Movie: May I Be Frank

I got my usual random e-mail from VegNews Magazine on a Thursday in late may and came upon a list of the “best veg movies of all time.” I read through the description of each movie — some of which were documentaries and some fiction. Always a sucker for docs, I took particular interest in one called “May I Be Frank,” and set to the Internet to track it down. It wasn’t on Netflix, so I Googled it and found a website for the movie.

Much to my surprise, there was a screening scheduled in Detroit two days later! It was Memorial Day weekend — which is always busy, but I bought the $10 ticket and hoped for the best. I ended up being able to make it and I’m so glad I did! Unfortunately, only about 20 of the 130 people who bought tickets made it, but at least all those tickets were purchased, which helps support the movie. A local couple, the Cresseys who had traveled to Muskegon during “snowmageddon” earlier in the year to see the movie, were responsible for both the Detroit screening and one in Farmington the following day.

Now, onto the movie! The footage was filmed a few years ago in San Francisco. In short, New York native Frank Ferrante was in San Francisco , lonely, overweight, unhealthy, addicted, depressed. Close your eyes and you would swear it was Tony Danza. Ferrante wandered into the primarily raw Cafe Gratitude one day and was greeted with smiles and hellos. Though he didn’t love the food (he admits he would leave and go get ribs or pizza each time) Ferrante started coming every day because he loved how it made him feel. He felt happier, cared about, less alone.

One day the young guys who ran the place had a proposition for him — would he be willing to do the anti-Supersize Me and eat at Cafe Gratitude three times a day, see  holistic doctors, and allow full access to his life and apartment for filming it all. The divorced Ferrante admits he longs to fall in love again, but wonders how anyone could love him as he is. At a point in his life when he thought things could only go up, Ferrante figured, “Why not?”

Over the course of 42 days, Ferrante started each day with wheatgrass shots, detoxed from junk food, had 2 or 3 colonics, and, within about three weeks was clear of almost all of the dozens of medications he was on — including those for Hepatitis C. In fact, after about 20 days, his Hep C medication seemed to be making him sick. He was tested again and was all clear. He continues to be free of Hepatitis C.

He lost dozens of pounds,  finds some peace in his life and his smile is sincere. His self-depricating humor continues, but the overhaul of both his mind and body is evident. One of the toughest scenes in the movie is when Ferrante asks his ex-wife to come visit so he can make amends and she does. They reconnect — in various ways — but when the guys come by to film and prod about how the visit is going, Ferrante’s  anger comes out full force and you see the ways in which he remains hurt, angry and damaged despite his progress. It was one of the most uncomfortable scenes I’ve viewed in a documentary, though I’m not exactly sure why. During a chat with the movie’s director, Gregg Marks, after the screening, he said we were the first audience to view the movie that didn’t have a single person walk out during that scene. It’s just that tough to take.

I won’t tell you anymore about Ferrante’s progress, fallbacks, victories or failures (and there are all of the above), but I will tell you that today he is healthy, smiling and continuing on a journey he never expected to have when he walked into Cafe Gratitude that day.

While the filmmakers look for a distributor to pick up the movie, you will be able to buy a double DVD of the film and extras sometime this month on the website. For anyone local, I’m happy to loan out my copy of the film itself, so just let me know if you would like to see it.

Vegetarian or not, healthy or unhealthy, happy or unhappy, this is a film about transformation, possibilities and hope. And who couldn’t use a little inspiration in one of those categories?

You can check out the trailer and other videos on the movie’s site. Check out the extended trailer HERE.

Promo photos borrowed from and


August 2, 2011 at 7:00 pm Leave a comment

Restaurant Review: Noodles & Company

I’ve passed Noodles & Company in Downtown Royal Oak at least weekly since I moved to Michigan three and half years ago. I just assumed it was stereotypical semi-fast food chain and shrugged it off. But I’ve always been curious. After a friend made pan-fried noodles modeled after a Noodles & Company dish, I decided I had to give it a shot.

Much to my surprise, what I got was both delicious and not horrible for me! Basically, there are five or six noodle dishes in three categories: American, Asian and Mediterranean, and a handful of soups and salads. For the noodle dishes, you can get either get a “regular” or small bowl. The small seemed like it would be plenty and it was.

