It’s a strict diet — maybe the strictest. No meat, no fish, no poultry, no dairy. And no oil, not even a drop.
The Esselstyn diet, developed by Cleveland Clinic physician Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn Jr., is a plant-based therapy designed to reverse heart disease.
Former President Bill Clinton follows it. So does Medina Police Chief Patrick Berarducci.
And now several local restaurants are offering menu items based on the Esselstyn diet.
John Kolar, executive chef of Thyme2 (“Tyme Squared”) in Medina said Esselstyn dined at his restaurant last summer after a speaking engagement in Medina.
“We made a dish using fresh whole-wheat pasta with a tomato-pepper sauce and steamed vegetables,” Kolar said.
Kolar has since added the dish to his menu.
“We cook everything from scratch, so adjusting a dish to suit a customer’s needs is easy — gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan,” Kolar said. “If you’re gracious enough to come to our restaurant, we are more than happy to create something special for you.”
In a phone interview, Esselstyn admitted it’s tough to follow the diet at first. However, he said, most patients stick with it once they experience the relief of chest pain, weight loss and the feeling of well-being that comes after a few weeks on the diet.
Esselstyn directs the cardiovascular disease prevention and reversal program at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute in Lyndhurst.
Esselstyn said the diet’s heart-healthy benefits have been scientifically proven in a 20-year nutritional study. Esselstyn and his wife, Ann Crile Esselstyn, have followed the plant-based diet for more than 26 years.
“There is no question our country has an epidemic of diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, heart attacks and coronary artery disease,” said Esselstyn, who conducts group sessions to educate the public on the medical, nutritional, psychological and practical tools needed for optimum good health.
“We can change that by changing what we eat.”
Esselstyn said he is impressed by how chefs have embraced cooking the Esselstyn way when asked.
“You’d be surprised how absolutely wonderfully creative a chef can be if you call ahead and say ‘not a drop of oil and no meat, but I can have red, yellow and green vegetables, whole grains and legumes,’ ” he said.
Gary Quesada, chef and owner of Main Street Café in Medina, has followed the Esselstyn diet since October 2012.
“A couple things got me started on it,” he said. “First, my doctor at Summa, Dr. John Surso, lost a lot of weight. I asked him about it and he mentioned the Esselstyn diet. Then I saw Chief Berarducci. I said, ‘Dude, you’re like half the chief now!’ I was intrigued.”
Since then Quesada has lost 60 pounds.
“You combine the diet with exercise and the fat just melts off,” he said, adding: “It’s not about what you can’t have — it’s about what you can have — whole grains, beans, just about every kind of fruit and vegetable. It’s not a diet. It’s a lifestyle.”
Quesada offers a menu of more than 14 Esselstyn-inspired items created without oil or fat.
“I’m having fun working with different flavors,” Quesada said, “Chipotles, poblano chilies, Cajun spices.”
Esselstyn has approved the flavored vinegars offered at Medina’s The Olive Tap.
“He came in and bought some of our vinegars,” owner John Petrocelly said. Since then, Esselstyn has recommended the vinegars on his website (heartattackproof.com).
The Corkscrew Saloon’s chef Ryan Marino uses The Olive Tap’s vinegar for the Esselstyn dish on his menu: Wild Mushroom Ravioli.
Marino is committed to getting fresh, sustainable products from local growers such as Ohio City Pasta, Medina Creative Produce and Valley City Fungi.
“We make everything to order,” Marino said, “so we can cater to any type of dietary need, whether it’s Esselstyn, gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan and so forth.
“We have a gluten-free pasta that can be incorporated into any of the seven pasta dishes on our menu.”
Marino also serves gluten-free bread and pizza at the Medina restaurant. “You can have that option every day of the week,” he said, “It’s become very popular.”
House of Hunan’s assistant manager Jake Linden said the Medina restaurant’s menu is adaptable for many dietary restrictions.
“Our sushi chefs are very creative. They can whip together special rolls using mango, asparagus, cucumber, carrots, avocado. We can steam vegetables and substitute tofu or extra vegetables for meat. The menu is just a jumping off-point,” Linden said.
Contact reporter Nancy Johnson at (330) 721-4065 or firstname.lastname@example.org.