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Transcript from Friday, August 5, 2022: Mayor Eric Adams Hosts Summer Youth Employment Program Student Cooking Demo

August 5, 2022

Deputy Mayor Sheena Wright, Strategic Initiatives: Good morning. Good morning. Well, we got to do better than that. Good morning. Yes. That's what I'm talking about. Are you guys hungry? Okay, good, good. Good. My name is Deputy Mayor Sheena Wright, and I'm a proud member of the Adams administration. I am so thrilled to see all of you as real amazing representatives of our Summer Youth Employment Program. Can we give SYEP a round of applause for all of you? 


Deputy Mayor Wright: Yes.

Deputy Mayor Wright: You guys are representing a cadre of 100,000 young people this summer, right? Wow. Historic — clap it up. 100,000 young people that got an opportunity to have paid work experience and careers of their choosing. And you all were choosing careers in the food industry, right? Yes? Right? Yes. You got to work all over the city in the food industry whether it's in our DOE schools — who was here worked the DOE schools? Okay. Just a few — and other businesses across the city. And you, along with your colleagues in Summer Youth Employment this summer, also got financial literacy training. You were able to explore other things like the UN and get real exposure, mentors and others. I've gotten hundreds of emails from employers saying how lucky they were to have such brilliant, dedicated, creative, fun, young people for the summer. So give yourselves another round of applause.


Deputy Mayor Wright: So what are we doing today? Today, you have a very unique experience that your other Summer Youth colleagues won't have. You get to experience the mayor of the City of New York. He is also a chef. So he's a celebrity chef because he is a celebrity and a cookbook author. Did you guys know that? Yes. Some of you did, some didn't, so he's got real skills. I asked him backstage, I said, "Do you really cook?" He said, "Oh, yeah, yeah." So y'all about to see and also participate in this experience.

Deputy Mayor Wright: Afterwards, you're going to have — to sample a delicious salad made by the amazing executive chef at Gracie Mansion, Andrea. Give a clap for Andrea. She keeps our mayor fed and healthy. She's very important and she's going to be assisting him with this demonstration. And then lastly, you'll also hear from a group of renowned chefs because what you appreciated, I'm sure, about your summer experience is that this is a major industry. It is a big business and an important business, and it's important for so many diverse leaders to be leaders in that industry. So you will hear from these chefs who will tell you about the business and all the other interests that you might have. You all should be extremely proud of the work that you did this summer. We are extremely proud of you. And without further ado, I want to introduce celebrity chef, cookbook author, and the mayor of the City of New York, Eric Adams.


Mayor Eric Adams: How are you? How's everyone? Can you hear me in the back? Tell me something. How many of you have a family member who is experiencing diabetes? How many of you who have a family member or friend that's dealing with some type of chronic disease, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol? Wow. Wow. So I just want to come down before I start cooking.

Mayor Adams: So a couple of years ago, I woke up in the morning and I couldn't see the alarm clock. I'm going to get my nose pierced soon. [Laughs.] I couldn't see the alarm clock, and I thought it was sleep in my eyes, and I started to blink my eyes. You know how you wake up in the morning, you can't see right away? I started to blink my eyes and it didn't go away. And at the same time, I felt this pain in my stomach. It wasn't gas. It was sitting still and it was just uncomfortable.

Mayor Adams: And so you know men — you got to drag us to the doctor. We don't want to go to the doctor, but I decided that, you know what, let me go to the doctor because this didn't feel right. So I went to the doctor and when I got to the doctor, he checked my colon, he checked my stomach. And when I came from under sedation, he says, "Eric, that vision you feel in your left eye and your right eye is that you're losing your sight. You're going to be blind in a year." And he said, the tingling, I was feeling tingling in my hands and feet. He said, "The tingling you're feeling is that you have permanent nerve damage. You're going to lose some fingers and your toes."

Mayor Adams: He said, "The reason you have this loss is you’re diabetic." I had no idea. He says, "Your diabetes level is so high that I'm surprised that you're not in a coma right now." And the pain I was feeling in my stomach, it was an ulcer. He says that you have an ulcer. So I went in the doctor's office that day with no medicine. I walked out with medicine for my ulcer, three medicine for my diabetes including insulin, that's when you have to inject yourself, medicine for my high blood pressure, medicine for everything. I went in with none. I walked out, I felt like I was Dwayne Reed. I had so many pills.

