Quick!– What do former Baywatch cast’s skincare regimes, Blackbeltery, Chicken Pot Pie, and Potsie Weber have in common? –A new and gustatorially-sound idea as cool as The Fonz and his friends themselves in the form of The Perfect Portion Cookbook! The brainchild of none other than Anson Williams aka Potsie Weber of Happy Days fame, this new and fresh 100-by-100 calorie look at snacking and menu planning is set to launch on QVC five hours before the start of America’s most grandiosely celebrated sports holiday—The would be Christmas of Football itself: The Super Bowl!!!
Yes, it has finally been acknowledged that eating is as much sport as on-looking (and…playing of course if you’re that 1/1000th of the American population hired to do so)-and moreover, a gustatory game finally fit to win as Williams and his partners in crime in the form of celebrated chef and cookbook author Bob Warden and noted nutritionist Mona Dolgov have come to the rescue to ensure that while you will miss nothing in taste, upon viewing said momentous televised match; going forward, you will do so maturely and responsibly!
Borne of an idea Williams had while perusing snack packs in the grocery store, a vision emerged to create real foods made from wholesome, natural ingredients that didn’t taste like cardboard and parse them out in 100 by 100 calorie servings! “It’s the first 100 Calorie count system of its kind,” he declares! “America’s Favorite Comfort Foods all in simple 100 calorie portions. It’s the easiest calorie count in the world. How cool is that?”
With the help and advice of business partner JoAnna Connell, the concept was taken to super chef Bob Warden, and nutritionist Mona Dalgov and the rest as they say is history! According to both Bob and Mona, the book was both a challenge and a reward to design:
“The biggest challenge was to create recipes that were divisible by 100 and that made decent 100-calorie sized portions for desserts, snacks and appetizers,” discloses Warden. “Most important was to make 100 calorie portions for casseroles, stews, soups, etc. that made sense at 100 calories; for instance: A 1/2 cup 100 calorie portion, not 7/16 of a cup. We did the hard math so that the home cook could simply multiply easy measurements by 2, 3 or 4 to create the Perfect Portion size to meet his or her personal goal. The fun part was discovering a way to illustrate 100-calorie portions using drawings, icons, etc.” “My favorite recipe is the first one we created: My mom’s chicken pot pie,” Warden continues. “Because my kids and grandkids tell grandpa that it tastes as good as Grandma Warden’s. My second favorite is the 100-calorie mini cheesecakes.”
“My goal was to make all the recipes satisfying, each portion was generous and that you felt like you were eating a full meal,” according to Dalgov. “My favorite recipes are the Better Butter French toast, Bob’s Chicken pot pie (his mother’s recipe [but] updated) and Mona’s Chili. They are easy to make, satisfying, and yummy.”
A walking example embodying the notion and emerging truism that “sixty is the new sexy”, The Perfect Portion Cookbook and the concept behind it, helped an erstwhile 25 lbs heavier Williams shed the weight of your average small toddler! And really– even still–at the age of 66, he looks as though he stepped off the Happy Days set following its very last taping but a decade and a fortnight hence!!! Dig THAT Eaters and Drinkers!
The father of five daughters–all black belts–Williams seeks not only to empower them, but all of us it would seem, in his lasting legacy of helpful hints in the form of beneficial entrepreneurial contributions!
The story and additional surrounding details of the venture and Williams’ life philosophy are genuinely enthralling. I caught up with him at the formally festive Casa Escobar in Malibu as he wove his tales of absorption and intrigue…
“It’s an important book. ‘Cause it’s more than just a cookbook and there’s an interesting story as to why it was created.”
Tell me. Tell me that interesting story about why it was created.
Oh God. I hope it’s interesting…
No pressure…no pressure…
For 19 years now I’ve been in the product business. It started when I was directing Melrose Place. That’s where I met my business partner today: JoAnna Connell. I didn’t realize it at the time but not only was she a top make-up artist, she also developed skincare [products] for the film industry. It started with the original Baywatch. They hired her to create skincare…with a chemist, specifically for [it] because it was such a [skin bearing] show [and] the actors were screwing themselves up with all these harsh treatments… And [her expertise] expanded into show, after show, after show, and that’s what happened for Melrose Place. Heather Locklear’s raving about this Crushed Pearl product [along with] Lisa Rinna… So during a lighting setup, I went into the makeup trailer, and met JoAnna, saw this…product and went ‘Wow, does anyone know about this? What’s the name of it?’
Crushed pearls were in it instead of aluminum exfoliation… It’s a powerful product, to this day! Aluminum is toxic. And [when] I first saw it in the trailer I said, ‘I’ve got the name for it: Micro Pearl Abrasion (rather than micro dermabrasion).’
So I said, ‘These products are being used on the most famous faces every day before going in front of the camera and the world doesn’t know about it?’ I said, ‘Well, I know less than nothing about beauty, but you’ve got something here.’ Fast forward ten years later: We were on QVC for ten years. So…it started in beauty and expanded to all different areas and our basic premise in our product business, at least for me, was ‘purpose first, profit second’. If there’s not a real reason for it and we’re not really contributing, I really don’t want to go further with it.
