,” Anthony said. “… You have to go through these steps, and I’ll tell you, years later, I cannot believe that I used to eat the way that I used to eat. It’s day and night.”

Hanson warns against eating a poor vegetarian diet.

“You can just live on cake and cookies and be a vegetarian, but it wouldn’t be a good vegetarian diet,” she said.

Hanson said she hopes Anthony can raise knowledge about and interest in vegetarianism. A good first step is to replace a couple of meals a week with vegetarian options, Anthony said.

Anthony, who is from Las Vegas, has worked as an executive chef in a casino and has done a lot of individualized cooking for celebrities — including Joan Jett, who is vegan.

“It was real easy for me to flip over into cooking vegetarian because I already knew all the food from one end of the spectrum to the other,” Anthony said.

He said what people need to pay attention to in their diet is cholesterol.

“It’s absolutely the biggest problem,” he said. “And the funny part is, it’s the easiest, biggest solution.”

After a couple of months of getting the animal fat and cholesterol out of his diet, Anthony said he started to crave healthy products.

“And so, once you get off the cholesterol, your body starts doing the job it’s supposed to be doing and removing all those harmful particles,” he said.

Faith Florea of Seventh-day Adventist Church will be helping Anthony prepare the meal on Thursday. As a vegetarian for 18 years, Florea said she hopes to learn more from Anthony while helping to teach the audience about a vegetarian diet.

“I hope that they get an idea that vegetarianism is fun as well as helpful, and that it’s not limited,” she said. “There’s just a myriad of dishes and things that can be made, and so they’re not losing anything by giving up meat.”

Florea said she is looking forward to seeing how she can apply Anthony’s techniques to her own kitchen.

“I read cookbooks like they’re novels — it’s just fun,” she said. “I enjoy cooking, and I enjoy new and different dishes. It adds variety and excitement to the meal, and I think that’s what he’s going to bring.”

Anthony said those interested in learning more can visit his website, http://chefmarkanthony.com, for recipes and more information.Chef to bring vegetarian message to GH on Thursday

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