Chef Marco Canora's conversion from cigarettes, bread and sugar to grains like rye berries, amaranth, quinoa and farro had a near-miraculous effect on his health.
There was a time when 80 percent of New York City chef Marco Canora’s diet was made up of white bread—the really good crusty kind from Sullivan Street Bakery, but still. The rest of his sustenance came in the form of ice cream from his New York restaurant Hearth, plus cigarettes and liquor. “It was not pretty,” he says. “Twenty years of cigarettes, bread and sugar, and it’s freaking ugly, man.” (Canora swears like a sailor and did not say “freaking.”)
It’s not that he didn’t know better: He grew up eating the healthiest food imaginable. His mother moved to upstate New York from Tuscany when she was 18, and she brought the Tuscan cooking style with her. Canora’s childhood was filled with wholesome and delicious dishes: spaghetti with fresh tomato sauce, string beans in good olive oil, zucchini frittatas, fried zucchini blossoms and all kinds of amazing salads made with ingredients from their huge garden. “My mom was way ahead of her time,” says Canora. “But I was like, ‘Why do my friends get all the good stuff?’ For afterschool snacks, I swear to God, we had a wicker basket full of nuts in the shells with a nutcracker. The joke among my friends was, ‘Hey, Marco, let’s go to your house for nuts.’”