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Recipe For A Healthy Lifestyle

The chef was busy sautéing onions, mushrooms and peppers while his sous chef prepared the wild salmon with a mustard Dijon’s and a panko topping. A few hours earlier the same team was busy inserting a lifesaving stent into a man’s heart. Dr. Kevin Marzo, aka the cardiac chef who is the chief of cardiology at Winthrop University Hospital along with his physician assistant Joe Dardano were preparing a  special meal for a very discriminating audience, teenagers.

Last Wednesday evening at the beautiful demo kitchen located at Hampton Major Appliances in Garden City, the space donated by owner Frank Ingraldi, Dr. Marzo and his team consisting of Dardano and the marketing department of Winthrop University Hospital, Diane Bachor and Courtney Seck were preparing a gluten free meal for the Explorer’s Club. Forty students, the majority from Massapequa High School and some from Manhasset, Jericho and Garden City attended the event.

“The Explorers Club is through Winthrop University so students who are interested in the health care field visit Winthrop once a month to learn about a different area of health care,” said Denise DeLury, school of career coordinator at Massapequa High School. “The club has 50 members in grades 10-12 who are interested in the health care profession and it is a way to introduce them to all of the opportunities within the field. The particular club is for the health care field. We developed a special relationship with Winthrop when we met Diane Bachor and developed a partnership with them.”

As the students took their seats around the counter, Hampton’s owner Ingraldi explained why he has donated space for the event the last five years.

“We think that what the doctors are doing at Winthrop is a great thing and rather than have them rent a space or find one we would rather have them come here, as often as they want,” said Ingraldi.

While onions and shallots sizzled in the saucepan Dr. Marzo added the ingredients of humor and wisdom as he gave a history lesson on gluten and its origins and the reasons why some people have to have a gluten free diet. He explained how certain people are sensitive the gluten and react with abdominal cramps, arthritis, rashes or sometimes headaches but with the proper diet changes can be curable. He introduced a relative in the audience who had a gluten sensitivity whose symptoms consisted of severe headaches, cured when she became gluten free.

Two students, twin brothers Nicky and Andrew Uterano, seniors at Massapequa High School, shared with that their household is gluten free because their 8-year-old brother, Tom, who has Down’s syndrome, has celiac disease. The two medical sleuths noticed their brother was in pain took to the internet to try to figure out what was wrong with him. They told their parents to have him tested for gluten problems.

“He was having abdominal pain, swelling and problems going to the bathroom for a year. Once he was diagnosed his blood levels returned to normal.” Nicky said. When you learn the medical background with it and you learn what is going on with his medicine and his diet you make time for it.”

Andrew chimed in, “It’s tough but it’s rewarding. We could see he was having problems and we were concerned about him.”

In the one hour of cooking , medical education, and healthy living lessons the students lined up for  a delicious meal of  mixed greens with pears, chicken cutlets, salmon, quinoa mixed with vegetables, new potatoes with herbs, asparagus tips and within 45 minutes the plates were all empty, no leftovers.

I asked Dr. Marzo who has a busy practice, why he takes the time to do this for the students. “Treating disease after it occurs is challenging and frustrating and rewarding but sometimes it feels like you have lost your opportunity,” said Dr. Marzo. “The time to intervene is when people are young and amenable to change and we are seeing it in society with more opportunities for healthy eating. College campuses are healthier. I think this is an opportunity to show students that the behavior that they adopt now as 16 and 17 year olds will clearly impact them for a lifetime. Hopefully a few will be touched and spread the word on healthy and tasty nutrition.”