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Mark Anthony brings his healthful home-cooking show to Hagerstown

April 09, 2013|By CHRIS COPLEY | chrisc@herald-mail.com
  • Mark Anthony leads cooking demonstrations across the country to promote healthful eating.
Nicole Issa /

Mark Anthony's cooking career has run through some pretty high-profile terrain. He was named executive chef at the Las Vegas Sands resort complex when he was only 24 years old. He appears on national TV. He has catered or served as personal chef for rock bands, politicians and sports heroes.

But Anthony got his start in cooking in another sort of high-profile terrain: Mount Rushmore.

"I think I was 12 when I started cooking. That was in a restaurant in Keystone, right next to Mt. Rushmore (in South Dakota)," he said during a telephone interview in North Carolina on tour. "We lived in a tourist area (and) had thousands of tourists every day. So they were hiring everybody they could, and they let kids work."

Now 48, Anthony has pivoted his long career in a new direction, toward health education. Over the past six years, he has traveled the United States, leading cooking demonstrations and promoting healthful eating. On Thursday, April 18, he will bring his show to Hagerstown Seventh-day Adventist Church, east of Hagers-town. The show is free; however, advance registration is required.

A week ago, Anthony spoke by phone about his career and about the day a doctor told him he needed to lose weight.

According to your bio, you were executive chef at the Sands resort for many years. But now you see yourself as more of a health educator?

My last real job was executive chef with Sodexho (Dining Services) opening up (kitchen facilities at) new hospitals. And here I am 300 pounds, finding out how unhealthy people are in the hospitals. I said to myself, "I don't want to end up being one of these people in this hospital."



Were you always heavy? What was dinner like when you were young?

We ate the most unhealthy food in the world — pork chops, rib-eye steaks, cheese everywhere, hamburger casseroles. And everyone in my family is 300 or more pounds. My sister was 455 pounds. They're all on blood-pressure medicine or Type 2 diabetics. My sister died at the age of 54 from cancer. That's how unhealthy the whole family is.

Did you have any foods you hated when you were a kid?

No, I ate everything.

That's pretty unusual.

The amazing part, though, is I would never eat, like, oatmeal. I would never eat salad. The only way I would eat salad was if it on a cheeseburger. But when you go vegan, your tastebuds change, because you don't have all that animal fat on your tastebuds. So your tastebuds do the job they're supposed to be doing. So now I crave oatmeal. I crave salad. I crave all those healthy foods.


How did you get from South Dakota to Las Vegas? Did you go there for culinary school?

I never went to culinary arts school. I went to college in Tacoma, Wash. But I read a lot of books and worked at quite a few different restaurants. When I checked out culinary arts' schools, I found out I knew more than the instructors did. But I started opening up restaurants for JB's and Denny's, went to Laughland, Nev., and got a job as a sous chef. And then Las Vegas, Nev. At that's where, at the age of 24, I was the youngest executive chef ever for a casino there. I'm doing big events. I always did big-volume events. I'm a production chef.

Did you have a life-changing event that turned you around?

It was in that doctor's lounge in Las Vegas. All the doctors were telling me, "Mark, you got to get off the cholesterol. That's what's killing everybody." And I told the doctors, "How about if I go 40 days without eating red meat?" And that's what I did.

They were making bets on me. I didn't know it at the time, but it's Vegas. They bet on anything.



So you went 40 days without eating red meat? And then?

Then one doctor said, "Mark, you gotta get off the milk and cheese. That's the worst of anything."

I told myself, "You know what? I'll go all vegan."



So how are you doing on a vegan diet?

So far, I've lost probably 80 pounds by now. I haven't touched my scale in a while, but I had to put a new hole in my belt loop.

Did bloodwork recently. Cholesterol used to be 263, and now it's down to 118. Everything in my blood test was just perfect. Doctors were so surprised. My protein was perfect. My calcium was perfect.

So I did more and more homework. And found out that the vegan lifestyle is the healthiest on the planet.

So now you're touring and doing cooking demonstrations. Tell me about that.

I had a couple churches that called me up and wanted me to come out and do shows. I've been doing shows on 3ADM Worldwide Television. So people see me on television there and they're calling me up, wanting me to do cooking shows.

So God just inspired me to do some tours. I started touring, and I've been doing it full-time ever since. The last five years I've done over 1,000 speakings and over 600 cooking shows alone. I've done them in every single state in the country, including Alaska and Hawaii.

I've never had to charge anybody anything. We pass the hat around. I've never had to charge people to come to the event or charge the churches for food costs or traveling expenses. Even airfare. God provided every step of the way.

I've done shows at senior centers, hospitals, universities. Bowling alleys, even, museums. It doesn't matter where.



