CONSUMING nutritious food is an important part of any longevity programme. That makes a chef who understands the value of a diet geared towards anti-aging just as valuable as a nutritionist.
US chef Salomon Montezinos is passionate not only about food, but also about how it is prepared and how it can nourish the human body.
At the beginning of his book, Discovering Raw Alkaline Cuisine, he writes: “I am a chef. It is my passion … it is what I love. I am not a doctor, a dietician, a nutritionist or a scientist. I am a human being that has experienced the results on my body of a variety of different foods over my lifetime.”
The experience Montezinos is referring to isn’t just in his own kitchen; he has put his culinary expertise to work in some of the most highly rated restaurants in the world, including Switzerland’s St Moritz Palace Restaurant, Lausanne’s Beau Rivage, Bern’s Palace Hotel and the Hotel Gutsch in Lucerne. While his early exploits preparing food took place in such culinary-rich countries such as France, the Netherlands and Switzerland, he also spent time in Spain, Israel, Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia.
When Montezinos finally made it to the US in 1970, he had a palate filled with world experience that he was ready to share with Americans. He opened a restaurant in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, called Déjà vu, named one of the finest French restaurants in the US by Bon Appétit Magazine. The success of the restaurant neither a local affair nor fleeting. The restaurant was a focal point of Philly cuisine for a long time.
“Déjà vu was the focus of our lives at that time. I cooked, oversaw the staff and ran the day-to-day function of the restaurant. One night, Francis Ford Coppola came in for dinner and offered me a bit part in his latest upcoming movie, The Godfather III, but I turned him down because I said I was too busy!” Montezinos says.
“I can laugh now, but that’s a tough memory to digest. However, I still have the page he signed in the guest book that night, declaring Déjà vu ‘the finest restaurant in the world.”
Montezinos and his wife, Susan. decided they needed a change of pace and moved to Palm Beach, Florida.
Soon he was involved in three restaurants; all three garnered rave reviews, but one, Angelique, was proclaimed one of the best restaurants in the US by Esquire magazine.
Moving towards tragedy and change
“In these restaurants, I expanded and refocused my repertoire of menu items to concentrate on the seafood and organic fresh fruits and vegetables that are abundant in the tropical environment that exists in the Sunshine State,” he says. “Just smelling and eating those foods gave me a feeling of happiness.”
Eventually, running three restaurants started to wear on Montezinos and his wife and daughter. An offer to move back to Philadelphia and become the executive chef at a first-class hotel/condominium proved too good to turn down.
The move seemed perfect. Then, tragedy struck. His wife was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and passed away in May 2000.
“I was devastated,” Montezinos says. “I had no idea how to get beyond the grief and sadness that I woke up with and went to bed with every single day.”
By keeping his wife’s positive attitude in his heart and following the courage she had nurtured in him to pursue his dreams, he slowly worked his way through the grieving process. One of the ways he did this was to get to know himself again, and, by his own admission, began to take better care of his body.
“I began exercising, running, working out at the gym, eating a healthy diet, learning about the effects of foods, minerals, enzymes, vitamins and positive thoughts on the body,” he says.
After a year of self-reflection and grieving, Montezinos met Judy Castille, who would become his second wife 18 months later. Along with improving his health and wellbeing, Montezinos began to encounter people who would spark his interest in raw cuisine and the alkaline diet.
“I met a woman named Debra Van Schaardenberg who is extremely knowledgeable about the effects of certain diets and how one’s blood reacts to those foods,” he says. “During the course of the time I spent developing healthy, raw, alkaline-based recipes, I would discuss these dishes with Debra.”
The benefits of the right diet
But why the focus on raw alkaline-based recipes? Montezinos explains the benefits in layman’s terms in his book:
“Many diets that you may be familiar with are either alkaline or acid based, but are not necessarily referred to that way. They have names like Atkins, Zone and Stillman and they focus on high protein/low carbohydrates, high carbohydrates/low fat and various combinations thereof. Most of these diets are followed by people in an effort to lose weight. Weight might be the least of what is lost by adhering to an all-or-nothing diet: important minerals and vitamins essential to our bodies are lost as well.
“There is a consensus that a raw, alkaline-based diet can help you lose weight. Ceasing to eat foods that are high in sugar, flour, and fat makes it likely that you would lose weight. Using this diet to simply lose weight is not its purpose; however, if you choose to eat this way to achieve a weight goal, you will also receive many other — perhaps unexpected — benefits.
“It is important to understand how the combination of alkaline- and acid-forming foods works within our bodies to achieve and sustain normal pH levels. The foods you eat will leave behind either an alkaline or an acid ash once the food has been metabolised. That ash has a direct effect on the pH levels in your body. pH refers to power of hydrogen, meaning the concentration of hydrogen ions present in a substance. The neutral pH level is seven; water, for instance, has a pH level of 7. The pH levels in foods above 7 are alkaline-forming foods; conversely, the pH levels in food below 7 are acid forming.”
How diet affects health
Montezinos explains that if there is too much alkaline ash in our bodiesm that makes our pH levels rise, we can end up with a condition known as alkalosis. If we have too much acid ash in our bodies, which makes our pH levels plummet, we can end up with acidosis.
Each of these conditions has negative symptoms and side effects that can lead to a host of illnesses. The beauty of the raw alkaline diet is that parasites, mould, yeast and most harmful bacteria cannot survive in an alkaline environment.
“I have come to appreciate the feeling of extreme wellbeing when I ingest a diet of raw, alkaline-forming foods. I take CoQ10, green coffee extract and alpha lipoic acid,” Montezinos says. “I am 74 years old now and when I combine my diet regimen and supplements with my exercise routine, I feel better than I ever have my whole life. It’s all natural and it’s what works best for me.”
Two recipes taken from Montezinos:
• 1 ¾ cup pumpkin, pared, diced
• ½ ripe banana
• ½ cup prepared Irish moss gel
• ½ cup coconut milk
• ¼ cup coconut water
• ½ tbsp coconut butter
• ½ cup almond milk
• 2 tbsp coconut palm sugar
• 1 ½ tsp cinnamon powder
• Sea salt
• Prepare Irish moss to package instructions to yield ½ cup gel, usually soaked overnight.
• Flavour diced pumpkin with small amount of coconut butter, palm sugar, nutmeg and cinnamon (measured ingredients listed above are for main recipe).
• Place flavoured pumpkin pieces on Teflex sheet and dehydrate for two hours at 105˚.
• Place all ingredients, including pumpkin, into blender and blend until smooth. Pour into glass bowl and cover; place in refrigerator to set.
• To serve, put mousse into martini glasses and top with candied pecans.
Note: To make a parfait, layer pumpkin mousse with vanilla ice cream, crushed candied pecans, and top with one candied pecan half.
• 1 bunch arugula
• 4 Gala apples
• ½ lime with peel
• ½ banana, peeled
• 2 cups water
• 1 tsp cinnamon
• 16 frozen white grapes
• 1 tsp raw ginger, peeled
• 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
• Place all ingredients in blender.
• Blend on high speed until thoroughly mixed and obtaining desired consistency.
• Dilute with more water if necessary.
• Discovering Raw Alkaline Cuisine is published by Déjà Vu Lifestyle Creations. A full version of this article appears in the Life Extension Foundation magazine.