So what was the impetus for this cookbook?
I’m directing Secret Life of the American Teenager… And on that particular show they have amazing craft services… You go on a set, and it’s nonstop food all the time…and there you are directing, and you get this nervous energy and I’ll take a little, I’ll take a little more; 82 times you’ll take a little, but now I’m up…25 pounds…because I’m very compulsive. With four young daughters at home, I go ‘This is not good. This is not smart… I’m not being real good to myself or my health…’ Then I’m thinking ‘Diets, those don’t work.’ And then I researched it and found out how important taste is… [Forget] vanity, people love to eat, and food is very important. It is a major part of us as people. Okay so why can’t I eat what I love and not overeat? That was [the slogan] in my head, ‘Eat what you love and not overeat.’ [In my research I discovered] if the taste is right, you will eat less… It’s when you’re not satisfied [you tend to overeat]…
So it’s all kind of generating in my head at Ralphs in Malibu…and all of a sudden it just hit me: all these 100 calorie portions in the store! …100 calorie [portions are now] part of our social fabric and I said ‘What if we could have all the foods we really loved: chicken pot pie, key lime pie, lasagna, pizza, French toast…what if we could do that and what if we could make the recipe a little different so the portions could be somewhat bigger all in perfect 100 calorie servings? So it’s so simple, ‘I’m having chicken pot pie from one of our author’s mother’s recipes [and it’s a recommended] 300 calories: three portions. So we make it where I can have my chicken pot pie…and a side…and I can have 200 calories of dessert. I can have this amazing cheesecake that’s small but dense and ten chocolate covered pretzels! So not only does it say what is 100 calories, it will say ‘We recommend 400.’ But it’s stuff you love!
So having been at QVC for so many years, you meet people. And one of the major, brilliant genius food people at QVC is a man by the name of Robert Warden. He has sold 22 million cookbooks… He owned Cook Essentials…and is now a world renowned New York Times bestselling author… So I talked to my business partner JoAnna… We talked with Bob he said ‘We’ve been looking for that IT Factor portion of choice and this would be the biggest portion control platform in the history of food! What you just came up with his brilliant.’ I said, ‘No, what’s brilliant is you figuring out how it works Bob, that’s what’s brilliant.’ So that’s how it started and it took two years.
When you do a cookbook, I didn’t realize all the detail [involved]. First you’ve got to get the fabulous recipes, then you’ve got to test them three times. There are governmental [trials]… Then it doesn’t go through one nutritionist, it goes through two nutritionists to make sure what’s in it is [correct], all your claims are correct, the 100 calories are correct, and they have to rework each recipe to be able to fit that 100 calorie portion. It’s a science. They did a brilliant job!
So you didn’t go to them and have any favorite recipes like ‘Why don’t you guys make a…?’
The hot chocolate pretzels were mine!
How many of those can I have?
Ten for 100 calories.
Do you have a favorite dinner?
The chicken pot pie, and they were so brilliant with the crust, it’s these little crusts. So there’s a separate crust for every portion. They are genius man. So I think we have an industry here. I think we’re going to be the portion control portal of food!
What’s your favorite dessert?
My favorite dessert is the cheesecake… They made it in a way where you think there’s crust and there isn’t. But you don’t miss it. It’s like it’s there but it’s not there. And the other night I did The Insider and they did the Lemon bars. Those lemon bars are to die for! … And look at some of these side dishes: Waldorf Salad, creamed corn, green bean almandine, coleslaw, lemon roasted Brussels sprouts, and garlic broccoli, smashed cauliflower, asparagus gratin, scalloped potatoes, grilled sweet potatoes, macaroni salad, Boston baked beans, potstickers, salsa, Maryland crab cakes… Look at this Mac and cheese recipe—1/3 cup [a serving] but we recommend 300 calories so basically you can get a full cup of Mac and cheese but that’s only part of your meal… And this is first of 20 books!
Oh so you plan to do more?
Basically we’ll start getting more specific: A book just dinners, a book just lunches, a book just breakfast, a book just desserts. This [first book] is kind of just a broad stroke then we’ll see how it goes and from there… I’d love the website to develop into the portion control website of the Internet! And the recipes are so easy: Under nine ingredients!
The photos are stunning!
We [hired] Quentin Bacon who is the photographer of Michelle Obama’s Organic Cookbook for the Whitehouse.
So, as a TV actor then and as a TV actor and director now, how have you noticed things have gotten different in the industry as far as body image? Because, to me, it feels like a lot of men look more like cartoon avatars with six packs than real-world men today. On Happy Days, you guys looked like real-world attainable guys.
The difference is this: When we did Happy Days way back when, there was no reality TV. There was no quick stardom. There wasn’t like the hot button everyday with Yahoo Trending… You had to be a trained, committed individual for the arts. You were out there struggling, taking classes. It wasn’t fickle and the odds of making it were like…not at all. But you still went for it! So we weren’t cast for our looks. We were cast for our talent and our calling. I call it ‘white face’ [like the mime]…meaning ‘It’s Showtime!’ You’re drawn to perform. You’re drawn to connect with people. It wasn’t money first. It was connecting first. Now it’s like that’s secondary to what’s marketable… Today there’s a lot of fast food celebrity.