What can people expect when they attend your seminar in Hagerstown?

My whole concept is to inspire and motivate people. I cook a full meal right in front of them. I don't get too technical about things, even though I've got a lot of doctors' facts. I talk about myths and interpretations people have about certain products and certain concepts.

I keep it on the light side. Tell stories. Tell them what worked for me to lose the weight and get healthy.

And I tell them ways to redesign their kitchen to make it more user-friendly. I show them how to make oatmeal stations, and how to redesign their refrigerator into a salad bar.

You gotta make it fun. I don't like putting people to sleep.



Sounds like you have a spiritual dimension to your work. Are you Seventh-day Adventist?

Yes. I grew up Catholic, but I'm really not into religion. Anytime you get into denominations, you get divisions. I find that if I'm a Christian, and I focus on the Bible, and what the Bible says, (that's enough). But I do like to have my programs inspire spiritually, too.

The big thing is when you get healthier physically, you'll get healthier spiritually. I do like my program to inspire. You have a better connection with God.

That's why I like to inspire people to start getting healthy. (I get them started and) let God do the rest.



Do you cook at home? Or does someone else cook at home?

(Laughs) My wife does more cooking than I do. She makes anything without onion. I do the cooking at home when I go into my test kitchen area and create for recipes. And I'll do that a lot. I think around the the holidays I did new recipes. I'm measuring every teaspoon and tablespoon. I hate measuring with teaspoons and tablespoons and cups! I grew up old school — just  throwing it all together. But when you're doing recipes that people who have a fear of cooking (will try), you've got to have those recipes right.



What do you like to do outside of the kitchen? What do you do to relax?

I'm a good sleeper. We're walkers and hikers. We will hit the mountains and go hiking. In Vegas, we'll get on the strip and do power walking.

In the wintertime, or sometimes, we'll be up north, we'll find the closest mall, and we start doing laps. Holidays are really fun, because you gotta dodge (shoppers).


My daughter was vegan. I was surprised by how much I still enjoyed eating vegan foods. I was afraid vegan food would be bland.

What I recommend is spice it up. Give it a blast of flavor, especially during the transition period. I do a lot of recipes like vegan chicken-fried steaks, vegan barbecued ribs.

I spice it up. I get carried away. At my events, I'll blast things with spices. It's actually fun. You'll see exceptional results.



Some people think making a major dietary change is too hard.

When I do my cooking shows, I tell people you don't have to it all at once. You can take a step at a time. But don't take one step, like going without red meat, and stop. take more and more steps and eventually you'll get there. Eventually, you'll get to the end of the tunnel.

Going vegan, you actually cook less. You're eating more fresh fruits and vegetables. I probably do 70 percent, 80 percent raw food now, because I eat more salads, fresh fruits and vegetables. I eat a lot of oatmeal. You'll save a lot of money, too, and it saves you a lot of time.



If you go  ...

WHAT: Celebrity chef Mark Anthony

WHEN: 6 p.m. Thursday, April 18

WHERE: Hagerstown Seventh-day Adventist Church, 11507 Robinwood Drive, east of Hagerstown

COST: Free; advanced reservations required

CONTACT: Call 301-733-4411



Vegan ribs

3/4 cup gluten flour (see cook's note)

1/4 cup rice flour

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 cup water

1 tablespoon beef-flavored vegetarian broth base

6 cinnamon sticks

1 cup barbecue sauce



Heat oven to 300 degrees.

Combine gluten flour, rice flour, garlic and onion.

In a separate container, mix water with beef-flavored soup base.

Combine broth with the flour mixture to form a lose dough that doesn't quite hold together. If it holds together too tightly, add a little water. When the dough is ready, divide into 12 equal balls.

Spray a sheet pan.

To make the ribs, take one dough ball and form a 2-inch-by-3-inch patty, about 1/4-inch thick, on the sheet pan. Then place a cinnamon stick on top, sticking out over one end like a chicken drumstick. Form another patty the same size as the first and lay on top of the first patty. Press together. Shape the combined patties to create a rib-shaped product.

Continue with 10 remaining dough balls.

Bake for 40 minutes, flipping the ribs every 10 minutes. Now they are ready to refrigerate, freeze or finish cooking.

To finish cooking, splash with barbecue sauce and bake at 400 degrees for about 7 minutes on each side, or grill over flame, or pan fry to get some glazing on the ribs. This high-heat cooking will give them the real rib look.

Splash with additional barbecue sauce before serving, if desired.

Cook's note: Mark Anthony uses Arrowhead Mills Vital Wheat Gluten Flour.

—  Courtesy of Mark Anthony

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