EFFINGHAM — As one of the youngest executive chefs working in Las Vegas casinos, Mark Anthony was serving over 30,000 clients every weekend, as well as catering for celebrities such as Jack Nicholas, Montel Williams and Joan Jett.
Now, more than 20 years later and 80 pounds lighter, he’s touring the country spreading the word of vegan cooking and decreasing dependence on cholesterol and processed foods. During a stop at the VFW in Effingham, Anthony said the most important thing for individuals working toward a healthier diet is taking a first step.
“Don’t just stop at the first step,” he said. “Too many people take one step and they stop and you can keep going further.”
Anthony’s shift in eating habits began primarily as a sort of personal challenge. He took a friendly bet to go without red meat for 40 days before deciding to cut out dairy and go full vegan. Despite the initial challenges, he said the key to committing to a healthier lifestyle was in self-control.
“We need to make sure that our minds are in control of our bodies instead of our bodies being in control of our minds,” he said. “People are giving in to their bodies in more ways than one but especially when it comes to food. They just give their body whatever it wants and wonder why they’re gaining weight.”
Anthony showed attendees recipes for a “cheese sauce,” made primarily of diced potatoes, carrots and nutritional yeast, a bean pot with vegetables, and bulgur wheat. He said one of the things people should take away from the presentation is a consideration for how recipes can be modified or reworked to create a healthier lifestyle.
“I teach concepts about cooking,” he said. “I want you to learn concepts for cooking, not just recipes.”
Anthony said those changes are able to not only make an impression on each individual but can lead to larger, healthier trends at a local level, with one person proving to be the health inspiration for many.