Sunday, November 6, 2011

'Project Runway' star Santino Rice is a Man After My Own Kale

I have vaguely heard of 'Project Runway'. Never heard of Santino Rice. But Lisa McKinnon's column in the Ventura County Star on November 5 rang my bell peppers!

The words: organic, vegetable, Ojai, greens, fresh, farmers, and juicing filled the page!

Some of my favorite local organic farms were named!

And the icing on this story is that if Santino eats cake, he does so only if it is gluten-free! His testimonial will save another few lives in a culture that is slow to grasp simple and profound answers to health.

Below I have pasted the words and parts of McKinnon's story that I found both healthful and delicious.

"'Project Runway' star Santino Rice has designs on local organic produce

Santino Rice shops regularly for fresh produce at the Ojai farmers market. Fresh greens are among his favorite ingredients.

... when Los Angeles-based fashion designer Santino Rice, a love-him-or-hate-him fan favorite from "Project Runway," walked through the farmers market in search of dark, leafy greens on a recent Sunday, it was hard to resist craning one's neck to get a better look.

After existing for most of his life on such on-deadline fashion-industry staples as greasy takeout food washed down with gallons of coffee, Rice has gone not only organic but vegan and gluten-free.

Making the switch has kicked his existing love affair with Ventura County — which is home to several organic farms — into high gear, he said.

Santino Rice, "Project Runway" star, also is an avid juicer. The Ojai farmers market is a favorite stop for fresh produce.

Rice, who now focuses on making one-of-a-kind pieces for private clients, was shooting the Lifetime series "On the Road with Austin and Santino" when he began having the health problems that led to a complete change of diet, he said.

"I was eating all of this gluten and other stuff and the only sleep I was getting was on planes. I was waking up exhausted," he said.

When that feeling didn't go away, Rice went to a series of doctors until one diagnosed him as having celiac disease, which causes those who have it to suffer a variety of autoimmune-system reactions to gluten, the protein in wheat.

"I had got to the point where I thought I had cancer. It took me becoming extremely ill to learn that there even was such a thing as celiac disease," said Rice.

Cutting gluten from his diet had such an immediately beneficial effect that Rice went on add meat and dairy to his list of foods to avoid, he said. And because so much of what he buys at farmers market and other sources goes through a juicer, it's especially important that those ingredients be organic, lest pesticides enter the equation, he added.

"I've been doing this for five months now; I've shed 30 pounds, my skin's great, my thought process has never been clearer and ..."

Rice paused. "It's a bit like talking religion to people — a little goes a long way," he said with a smile. "And it's a bit off topic for a fashion designer, I know. But fashion and food are about using quality ingredients. So I definitely see a connection."

Before heading home, Rice bought several bunches of spinach and rainbow chard from The Farmer and the Cook of Ojai.

Already in his bag were dandelion greens and celery from Roots Farm of Santa Ynez, black kale from Tutti-frutti Farms of Lompoc, and arugula and collard greens from B.D. Dautch of Ojai's Earthtrine Farm."

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