Mayor Adams: And I said to myself, I'm not trying to go out like this because my mother was diabetic for 15 years, at the time, seven years taking insulin. I used to see mommy injecting herself all the time, and she would grimace every time she had to inject herself with insulin in her stomach. And so I was at my computer. They gave me these books that says living with diabetes. And I sat at the computer that day. I remember like it was yesterday. It was about five, six years ago, and I did something scientific. I googled reversing diabetes. One word. They said living with diabetes, but what did I put in? Reversing diabetes. And all of this information came up about diabetes and reversing diabetes. And there was one doctor, Dr. Esselstyn from Ohio Cleveland Clinic. He treated Bill Clinton for his heart disease.

Mayor Adams: I cold called him. I was like, doctor, they told me I'll be blind in a year. I'm going to lose some fingers and toes… My diabetes numbers are high. My A1C is high. Is there anything I can do? He said, "Fly down to see me." I flew down to Ohio one early morning and I saw him and he says, "Listen, you can change your diabetes. Just change the food you're eating." And I remember saying to myself, looking at him, man, what's wrong with this nut? I'm going blind and he's telling me to stop eating fried chicken. What's that to do with anything?

Mayor Adams: I'm blind, and he's telling me to stop eating fried chicken. What's that to do with anything? But I was so desperate that I went home. He gave me a list of things to do. I went home and I looked on the back of the carton of the food I had in my refrigerator and my pantry, and everything that he said was right. Everything was over processed. Everything was — it wasn't even food anymore. It was like food like stuff. And so I made up my mind. I said, "You know what? I'm going to try this. Because I'm not trying to lose my sight." And so the first week I tried. I couldn't cook. My number one meal I made was cheese toast. And I burned that half the time. But I said, "You know what? I'm going to try." So the first week when I finished, after that first week, I said, "God, I got to eat this?"

Mayor Adams: I'm not trying to eat this junk all this time. And then I said to myself, "Why you acting like a defeater? Why you looking at all the food you shouldn't be eating anymore when I looked and discovered the new foods you could eat?" And so I started to have a different mindset and I said, "I'm going to learn how to cook. And I'm going to discover food." I started looking at spices. And spices are more powerful than the foods you eat. Nutmeg, turmeric, cinnamon. All I knew when somebody said spices to me, all I knew was salt and pepper. That was my spice list. So I said, you know what? I'm going to start discovering East Indian spices, Caribbean spices. I'm going to start discovering African spices, Italian spices. And then I'm going to look and read up each spice, what it does.

Mayor Adams: Every week, I took a new spice and I read up on it to say, what is the purpose of garlic? What is the purpose of turmeric? What is the purpose of cinnamon and nutmeg? And I started learning the benefits of spices. But then I did something else. Every Sunday became my cooking day, where I would try new meals and try to learn how to discover how to cook them. And so three weeks after going to a whole food, plant based diet, what happened? My vision came back. Three months, my nerve damage went away in my hands and feet. My ulcer went away. My blood pressure normalized. My mother — remember I said she was diabetic for 15 years, seven years on insulin? My mother went on a whole food, plant based diet. And within two months, mommy was off her insulin. Think about that. Think about that. Think about what your family members are going through right now.

Mayor Adams: And do you know how powerful that was for me to go to my mother? My mother has six children. She loved all of us, but she adored me. And so to go to a woman that I loved and say, "Mommy, there's a way to stop you from injecting yourself every day." And to be able to do that, I mean, what more can you ask for? And so this moment here, that I'm going to share one of my meals, is only one of the few. I had no meals in my repertoire. Now I have about 75 different meals, fast meals, quick meals. When I go to restaurants, I look at the menu and say, I want you to put together my own meal for me. How I make my frozen desserts. How, when I feel like having something sweet. How if I have to move, going to move, because I'm always on the move. I'm always going somewhere. You know, food is powerful. Food is more than what you put in your mouth. Food is how we define ourselves.

Mayor Adams: But my dad, when I used to have a bad day playing sports, my dad would give me a chocolate cake or chocolate donut. And when someone came to me and criticized my donut, you criticizing my father, man. What's wrong with you? Those were fighting words. And so when we sit down and eat, that is our way of communicating. And particularly those of us who have different cultures. You know and I know, you go to your grandmother's house, your mother's house, or what have you. And you talk about you not eating, people look at you funny. And then when I stopped eating meat — you want to get people mad at you? Tell them you're not going to eat that hamburger. Now nobody want to hang out with you. Everybody's like, man, okay, you too boring. And as an African American, when I started saying I wanted to eat plant based, you know what my friends used to say, "Oh, you want to be white now?" You know? "You too good to eat this food that we all grew up on." No. No. Soul food is slave food.

