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Article on T Magazine, written by Sandra Ballentine.
I was a virgin when I met Marcus Antebi, a co-owner of the Juice Press, a tiny temple to organic fruit and veggie elixirs and raw food in Manhattan’s East Village. A juice virgin, that is. Sure, I’d toyed with the idea of trying one of Organic Avenue’s prettily packaged potions at Fashion Week last season. (They were conveniently available to the thin and wanting-to-be-thinner at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall.) But about the closest I’d gotten to fresh juice up to that point was the O.J. in a good mimosa. As for raw food, well, I thought that meant those cute precut, packaged carrot and celery sticks you get from the corner deli.
When I arrived at the Juice Press the first time, it was crammed with lithe young things (the model Erin Wasson swears by the maca tonic) buying concoctions like Drink Your Salad and Ginger Fireball. Immediately I felt pasty, pudgy and distinctly unhealthy. Antebi, an intense 42-year-old with a shaved head and myriad tattoos, introduced himself and gave me a quick once-over. Something about him made me want to fess up all of my sins, at least the ones that involve eating and drinking. Before I could stop myself, I blurted out, “Hi, my name is Sandra, and I’m a meat-wine-cheese-choco-holic.” He didn’t even smile. He simply said, “I’m going to change your life.”
Want to know what? He did. In the middle of a heavy-duty liver detox himself, Antebi became at once my life coach and torturer. Most people do three- to five-day juice cleanses to rid themselves of sin and cellulite, but my new guru laid down a gauntlet. “You really should go for at least 10 days.” And then he said something I didn’t expect: “Frankly, the juice part of the cleanse is irrelevant.” But wait — then why must I live on liquid alone for what will surely seem like eternity?
The answer is simple, according to Antebi. As his mentor, the nutritionist Dr. Fred Bisci, taught him (yes, even my torturer was a virgin once), it’s not what you put into your body, it’s what you leave out. A period of subsisting on freshly cold-pressed organic fruit and vegetable juice ideally helps set the stage for a diet that excludes processed and a lot of cooked foods. “Fred’s 81 and has been raw for 40 years,” Antebi says. “He runs two miles almost every day and will probably live until he’s 110. He looks incredible.” That got me. I was ready to go all gonzo on it.
So for 10 evenings, Beatty, one of Antebi’s disciples (himself on Month 5 of a cleanse), delivered to my door various combinations of carrot, kale, celery, spinach, parsley, lemon, orange and tomato that I hoped would lead me to nutritional nirvana. Friends said I would be weak and loopy on Day 3, mean and angry on Day 4. That I would have caffeine-withdrawal headaches and want to break down and cheat. None of it was true. I never felt hungry, my energy levels were high enough to have strong workouts with my trainer (the amazing Lauren Goldberg at Peak Performance — a hot tip if ever there was one), and most impressive of all, when face to face with a heritage pig-in-a-blanket at a Day 6 cocktail party, I didn’t succumb. Instead, I reached into my bag for a bottle of Spicy Citrus.
Uncannily, Antebi seemed to text me whenever I was tempted. He reminded me to thoroughly chew my juice, which aids digestion. He prescribed a shot of E3Live, the algae superfood, when I complained of a slight lack of focus. And he whipped me up an herbal tonic when my, ahem, pipes got sluggish. I sampled his competitors’ wares. Not only did Antebi’s juices taste better, they seemed fresher and more alive.
There were a few duds. The thought of Sweet Potato Pie gives me instant gag reflex. And I don’t mind if I never see Dr. Mangosteen again. But I’ve become addicted to Complete Source veggie juice for breakfast, and as far as I’m concerned, False Unicorn’s green-apple goodness is the new tarte Tatin. In case you are wondering, I lost 11 pounds in 10 days. Why did I wait until the very end to tell you the only thing you really wanted to know? Like Dr. Bisci says, it’s all about what you leave out.
The Juice Press never sleeps. Between midnight and 9 a.m., seven days a week, three powerful Norwalk juicers pulverize and press the next day’s inventory. Designed in 1934 by Dr. Norman W. Walker, an early advocate of juicing and raw food, the $2,995 stainless steel version is the Rolls-Royce of juicers, extracting every drop of nutrient-rich liquid from fruits and vegetables, with little oxidation. For D.I.Y.ers, Antebi recommends the Hurom Slow Juicer (left). “It operates along some of the same principles as the Norwalk and is excellent for home use,” he says. It’s $360 at Williams Sonoma.