It’s not every day that you hear the words “lobster tail” and “truckloads” used in the same sentence. But that’s the pairing Pete Ghione chooses when he thinks back to his days as executive chef at the Rio from 2006-08.
“The concept in the casino is I fed 16,000 people a day,” says Ghione, 32. “Nutrition wasn’t much of a conversation by any means. We were buying truckloads of lobster tail, 40,000 pounds at a time. And I’d go through 40,000 pounds of snow crab in about a month. So those were the kinds of things we concentrated on. Our butcher shops handled over 1.3 million pounds of beef a year. It’s crazy.”
So crazy, in fact, that the endless appetites and decadent food inspired him to take the opposite trajectory—one that relies on natural, organic food chosen for its healing powers. These days, Ghione refers to himself as the Cancer Cuisine Chef, and works as a private chef and consultant for patients who have cancer or are recovering from cancer. In fact, his full-time Las Vegas client, Richard Lassiter, is a three-time lung cancer survivor. When Ghione cooks for Lassiter, he uses ingredients heralded by the book Anticancer: A New Way of Life (Viking, 2009) by physician and neuroscience researcher David Servan-Schreiber and recommended to Lassiter by doctors at the Mayo Clinic. For two years, Ghione has been preparing those cancer-fighting meals. And for two years, his client has been cancer-free.
In addition to cooking privately for his clients, Ghione also presents cooking demonstrations and lectures at the Clark County School District, UNLV and the Caring Place, a nonprofit organization that provides support to families of people battling cancer and other diseases. There, he regularly shares food tips, such as steeping green tea for at least 10 minutes to get the cancer-fighting benefits within, and how to cook the tomatoes in his organic chicken tacos to bring out the lycopene.
“I’m trying to really provide an education for people and get them into a new lifestyle, not just a diet. A lot of the junk is what cancer survives on. Sugar and processed foods are fuel for cancer,” Ghione says. “People that eat three to five times a day have three to five opportunities to improve their health and to do something great for their body.”
How to make Organic Chicken Tacos, Serves 4
1 pound boneless and skinless
1 fresh orange, cut in half
10 sprigs fresh cilantro, 5 whole, 5
4 Roma tomatoes, ¼-inch dice
2 teaspoons ground coriander
½ white onion, ¼-inch dice
1 pint chicken broth
Whole-grain or sprouted-grain soft taco tortillas
Optional: 1 jalapeño, minced
Cut each chicken thigh into six even pieces, juice one half of the orange and combine all of the ingredients in a sauce pot except for the remaining half of the orange and five sprigs of cilantro. Bring the mixture to a boil, and continue cooking until the liquid is almost entirely reduced. Use a whip to shred the chicken as it cooks, about 30-40 minutes. Season with salt to taste, then juice the remaining orange and add the juice. Freshly chop and add the remaining cilantro sprigs. Stir to combine evenly and serve with the tortillas.
Citrus Green Tea
Heat the water to just below boiling. In order to release the cancer-fighting properties of green tea, it’s important to let the bags steep for at least 10 minutes. After steeping, remove the bags, fill a pitcher with ice and squeeze the lemon, lime and orange over the pitcher. Add the mint leaves, then pour the tea over the ice to chill. Drink within 24 hours or the tea loses its potency.