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Preparing Salt Free, Low Sodium Meals and Dishes for over 50 years.

Written by Tony DiMarco
Screen Writer, Publicist, Journalist
December, 2003 — Updated April 2010

Chef Don's salt free, low sodium culinary talents have taken him into galleys and kitchens around the world. He has cooked for governors, senators, congress members, state houses and one governor who became president, although he has "dined" with a total of three different presidents one when he was a congressman, one when he was a governor and one while he was president. He has also known and dined with more than one candidate for office. "Food is our tool to socialize," he says. "It breaks down all bariers. Those politicians were from both major parties and we never discussed politics while enjoying good food."

He has roasted wild boar in a ground pit in Tahiti under the guidance of Tahitian, Rene Tupano, cooked fresh King Crab in an open pot along the shores of Taku Harbor under the tutelage of Newt Cutler and Moses Pauken a well known Alaskan legiistator Eskimo from Nome. He learned his risotto oso bucco in Italy while filming an Italian chef, and he became "intimately familiar" with the makings of baguettes in Paris. "Too familiar," he jokes. "I gained weight on them." He became well known in some areas of the U.S. for his "Oysters Gazzaniga."

Don also found himself preparing meals for film crews, actors and even learned the art of "deli-sandwiches" from famous Hollywood locations like Art's Deli or Jerry's, where the "stars" hung out. "No way could I eat like that today," he says. "But oh boy, were those tasty." Many film crews wanted to work for him when he was producing or directing simply because he'd either take them to the right eateries or prepare it for them himself.

Always without salt. "One of my better crews nicknamed me 'Yogurt Productions,' because I worked their tails off and offered them only chilled yogurt for lunch." Not to worry, when the work day was done Don always fed them like kings.

I met Don in the seventies when I was a writer for the TV show "Happy Days," where I served as executive story editor. He was a writer and producer/director and owned a large production services company, one that provided film crews for many sitcoms at the time. I came from a family where cooking was probably the most important part of our lives. My own mother was an excellent cook and Don even has one or two of her adapted recipes in The No Salt, Lowest Sodium Cookbook.

You'd think two film writers would talk scripts during their working years. But no, Don talked about preparing meals. He would fly off and film in a foreign country or another state and come back with some top-notch recipes. He'd prepare them for us and wow, they were always great (although to tell the truth, I added a bit of salt back then just out of habit).

Today, I use Don's four books and am excited to learn that a fifth is due out sometime in May, 2010. I need to use his books because of a high blood pressure problem. (So now, with this 2010 update, seven years after first writing it, I can tell you that his dietary plan and recipes have reversed any problems I had or might have developed later. Hypertension is deadly, but I am now healthier than when I started and I'm seven years older.) Why should I pay attention to his recipes, his work? Maybe it's because I know him, maybe it's becaue I have experienced his energy, devotion and sincerity to the projects he dove into before. I do know that thirteen years ago I thought he was not going to make it. He called me and said, "Well, Tony, this is it. I've been diagnosed with terminal congestive heart failure and need a heart transplant or I'm out of here in six months to a year." I couldn't believe that the big guy was actually going to check out at his early age. He was only 63.

But he didn't. And sticking to his program of lowering sodium, continuing to exercise (one of his daily routines before) and paying attention to his doctor have saved his life, and I'll use that magic word when I state, He reversed heart disease.

Don never cooked with added salt. He admits however, that he didn't understand how much salt and sodium were in many of his ingredients. As soon as he learned what his diagnosis meant though, he changed his recipes and I don't think he's ever jumped above 500 mg of sodium a day since.

There's something else I want to say about his Web site. I was impressed when in the late part of 1996 he said he was going to "go national" with a Web site. Neither one of us fully understood the impact of that. "Going national" really meant going international. I don't think he understood then that his full time job would become Megaheart.com. He now has at least two others that I know of working on it many hours a week. Thousands of people have written to him thanking him for his site, his books and for helping to save their lives and for helping to get them off the heart tranplant list.

So, obviously, I am still impressed.

Don is not afraid of his age, either. He doesn't know that he's aged 13 years since his diagnosis. He doesn't know that he's 76. He looks younger, speaks much younger, thinks like a twenty-year-old. He will tell you that his “young mind,” gets his older body into trouble often. His long experience with life, with cooking, with health issues of others and his past are showing all his colors today. In show business he was always helping others get work, get trained, get paid. He was a ski patrolmen who helped the injured down steep mountains and now he's doing what he does well. He's helping others with chronic illnesses and he's doing it for no money, no fees, not even any advertising help. Most of his book profits are donated to research. He is sincerely interested in the people who visit his Web site and those who use his books.

I guess, truth be told, that's why I'm using his books. I know that within those covers I will find a lot of hard work, recipes and guidelines that he has created, tested and lives by. It worked for him, and now it's working for me.