Four-time NBA champ to lobby Congress

Former NBA champion and reality TV star John Salley will visit Capitol Hill on Wednesday to lobby for more vegetarian options in school lunches.

Salley is scheduled to meet with Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) and Reps. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.), Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D-Mich.) and Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.).

For Salley, the trip represents the latest step in a culinary journey that began at his mother's kosher catering business in Long Island, N.Y. "I've always cared about food, about how its prepared," Salley told ITK, "but now that I understand the science behind vegan and macrobiotic living, this is really my passion.

The father of three girls, Salley became a vegan on his wedding anniversary, July 30, 2008, which was also the birthday of one of his daughters. "These are the important events in my life, and I needed to break through to another level of health."

The former Chicago Bulls and Detroit Pistons player does the cooking in his house, and his love of healthy food led him last year to launch a vegan and organic food company, John Salley Foods. "I make a mean [vegan] Pad Thai," he laughed, "and Tuscan portobello mushroom caps with truffle oil, and my guacamole is amazing!"

But his best recipe is for vegan pizza, which he shared with ITK. Secrets include baking the crust with vegan butter first, and adding Agave cactus juice to the sauce for sweetness and quick absorption. "I made it for my family last night and they lost their minds!" he laughs.

"I call myself the black green giant, always moving toward being greener," although he admits that he still wears leather shoes. The three foods Salley can't do without? Avocados, coconut oil, and Celtic sea salt.

Salley's goal on Wednesday is to convince lawmakers to include more vegetarian and vegan options in public school lunches, part of the Child Nutrition Act, which is up for reauthorization this fall in Congress.

If you're hankering for an autograph, Salley will also hold an open briefing in Rayburn B339/B340 at 10:30 a.m. that will feature free food samples and a chance to get a basketball signed by Salley.