I got the Japanese pan-fried noodles and added tofu to it (I snagged the photo from Unfortunately, they forgot the tofu, but they quickly stir-fried some up when I realized it and I tossed it in. The noodles were thick and chewy, and a little crispy on the outside. The flavor was great with just a bit of a kick. The mung bean sprouts and fresh cilantro helped cool that off a little (but really it wasn’t very spicy, and I can only handle a good medium on most stuff). I got a small side salad too, which was Romaine lettuce and a few of vegetables and the balsamic vinaigrette was fine.

I checked it out when I got home, and the noodle dish I got was only  320 calories on its own — the organic tofu adding another 100 calories. I’m not much of a calorie counter, but a dinner that’s around 400 calories and about 25 grams of protein isn’t bad. Not shocking, though, is that there’s a fair amount of sodium in the dish. Maybe that’s because there’s a bunch of soy sauce in this dish — as most of the Asian dishes there, if you look at the nutritional chart, seem to have about twice as much sodium as the rest of the menu (except for spaghetti and meatballs which tops the charts at nearly 1,500 grams).

We got our food quickly and the staff was really friendly. I also think it’s kind of cool that they apparently get paid accordingly so they aren’t allowed to accept tips. I’ll definitely keep this place in mind the next time I need a quick, inexpensive meal when I’m running around in Royal Oak.

August 2, 2011 at 10:33 am 1 comment

Veggie Salad with Fennel and Tomatoes

I’ve had a nearly daily salad for the last week, so I thought I would share. I don’t usually get into food habits like this — I like variety — but for some reason this is sticking with me. It totally fills me up and I feel great when I eat it.

It all started at the cooking class I held a few weeks ago with health coach Gail Wyckhouse of Holistic Techniques.  She prepared a salad with tomatoes and fennel with a light cider vinegar dressing. Without looking at it, I basically expanded that recipe, but it’s almost identical.

I chop and toss tomatoes, fennel, parsley, green onion and cucumber, add freshly ground salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil and add a splash or two of apple cider vinegar then toss again.

Not only is the salad light, these ingredients have various health benefits, many of which Gail brought to my attention. Here are just a few:

• Apple Cider Vinegar: My grandmother once told me she used to sip cider vinegar every day as a kid because it was really good for you, so in high school I started doing so from time to time and my mouth tends to water whenever I smell it. (Weird, I know). Well, she turns 95 in a few weeks, so I guess she can’t be all wrong.

Turns out, apple cider vinegar is said to aid in relieving muscle pain, promotes healthy skin, soothes dry throats, helps control weight, promotes digestion and pH balance, helps remove toxins from the body and is good for the immune system.

• Fennel: This fragrant, licorice-tasting vegetable (Sounds weird, but it tastes great) is said to be good for digestion, promotes healthy eyesight, may help ease hypertension, increases milk flow in nursing mothers, and may ease coughs.

• Parsley: This flavorful herb is said to fight cancer, help reduce blood pressure, increase the processing of sodium and water while increasing potassium absorption, and helps inhibit the growth of fungi and bacteria.

• Tomato: Tomatoes are said to be great for the heart and other organs, are rich in antioxidants and are said to help prevent prostate cancer.

July 30, 2011 at 3:50 pm 1 comment

Baked Tofu

On a recent Sunday I decided to attack my refrigerator and make a handful of things to sustain us through most of the week. One of the reasons my clients turn to me as a personal chef is because they work hard, get home, are tired and sometimes make bad choices. Unfortunately, I’m no different. I get home after a cook day tired, hungry and reaching for whatever is easy.

So, I picked up a couple of things at the store but mostly wanted to use my refrigerator full of ingredients I had purchased with high hopes but hadn’t had time to put to use.

I already had decided to make black bean burgers, so I decided to put that ol’ block of tofu in the refrigerator to use as some sort of side dish — I decided just to bake it and make a dipping sauce.

I pressed it in my TofuXPress for about 30 minutes while I was making other things, then sliced it into halves or thirds (about 1/2-inch thick), then triangles. I whisked together soy sauce with a bit of sesame oil, rice vinegar, freshly grated ginger and minced garlic. I marinated the tofu for about a half four, flipping it every 10 minutes or so.

