Mike Stevenson has a pretty cool life. After growing up in Atlantic City, where he played football with the Atlantic City Dolphins, he pursued his passion for cooking as a profession.
Now he works as a personal chef for the Washington Redskins, helping the likes of DeAngelo Hall, Santana Moss and former teammate Clinton Portis eat healthy yet delicious food so they can be in optimal shape. But he never forgot his roots, or the mentors who inspired him to achieve his dreams. So now in his downtime from football season, he's returning to his hometown to pass on what he knows to kids here.
"I bring literature from game days and spread the message to find a mentor (like his own 'second father,' coach Michael Bailey) who really has a vision and stay with them as best they can and try not to succumb to negative peer pressure," Stevenson says. "Then I segue into food and eating healthy for a proper diet and the importance of taking care of your body and exercising. I tell them not to limit themselves and their possibilities, even through food."
Stevenson will be signing copies of his second book, "A Way to a Woman's Heart" and showcasing some healthy soul food including Angus beef braised short ribs with wild mushroom duexel and crab-stuffed mahi mahi Feb. 28 at Kelsey's in Atlantic City. Dinner seatings are at 6:30 and 8:30 p.m., but he'll be at the restaurant all day with his book.
He'll also visit students at his elementary school, Uptown Complex School, and Dr. Martin Luther King School during the trip.
Stevenson doesn't claim to have all the answers. He says the title is more wishful thinking than bragging. "A Way to a Woman's Heart" contains 90 plus simple recipes prefaced by "heartfelt stories" from more than 100 women of all walks of life, which Stevenson calls "nuggets of wisdom."
"I think failure is the best teacher," he says. "Having had great relationships, it seems you never know the great ones till you're out of them. I'm definitely not an expert on love, but we all like to eat and a lot of courtship is geared around food. Whether it's an anniversary or bridal shower, it brings both relationships to the table and I wanted to fan those flames."
That humble attitude represents Stevenson pretty well. Even though he's prepared food for such dignitaries as Dick Cheney and celebrities including Tom Cruise, he still has the wide-eyed appreciation of a kid from Atlantic City who just wants to give back to his community.
That's why he chose Kelsey's for his book signing, and uses the famous names of football players to catch the starry eyes of kids growing up like he did.
"The Atlantic City I see when I come back is not the one I grew up in. And I find as I travel more, it's the plight of all inner cities and the youth there," Stevenson says. "So this is definitely something I can do personally, to help them out and show them 'Don't let anybody limit you or tell you what you can't do.' That's what I like about Kelsey's new location on Pacific Avenue and what they're doing there with the jazz and nightlife. It's really a grassroots effort and I want to partner with the community."
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