Mark Anthony brings his healthful home-cooking show to Hagerstown
Mark Anthony leads cooking demonstrations across the country to promote healthful eating. (Nicole Issa / / June 2, 2010)
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?