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‘Soups’ for the Soul

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Posted: Wednesday, July 11, 2012 12:00 am

Home Shopping Network star Andrew Lessman and co-author Muriel Angot combine their passions for food and wellness in a best-selling cookbook.

By Michael Aushenker / Special to The Malibu Times

It’s good to be the king of vitamins and supplements. Ask Home Shopping Network (HSN) fixture Andrew Lessman, who has moved millions of plastic bottles bearing his name. The vitamin guru, who resides in Malibu off Pacific Coast Highway, recently published a cookbook reinforcing his healthy living credo.

“Andrew’s Favorite Soups for Wellness and Weight Loss,” co-written by his housemate/best friend Muriel Angot, combines the pair’s twin passions for food and wellness in a fusion of the healthy and the tasty. But why soups?

Lessman says he has enjoyed the low-calorie, easy-to-prepare dishes since childhood.

“Soups have made it easy for me to maintain a healthy weight throughout my life, since weight control is all about portion control,” Lessman said. “Since soups are liquid, there is no fooling oneself or weighing or guessing about portion size.”

“Andrew’s Favorite Soups” contain 25 recipes to improve one’s wellness factor, such as “Hearty Turkey Chili,” “Barley and Green Lentil Soup with Italian Chicken Sausage,” “Cold Avocado and Crab Soup,” “Tomato Velvet Soup,” and “Green Curry Thai Soup with Shrimp.” The color photo-laden book ends each entry with a “Nutrition Information” box breaking down every recipe’s components.

Angot, with Lessman’s encouragement, attended the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, where she said she graduated first in her class in 2011. Angot spent early childhood in Villers Colterets in Picardie, France, before her family relocated to Paris, where she grew up in the 11th arrondissement (Bastille district) and majored in art history at Sorbonne University. Angot, who just received U.S. citizenship, resided briefly in Sydney, Manhattan and Key West before spending 12 years in Aspen.

While working at a Colorado holistic center Angot befriended Lessman. She moved into Lessman’s Malibu guest house and enrolled at the University of Santa Monica, earning a degree in Consciousness, Health and Healing.

Angot impressed Lessman with an array of home cooking. “He loves split pea, lentil, chicken and Thai red curry soup,” Angot said. She contributed much to the book’s food formulas. Angot’s grandmother, Simone, who worked as a restaurant chef and owner in Picardie, proved to be a profound influence. Angot had to “restrain my ‘French’ tendencies to add cream, butter and the like.” Never a fan of the ‘Food Pyramid’ of bread, pasta, white rice, potatoes and processed foods, Lessman prefers fish and chicken over red meat, and additional sources of protein/fiber (legumes, nuts, seeds).

A QVC star before leaving for HSN, native New Yorker Lessman “grew up watching TV and movies originating in L.A., always dreaming of moving to Southern California.”

Back in junior high school, Lessman’s science project featured two groups of mice as a case study to prove how essential vitamins are. This early interest in the science of nutrition encouraged Lessman to study biochemistry at the University of Pennsylvania. The Benjamin Franklin Scholar continued his studies at the University of Hawaii, where he grew disenchanted with medicine’s emphasis on addressing illness and not health and wellness. Dropping out of medical school, Lessman decided to dedicate his life to the prevention of disease via proper diet and exercise. He acquired a Juris Doctor degree at Loyola University Law School and opened a law firm specializing in medical legal issues (including food and drug law).

Lessman had always possessed an interest in athletics, specifically track and field. He entered the arena of competitive track and field, devoting hours weekly to rigorous exercising and training. The decathlon, which requires proficiency at 10 different events as well as the speed, strength, agility and coordination to conquer, inspired Lessman’s view of exercise and wellness as preventive medicine. Working part-time for a vitamin company permitted him to manufacture his own supplements. By the late 1980s, as mainstream interest in nutrition skyrocketed, Lessman closed his law practice to focus on producing quality vitamins via his ProCaps Laboratories.

Lessman lived in Santa Monica after college before relocating to Malibu in 1993, where he has kept a home ever since (despite moving his vitamin company to Henderson, Nevada, in 1996). Lessman loves biking, hiking, and running on beaches and mountain trails. Recent transplant Angot says Malibu reminds her of the South of France “with a more modern American design and lifestyle.” Their next cook book, tentatively titled “Eat Your Vegetables,” is due in October.

“Unfortunately, the number one vegetable in America isn’t even a vegetable,” Lessman said. “It is the potato or, more accurately, the French fry.”

Thus, his next book will champion cruciferous vegetables, crucial to healthy living, “Despite making vitamin supplements,” Lessman said, “I’ve always emphasized that the food we consume is far more important than any supplement.”

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