Charles Mattocks was 37, relatively healthy and busy with his Florida-based career as “The Poor Chef,” traveling the country showing people how to eat well on only $7 per meal for two. The single father was driven by wanting his son to eat healthfully, and his goal was to get people out of the drive-through lane and back in the kitchen, cooking and eating together.
He appeared on “The Dr. Oz Show,” “The Today Show” and “The Martha Stewart Show” among others. Mattocks’ cookbook, “Eat Cheap but Eat Well,” had been published and was successful.
And then, 11 months ago, he was diagnosed with Type II diabetes. We caught up with him while he was in Des Moines working a feature for Meredith Corporation’s “Diabetic Living” magazine.
Like so many in his situation, Mattocks was stunned. “I was caught totally off guard,” he said. “And the first thing the doctor wanted to do was put me on meds. I said no. I decided to try to fix this with lifestyle changes. The first thing I did was give up weight-lifting and start walking; I hadn’t been doing any real aerobic exercise. Now, I walk two or three times a day, and always before I go to bed — I don’t care if it’s 2 a.m.” He also started doing research like crazy, only to find a tangled mess of confusing and contradictory advice and information. “There is a real void in diabetes information,” he says. Mattocks is intent on remedying that.
He didn’t start out in the food world. He has worn a lot of hats on his hair-free head and has ping-ponged across the country and back as he doffed and donned each one.
After high school in the New York City area — inspired by his uncle, legendary reggae artist Bob Marley — he went straight into the music biz, then got into acting and lived in Los Angeles. Eventually, he landed in Florida to be with his son, Armani.
Now, Mattocks says, he is focused on becoming the face of diabetes and has launched several projects to that end: promoting the Charles Bar sugar-free chocolate bar (available online); becoming a “brand ambassador” for Vinos de la Cruz winery’s sugarless wines; embarking on a nationwide bus tour to malls for diabetes testing; helping create “The Diabetic You,” a full-length documentary on the subject due out this year; and working on a children’s book called “Charlie Marlie” about a diabetic boy. He recently was named a 2012 national spokesman for the American Diabetes Association.
“If you’re in the public eye, you have a responsibility,” Mattocks says. Which is why, he says, he felt so “let down” by celebrity chef Paula Deen’s three-year secret that she had diabetes. “She was focused on her business, not her responsibility. All that time she was cooking the kind of food that gave her diabetes, and letting her audience cook that food. She could have done a lot (to help people) in those three years. That’s why people are mad — she had a platform but she didn’t use it.”
Diabetes is a global epidemic, Mattocks says, and is growing so fast, his documentary can’t keep up with the numbers. “When we started, 11 months ago the number was 280 million (people with diabetes),” says Mattocks. “Then it was 350 million. Now it’s 366 million. Obviously, people aren’t getting the message. It’s probably gone up again since I checked.
“I aim to be an ‘inspirator,’ not an educator. People can learn, but without inspiration, they don’t do the work. I’m coming in with a hard hammer — I’m not the nice guy. People aren’t listening to the nice guys.” Within the next year, Mattocks would like to be semi-retired, letting all the initiatives he has begun take on a life of their own. Whether that happens or not, Mattocks says his goal is to make a difference. “I want to leave something behind for the next generation, to raise awareness and change lives.”
Caribbean curried chicken and brown rice
Caribbean curried chicken and brown rice
From “Eat Cheap but Eat Well”
2 tablespoons curry powder
2 onions, diced
2 scallions, sliced
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
2 hot chilies
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 pounds chicken breast, cut into cubes
1 tablespoon butter
½ pound carrots, diced
½ pound potato, diced
1. Combine the curry powder, onions, scallions, salt, pepper, chilies, ginger, garlic, thyme and ½ cup water in a blender. Add more water if the ingredients do not mix well. Rub the mixture into the cubes of meat; marinate in refrigerator overnight.
2. Melt the butter in a large skillet. Add chicken pieces (set marinade aside) and brown lightly.
3. Transfer chicken to a saucepan and add the potatoes, carrots and reserved marinade. Add water to cover. Bring to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer until the meat is tender.
4. Serve over hot brown rice.