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Bill Kurtis beefs about the American diet during lecture in Elgin

Award-winning TV anchorman and producer Bill Kurtis broke the ice at his lecture at Elgin Community College in Elgin by showing a clip from the comedy “The Legend of Ron Burgundy,” for which he provided narration and a 2009 commercial for ATT broadband in which he appeared with boxer Floyd Mayweather before getting to his topic for the evening.

“We are eating ourselves to death, and it may not be our fault,” Kurtis said.


“The American diet is moving through the world like a plague,” he warned.

The visuals for his presentation noted that a Starbucks coffee drink to which Kurtis is partial has 470 calories.

“I used to have two a day,” he said.

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Kurtis also mentioned former FDA chairman David Kessler’s 2010 book, “

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High fructose corn syrup use in grocery products increased 10,000 percent between 1970 and 2005, Kurtis said, with the average American consuming 140 pounds of it a year. Kurtis referred to Michael Pollan’s 2006 book, PBS POV site for the documentary “Food, Inc.” said “traces the obesity epidemic to the abundance of corn — and the high-fructose corn syrup that sweetens nearly all the processed foods we consume today.”

Still, Kurtis noted that, with the public becoming more aware of food issues and a growing demand for healthy choices, changes are being made. Those include McDonald’s recent announcement it would be phasing out using chickens treated with antibiotics important to human medicine.

“When McDonald’s acts, everyone else listens,” Kurtis said.

“Healthier food is coming. (The food industry’s) life’s blood is at stake,” Kurtis added.

Kurtis also advised his audience to exercise, as he equated sitting too much with cancer; to eat yogurt before bed for the probiotics; and to eat less meat.

All of this segued into Kurtis talking about a non-media venture of his own.

Kurtis lives in and maintains an office in Chicago with his life partner, Donna La Pietra and has weekend home in north suburban Mettawa. In 2005, they founded Local resident challenges East Dundee’s red light camera contract Erin Sauder Last year, local resident Bob Kaplow said he spent about $7,000 on various purchases in East Dundee. Last year, local resident Bob Kaplow said he spent about $7,000 on various purchases in East Dundee. ( Erin Sauder ) –>

Kurtis’ blog claims the franks are “leading the way in a hot dog revolution” and notes the sausages are preserved using high pressure processing in which “heat is replaced by pressure to preserve the freshness, appearance, texture and nutritional value of the food.”

Vitamins and minerals from Usana were on sale in the lobby, too, as was Kurtis’ “The Prairie Table Cookbook.” Kurtis also brought along three brand ambassadors and a director of development for Tallgrass.

Of Kurtis’ talk, “I loved it,” Justin Resto said. “It was a bit like a commercial, but he does have some good ideas.”

Resto, 20, is a second-year student in ECC’s culinary arts program. He came to the lecture, he said, because Kurtis is an idol of his and because his topic tied in nicely with what Resto is learning from his instructors about cooking with fresh, locally produced foods that have not been processed.

“Grass-fed beef tastes better than corn-fed beef, and it has a unique flavor profile,” Resto said.

Kathy Winters of Naperville, who attended the session with her sister, Kim Purdue of St. Charles, said she had heard much of what Kurtis said before and agreed with it.

“It’s a food chain issue, and it’s frustrating for me, because diet is tied to so many diseases,” said Winters, who works in the fitness industry.

When asked about the generally higher cost of allegedly healthier foods, Winters noted an adage she had heard about paying the farmer now or paying the pharmacy later.

“But I do wish healthier foods were affordable to more people,” she said.

The Tallgrass website offers ground sirloin for $59.95 for five pounds (roughly $12 per pound); 48 beef franks for $84.95 ($1.77 per link); a 9-10 pound boneless aged prime rib for $229.95 ($23 per pound); four rib eye steaks each 10-11 ounces for $109.95 ($27.50 per steak).

Jorge Phillips, ECC Director of Continuing Education, said 140 people each paid $25 to attend the talk in the Seigle Auditorium. It was the first time such a lecture was offered as a noncredit course.

“We’d love to do this again,” Phillips said. “It’s a community event.”

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