Mayor Adams: Our ancestors did not want to eat chitlins. They didn't want to eat cow tongue. They didn't want to eat pig feet. No, the slave masters said you going to eat the scraps off our tables. And then we have to find ways to make it tasty and palatable. And our ancestors said, "So we have to survive. So now we are going to give you the food to survive." But little did they know that now that we no longer on this plantation, that we are going to still be intellectually, emotionally attached to the plantation and the food that we eat.

Mayor Adams: Now, here's the deadly part of this. Think about this for a moment. Our ancestors ate bad food to survive that the slave master forced them to eat. And we are continuing the legacy of the slave master every time we cook the bad food that's giving our family members diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, all of these chronic diseases. We're handing it down to our… our family members. So we sit around the table on Thanksgiving saying to our family, "Let's pray for grandma that's in the hospital because she's diabetic and she's about to lose her legs, or she's about to lose her sight." And then after we pray, what do we do? We dig into the food and eat the food that caused grandma to be in the hospital in the first place. And go to South and Central America. Some of the best food is grown there. Yet it's not served on your plates.

Mayor Adams: They're shipping out your food, out of your country, somewhere else. And they're giving you fast food. It's unbelievable what they're doing to us. That's why we're having a conversation with you. You're the liberation generation. You have to free us from this madness. There's a reason around NYCHA you have junk food. But you go to the Upper East Side, you have Whole Foods. It's not in your DNA. You didn't inherit diabetes. It's not your DNA, it's your dinner. It's not your lineage, it's just your lunch. It's not where you’re born, it's your breakfast. So either we can continue this madness, or we can free ourselves. We've been played. We've been played. I can see you right now because I didn't follow the direction of those who told me to go on medicine. First there's Metformin. Then it's insulin. Then you lose your sight. Then you lose your leg. Then you lose your kidneys. Then you go into a place where you no longer can take care of yourself. It's not who I am. It's not who I am.

Mayor Adams: That's not who I am. That's not who I am. That's not who I want you to be. So I'm going to share with you one of my meals, one of my meals, that you can take part of it and you can use it. Where's my book? Do we have my book?

Mayor Adams: So, this is the book after my experience that I wrote. Every dollar goes to helping our faith-based leaders to learn about healthy eating. I don't take any money from this. This is my experience of changing my life.

Mayor Adams: In the first three weeks, I lost 35 pounds from going to a plant based diet. Never felt better in my life. Never felt better in my life. And I want you to enjoy your life, not to live with pain, uncertainty, and then go home to our family members. My oldest brother is dealing with health issues. My brother under me is dealing with cancer. My sister just dealt with breast cancer. My other sister is dealing with diabetes and heart disease. Our entire family is dealing with crises that comes from food. And we are slowly turning it around.

Mayor Adams: It's not easy. Because let me tell you something. Food is like a drug. That first week when I stopped eating, I used to dream about hamburgers. I went through withdrawals like you'll never believe. You put someone hooked on drugs in one room and someone hooked on fast food in another, you take the drugs away and you take the fast food away, I ask you to say which one is hooked on what. That's what food does to you. And they know that. It plays on your psyche. It makes you believe that you need it over and over and over again. But we're going to turn it around. We're going to turn it around slowly.

Mayor Adams: And so here is one of my meals. I have my chef helper, the Vanna White of cooking. These are simple ingredients. Not only are they simple ingredients, they are cheap. Everyone says all the time, "If you eat healthy, it's going to cost a lot of money." That's all people say. "It's going to cost a lot of money." This costs $3.75. $3.75 per serving. And so a quick meal, a great summer meal, so you're not feeling... You know how sometimes you eat and you feel tired and lethargic? Because you're trying to process that food. And it's just too much to consume. And then it's not healthy and energetic food. And my hands are clean. I wash my hands, so you know that. And I'm the only one going to be eating. These are cucumbers.

Mayor Adams: You mix your cucumbers in the bowl, and then we have some other things, parsley, pepper, other spices. You put it in. I rarely cook with oil. I don't use a lot of oil when I cook. I try to use water. But if you want to use oil and vinegar, balsamic vinegar is great also. Just put a little in. And if you want oil, you can put oil. I normally don't, but you can. And you know what's the best stirrer that you have? Your hands. You could mix it up with your hands. And if you're going to mix it up with your hands, make sure you wash your hands.

Mayor Adams: And one good test, particularly for the guys, the prerequisite for dating me, you got to know how to cook. So you got to get them in the kitchen. So guys, you got to know how to cook also, guys. Just as you want your lady friends to know how to cook, you got to know how to cook. Don't be like me.

