When Beyoncé and Blue Ivy walked into vegan restaurant Karyn’s Cooked in Chicago last week, owner Karyn Calabrese couldn't believe her luck. Shocked, Calabrese went up to the singer and said: "I was trying so hard to find you and send you food!" she told Hollywood Take. "Then Beyoncé looked at me and said, ‘Well, I found you.’" That she did.
In honor of Jay Z's 44th birthday he and Beyoncé recently went on a 22-day vegan diet, and Calabrese's restaurant became a pivotal stop. "This all began a few months back when a good friend and vegan challenged me to embrace a 'plant-based breakfast' every day. It was surprisingly easier on me than I thought,"" Jay Z wrote on his website Life + Times.
“What’s funny is my PR firm tried to reach out and find Beyoncé and Jay Z because I wanted to send over a gift basket while she was in Chicago,” Calabrese told HT. “Somehow, we were not able to reach them.” That is until the next day when Bey surprised Calabrese by arriving at the restaurant on North Wells Street.
The “Pretty Hurts” singer, who just released a surprise self titled album, arrived around 4:00. Customers were excited, but they didn't hound her for autographs. “Chicago people are very respectful. One table of girls asked Beyoncé's guards if they could take a picture. They were so polite, not mega-star like. We had Lady Gaga in last year, too. And she was nice. But Beyoncé and her people were just unbelievable.”
The 66-year-old chef, who was recently named Harper’s Bazaar’s Fabulous at Every Age winner for December 2013, has hosted Jermaine Dupri and American Horror Story: Coven actress Angela Bassett. But it was Beyoncé's tiny dinner date, Blue Ivy, that took Calabrese's breath away. “She was precious!” the author of two cleansing books said describing Beyoncé’s 1-year-old daughter. “She was perfect. Such a well-behaved child. At first, Blue Ivy was just sitting at the table playing with her iPad.” But when it was time to eat the yummy food, the little tot ran over to her mom.
And no wonder. This wasn't exactly carrots and broccoli! The singer and her daughter devoured vegan delicacies like Jerry’s pizza (a dished named after Calabrese's husband), pasta and meatballs, chili, potato soup, and peanut butter pie! “Blue Ivy was sticking her little fingers in her plate!” Calabrese recalled.
After the mother-and-daughter duo was done eating, the flawless chef revealed her age. She said: "‘You know I’m 66. So you might want to stay on the vegan team a little longer!’”
Calabrese says since she stopped eating meat, chicken, and dairy over 40 years ago, she’s seen a significant boost in her health and body. “I have an increase in energy. I’m never tired. I haven’t been sick in over 40 years,” she said. “I went through menopause with no symptoms. I’ve never retouched any of the photographs you’ve seen of me. I take a professional, advanced ballet class with girls 22 and under, and I wear the same clothes I wore in high school and college.” After hearing results like that, we may just start eating green, too!
Calabrese said Beyoncé is “really embracing” the vegan lifestyle and predicted the outcome of her challenge. “If Beyoncé and Jay Z stick to this diet it might not be so easy to go back to dead flesh,” the chef said. “I’ve been away from it for so long that it’s really quite [hard] for me to watch people do it. I don’t judge, but it does seem odd to me."
“You’re on a desert island. You haven’t eaten for two weeks," Calabrese challenged Hollywood Take. "All of a sudden a dead cow and a bushel of apples appear. Where do you think your instincts would go?”
Calabrese has been choosing a bushel of apples for more than 30 years. After witnessing her mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother die overweight at early ages, Calabrese was determined to make a lifestyle change. “I knew I needed to do something different,” she explained. “I had terrible skin. I had every allergy known to man. I was kind of a mess. After I started eating better I automatically — almost immediately — recognized a difference in how I was thinking, feeling, looking and I saw a change.”
“Up until now, people thought vegan was a granola type of crowd. That certainly is a wonderful group to be a part of, but it was stigmatizing and kept mainstream people away,” Calabrese said. “I think [now that] more mainstream people are getting involved, like Beyoncé — who is beyond glamorous — it will bring a different thinking.”
Want to try going vegan for the new year? Here's how to start:
Step Away From The Ice Cream: “One of the things I do is make sure you keep plenty of non-animal fat in your diet,” Calabrese explained. “Because that’s going to be one of the first things you start to miss. There are so many alternatives to cheese and ice cream on the market!”
“You see a lot of overweight vegetarians, which means they’re still consuming dairy products. And one of the things I tell people about dairy is that it's even worse than meat. Dairy is created for an animal to grow 1,000 pounds in a year. So what is it doing to you?”
Be Prepared: “Personally be prepared in your kitchen, laying out a plan. Knowing where you’re going to eat and what you’re going to eat is important," she explained. "You have to look ahead. You can’t run into a gas station or 7-Eleven.”
Keep Healthy Snacks Around: “When giving up meat, you crave more sugar," she said. "It’s natural to do that. So keep healthy snacks around.”
Educate Yourself: “I think educating yourself in any way, shape or form is vital. The world is in such a negative spiral – even most schools teach the wrong nutrition. So I think an independent investigation is one of the most important things," Calabrese said.
You’re Worth it: So how much will all this cost? “I get that question all the time because people are used to 99-cent sandwiches,” Calabrese said. “But here’s the deal: When you eat healthy, you have more energy, strength, clarity and focus. You become satisfied differently with your food. So, yes, you may initially spend more than what you’re used to, but what better place to spend your money than on yourself?”
If you want to find out more about Karyn Calabrese's restaurant or two books, Soak Your Nuts: Cleansing with Karyn (2011) and Soak Your Nuts: Conscious Comfort Foods (2013), check out her website at www.karynraw.com.