I’m sure that there probably was still pressure on you guys to make the weight back then but probably not as much as there is today.
They didn’t give a crap. Are you kidding…? There was no vanity. That wasn’t even talked about back then. You have to understand how much more simple it was… There were three Networks. We had an average of 62 million people watching us a week. So these people…these kids that think they’re big shots with three million viewers… Excuse me…? And we had the Beatles visiting us!
That’s right! And John Lennon came to your set!
Ringo spent the day. Keith Moon spent the day…
Did Mick Jagger ever come?
I wish oh my God… And yet, you want to talk about popularity…? Garry [Marshall] put up a basketball hoop!
Ha ha! Well done. Here’s your basket ball hoop!
Literally between shots we’d be shooting hoops and in terms of make-up, it was like the basics. It was so simple… I’ve been directing since ’85. I’ve seen it all, and it just astounded me how unnecessarily things changed and…I see the talent getting less and less… [It’s really] more type than talent now, and it’s become more like a titillating show rather than a connectable show… [Or the show’s] connecting but for all the wrong reasons…the darker side…
All of us have a light side and a dark side. It’s equal. The dark side’s easier to sell than the light side. Like good news is always harder to sell than bad news. Same with a story. A titillating story’s easier to sell than a positive story.
I kind of just notice that even in the titles of some of the shows now vs. then, Happy Days, The Love Boat vs. say True Blood…American Horror Story etc…
Yes! We showed the best of a certain period of America. So that’s why it’s never old. It can be as popular today as when it started ‘cause it was never ‘new’… and I give Garry Marshall a lot of credit. He allowed us a lot of input and there was just amazing chemistry with the cast which is above the page and something happened…[where even] cultures in Africa would relate to the characters—and they’d have NOTHING in COMMON! But there was something about the [characters’] personalities… The connection was there in their world. It was really interesting… So there was that ‘It’ factor there and that came from Garry allowing us to contribute a lot ourselves to the characters.
I can see that. Garry Marshall’s light to me. He’s got a lightness about him.
Garry Marshall’s got a real understanding of human nature and the best way to inspire human nature and he always went to the light side. He always went to the best of who we could be instead of the worst of who we could be. ‘Cause in the 70s, when I grew up, Walter Cronkite was here and the Enquirer state of mind was there—meaning the tabloid gossipy [element]. Today it’s just the opposite. It’s like the darkest is up front. You could have the cure for cancer but if there’s a dress mistake from Kim Kardashian, that will trend and someone will die because the cure was not trending. And is scares the hell out of me with my daughters ‘cause history repeats itself and the worst in human nature brings down empires.
How old are your daughters?
My oldest is 26. She’s married; two grandkids. Then at the house I have a 17 year old, 14, 13 and 9.
Wow! You have all daughters?!?
Five daughters, what are the odds of that?!?
You need to get a dog; a male dog!
We have two rescue dogs…two female rescue dogs… What the heck is that?!? They say, ‘Do you have a man cave? ‘ And I say, ‘I do, right between the brooms!’ ‘cause there’s no other space in the house. I built [it] thinking there’d be plenty… I am so outnumbered… But they’re really strong, independent kids, as women. That’s why they’re black belts. I wanted them to be empowered; confident. I don’t have to worry about them in life. I don’t have to worry about them on dates. I have to worry more about the guy. They can take care of themselves. And being in entertainment, I wanted strong daughters. I don’t want them to kowtow to anybody!
You’ve got to be strong in entertainment, especially as a woman!
I want them to be strong in life and I don’t want [the current media/culture] to make them feel less than 100% in this world as women… I want them to be independent thinkers—waayyy independent thinkers–[and spending all those years getting a black belt gives you] humility and also tremendous amount of confidence… It just makes you an aware, smarter, less manipulated individual.
One of my friends who’s a black belt was an attempted victim of a girl gang banging initiation on the corner of Vine and Santa Monica and was she ever sorry she messed with my friend!
That’s happened a couple of times with my daughters at school! They took guys down when they tried to do something cute. They were down so fast and it embarrassed the crap out of ‘em! ‘No, don’t touch my butt please.’ Are you kidding me?!? Do not cross that boundary Dude! And I got a call from the school and went ‘That is GREAT! Actually you should hire the Sensei to come to the school and teach everyone!’ God’s gotta be a woman because I’m telling you…
All in all, quite the inspiring afternoon centering around the topics of health, satisfaction and empowerment all in one fell swoop! As to his philosophy regarding the book and all entrepreneurial ventures prior and to come, “I want this for the world. I want this for ME! The greater good is the outcome. Egos are not involved here. And I’m the first one to say what I do and what I don’t do! I wrote up some fun stuff in the book, but in terms of the uh meat and potatoes–‘scuse the pun–it was Bob and Mona!”
As for the book’s launch on Super Bowl Sunday Anson reminds us, “Launch on Super bowl Sunday February 7th 5 hours before the game and it’s all going to be Super Bowl recipes for that day, they’re all in the book! The chili, the pizza… You should look at the pizza, it’s killer!”
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