Mayor Adams: And then sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes, they have a way of bringing a nice taste to it. Now, before you do it, I use water, but you could also do a little of oil. Put it in your pan. I'm a big water guy. So you put it in your pan and let it simmer a little. I have here, this is cabbage. You ever notice that there are different colors in food, such as cabbage? Sometimes the cabbage is that light color cabbage. You have the red cabbage. You also have onions. That some onions are light color, some are the red. The red color cabbage, onions, and other items, those red colors are — they're really significant. Because the more color it is, the more nutrients it have. So when you go shopping, always look for those different colors.

Mayor Adams: So these are sweet potatoes. I love sweet potatoes. They're very healthy. They're different than white potatoes. If you are diabetic and your family member is diabetic, they should stay away from white potatoes, white rice. All that processed stuff, they should stay away from. Okay. So we’re going to mix this up.

Mayor Adams: I want this one here. Oh yeah, no. This one here. Mix this up. It's the sweet potatoes, because this gives it a nice little taste. I like to mix sweet potatoes or put a chopped up orange or chopped up apple in. These are chickpeas, extremely healthy for you. Throw that in there. I like to put a little water to sort of give it the moistness that we're looking for.

Mayor Adams: Onions, red onions. I chopped them up already. And I like to chop them up really fine. When you do it, of course, you want to take the peel off when you chop your onion. You want to take that off, but you can do — they were chopped up already. I like my onions really, really fine when I do it. And I never, never liked onions before, until I read up on the power of onions and what onions — how powerful they are and what they do for your body. Okay. And then you throw in cabbage. Cabbage is one of the most healthy things you can eat. 

Mayor Adams: Every morning, when I do my green smoothies, I throw in cabbage and I throw in beets, another healthy item. Mix that up. Kidney beans, black beans, pencil beans, all of them are good for protein. They're extremely healthy for you. Then you throw in kale. I didn't even know what kale was, only greens I knew was collard greens. But now I know all of these different types of greens. I love kale. Kale goes into my smoothies every morning, as well as spinach goes into my smoothies every morning as well. So you just really mix that up and you want to get some good moisture in there. You pour some water and you just get that really going.

Mayor Adams: And then you want to throw in your spices. These are some great spices. And remember what I said about spices. Spices are just as powerful as the foods you eat. A little pepper. Wait, let me get some — come here. I want you to smell this. Come on up, come on up. Smell that fragrance, you know that, see that. So, you get that a little more, just a pinch more oil and the sweet potatoes, you can chop up plantains, sweet potatoes, bananas, whatever you want. You would be surprised how filling this is. The key is fiber is so important for your body. This is a high fiber rich diet right here. Men and women are supposed to get a predetermined amount of fiber in their system every day.

Mayor Adams: Then you take the salad that I made earlier, put it inside there and all this stuff, this is $3.75 cents for serving. So before I do that, I want to — is that plugged up? Can you plug up? This is one of my favorite, favorite appliances. It's called a Ninja. When I want something sweet after my meal, I'll grab some walnuts. Walnuts are extremely healthy for you. Out of all the nuts, these are one of the best nuts. So you throw that in there. If you like ice cream, freeze ripe bananas, you freeze the ripe bananas. This is not an old banana, this is not one. But if you could do this with ice cream. One of my favorite ice creams is with frozen bananas and some blueberries, all that blueberry, some strawberries, throw it in there. This is if you want a dessert after you finish eating.

Mayor Adams: And like I said, sweet potatoes, I love sweet potatoes. And the peel of the sweet potato is extremely healthy. That's where you get a lot of your nutrients, inside your peels. Don't need any water. And just mix that up a little and you would get some non-dairy whipped cream. Yeah, move that there. Just need a spoon. You get some non-dairy whipped cream. That's good. Throw some berries in. This is my light snack for the day.

Mayor Adams: That's good. Who's my sampler? Enjoy. Be healthy. Live long, have a prosperous life. Eat well, meditate, breathing exercise. The stress you are under as young people is different from the stress that I was under. You have so much coming at you. I didn't have Instagram. I didn't have Facebook. I didn't have Google. I didn't have Snapchat. Everything is coming at you. You have to find out equilibrium and you do it by eating right, but you also want to nourish your mental state as well. Because we're never going to be good to anyone if we're not good to ourselves. And so I wish you a prosperous life. I hope this experience in our Summer Youth Employment Program was more than just a job. We want you to leave this summer with financial literacy skills, communication skills, healthy skills. So you are ready to take on the world. You're not leaders of tomorrow, your leaders of today. So let's lead. Thank you.

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