Healthy Taste of LA 3 Delivers SOS Message
Kicking off the Saturday evening dinner was a cheery welcome to the 104 attendees by Chef AJ and Pastor John Jensen, with Dr. Hans Diehl giving thanks for good food and good health.
Each of the tasty dinner courses was prepared by a different chef, who would be demonstrating recipes and sharing cooking techniques on Sunday. Dinner began with Chef AJ's delicious, thick and creamy Holiday Nog along with Baked Corn Chips and lightly spiced Chipotle Corn Salsa. This course was followed by a tasty bowl of Chef Ramses Bravo's Tortilla Soup. The entrée was Chef Ann Gentry's Leafy Green Salad with Tahini Lemon Dressing sharing the plate with Chef AJ's Enchilada Strada. Concluding the meal was Madonna's Coconut Mousse by Chef Eric LeChasseur.
Featured event of the evening was keynote speaker Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., author of Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease. The doctor surprised many in the audience by not discussing the topic of heart disease, but instead related an event in his life he considered momentous--his rowing team's earning an Olympic medal while he was attending medical school.
Sunday's program began with a breakfast of Chef AJ's delicious Overnight Muesli. Then the 250 attendees gathered in the church's sanctuary for the program that began dramatically with Chef AJ parading down the center aisle to the familiar musical strains of Miss America. Chef AJ and Dietitian Julieanna Hever presented their Chef and the Dietitian video displaying their holiday recipes, all prepared without sugar, oil, or salt.
John Pierre, 30-year vegan, fitness trainer and geriatric consultant, emphasized the importance of movement and demonstrated several easy movements to encourage everyone to incorporate physical exercise into their daily lives. JP stressed the value of body movement to keep the immune system strong and weight bearing exercise for bone health.
Earlier in the year, JP teamed up with Chef AJ to offer a 30-day healthy eating challenge and introduced two of their students who shared their successes: dramatic weight loss and improved health.
Opening the cooking demos was Chef Ramses Bravo, executive chef at True North Health Center in Santa Rosa, who demonstrated his Nutty Dough and Fig Bars. When asked if it was difficult to give up salt, he said, "At first it was challenging to prepare foods without sugar, oil, and salt and still make them taste appealing." Next on his menu was a hearty Red Lentil Loaf with Yellow Bell Pepper Coulis.
Chef Ann Gentry, owner of Real Food Daily Restaurant, shared her philosophy about eating less, chewing food well, and including plant proteins to avoid craving sweet desserts. She demonstrated her lively Red Bean and Seasoned Tempeh Chili.
Lunch break was a delightful sampling of the two chef's dishes, followed by Dr. Esselstyn's address. In a Powerpoint presentation, he shared his experience helping 18 very sick patients reverse their heart disease on a strict plant-based diet free of any kind of oil. He stressed that oil damages the endothelium, the thin membrane that protects the lining of the arteries.
Dr. Diehl introduced his wife, Lily, who delighted the audience with her clever demonstration on removing pomegranate seeds under water. The technique was quick, clean, and surprisingly easy. Then Ann Esselstyn shared her Kale Salad lovingly massaged with tahini-free hummus and accented with mango, raspberries, and pomegranate seeds. Ann demonstrated an easy appetizer of Deviled Baby Potatoes.
French Chef Eric LeChasseur, owner of Seed Kitchen, and his wife, Sanai Suzuki from Japan, concluded the cooking demonstrations with an international flavor. Together they prepared a tasty salad of Arame Sea Vegetable with Sweet Corn, Kale Salad with Sesame Tahini Dressing, and Oatmeal Cherry Kisses Cookies. After the demos, the audience took a short break to sample the dishes.
Dr. Roger Gould, a psychiatrist and author of Shrink Yourself, spoke about reaching inside the brain to overcome the challenges of overeating.
Throughout the day Chef AJ drew door-prize tickets to offer numerous giveaways of cookbooks, discount coupons at a vegan restaurant, and a free ticket to next year's Healthy Taste of LA4. Her quick humor and zesty enthusiasm kept the attendees in a continuous state of high energy. It was a memorable day, offering loads of healthful information to digest.
Chef AJ left the stage with an emphatic take-home message, "Good health is something everyone can achieve by being proactive, focusing on a diet of whole, plant-based foods without sugar, oil, or salt, avoiding processed, refined foods, and exercising regularly."