I’m not sure if I spritzed it with olive oil first or not, but I put the slices of baked tofu on my  favorite baking sheet, which nothing sticks too and always washes away (even the black stuff you can never get off of other pans).

I baked it at 350 for about 30 minutes. Flipping it a couple of times so it gets a little crisp on the edges and nice and chewy.  I threw together a quick peanut sauce (much like THIS ONE, but I doctored it up a bit with a bit of coconut milk and a few extra spices) and — voila! It was a hit. So much so I was asked not to make it too often because my squeeze had trouble holding back. That’s a review I can live with.

July 19, 2011 at 4:42 pm Leave a comment

Chipotle Kale Chips

Soon after I took on a raw client for Fresh Chef Detroit, I bought an Excalibur dehydrator. Some research revealed it’s a favorite of raw chefs, including Ani Phyo.

Tonight I swiped a recipe from one of Ani’s cookbooks, “Raw Food Essentials,” and made delicious chipotle kale chips. I think these are going to become a staple around here. I think this will be my new favorite snack!

The recipe is simple:

• 1 head of kale
• 2 Tbsp. olive oil
• 3 Tbsp. agave
• 1/2 tsp. sea salt
• 1/2 to 1 tsp. chipotle powder

1. Wash kale and rip/cut into bite size pieces.

2. Toss with other ingredients in large bowl. My head of kale was small, so I should have used less oil and agave. They’re still DELICIOUS, but a little sticky. Next time I’ll start small, depending on how much kale I have.

3. If you have a dehydrator, spread pieces on 2 dehydrator trays and dehydrate for about 5 hours at 104 degrees. If you don’t have a dehydrator, bake at 300 degrees for about 15 minutes. Keep an eye on them — you don’t want them to burn!

They are spicy and sweet and crunchy and chewy and delicious. Way better than any potato chip I ever had (for real). Give it a try. You won’t be sorry!

July 18, 2011 at 8:00 am Leave a comment

Homemade Black Bean Burgers

Hello! It has been far too long since I’ve posted a REAL post. I’ve been crazy busy with Fresh Chef Detroit (a good problem to have, no doubt!) and have a handful of half-posts started. I’d really like to get back to doing at least one every few days. Here’s a quick one…

Just like many of the people who hire me, I come home after a day of work hungry and often reach for something less than healthy while I decide what to “really” eat. In an effort to curb that, I whipped up a feast yesterday that I intended to help feed us throughout this week. It has been less than 24 hours and these already are gone. But they were easy enough that I just might have to make more tomorrow.  🙂

They don’t necessarily stick together the best (which often is the case with homemade burgers like this), but a little more time in the oven, or a little time quickly fried in a skillet could have helped this. The flavors were great though. I ate mine dressed like a regular burger, but you could also really push the southwest flavors and top with salsa and guac. My squeeze even had one with hummus on it tonight — the possibilities are endless!

Makes 4-5 large burgers

• 1 (16 oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed
• 1/2 bell pepper (I used red), cut into 2 inch pieces
• 1/2 medium onion, cut into wedges
• 3 cloves garlic, peeled
• 1 egg or egg replacer for 1 egg
• 1 Tbsp. chili powder
•  1 Tbsp. cumin
• 1 tsp. Thai chili sauce or hot sauce
• 1/2 c. bread crumbs

 1. If grilling, preheat an outdoor grill for high heat, and lightly oil a sheet of aluminum foil. If baking, preheat oven to 375 degrees and lightly oil a baking sheet.

2. In a medium bowl, mash black beans with a fork until thick and pasty.

3. In a food processor, finely chop bell pepper, onion, and garlic (or just finely dice if you don’t have a processor), then stir into mashed beans.

4. In a small bowl, stir together egg, chili powder, cumin, and chili sauce.5. Stir the egg mixture into the mashed beans. Mix in bread crumbs until the mixture is sticky and holds together. Divide mixture into four patties.6. If grilling, place patties on foil, and grill about 8 minutes on each side. If baking, place patties on baking sheet, and bake about 10 minutes on each side. 

June 27, 2011 at 6:34 pm 1 comment

Happy to have these with me as I sit in a traffic jam. New favorite snack!

June 25, 2011 at 1:21 pm 1 comment

Older Posts

Kirsten Photo