Meet the gay restaurateur keeping Midtown so fresh

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From actor to restaurateur and even charity bingo player and judge, Mitchell Anderson is a jack-of-all-trades. And now the soup, salad and sandwich king of Midtown has put his thoughts and tasty recipes into a new book. 

Anderson, the owner of the popular MetroFresh on Monroe Drive, released “Food & Thought” in December. And he's been pitching the hybrid cookbook at events from Decatur to Los Angeles ever since. The 190-page book is part recipes from the restaurant and his own musings, which he shares daily with fans on the MetroFresh website.

So we caught up with Anderson to dish about the book; his Hollywood past – recall “Doogie Howser, M.D.” and “Party of Five” and if there's a future; his partner, noted stylist and photographer Richie Arpino; and when knowing when enough is enough.

Where did the inspiration for “Food & Thought” come from?

The book is called “Food & Thought” and is in two parts. The first is a traditional cookbook with a cross section of recipes from the MetroFresh menu. That includes a few breakfast entrees, soups and salads of all kinds (this is the largest section of the book) and dinner entrees. The second half, the “Thought” section is a collection of the blogs I've written daily over the last 10 years. These are collected little stories about the restaurant, life, memory, influences, family, current events – whatever popped into my head that day. Taken together it is sort of a stream-of-consciousness diary of life in and around the world of the restaurant. It's sort of what happens in the background. If my life in the foreground is the restaurant, then everything that happens while that's all going on is sort of in the background. Whether it's a memory of a neat thing my parents did on Halloween or Christmas, a funny thing that happened at home with my partner, Richie and my pets, or the loss of my brother from alcoholism, these are the stories that happen while we make life happen out front. 

I decided to write the book since MetroFresh was turning 10 and we constantly have people asking for recipes. It was time to write them down and give people a chance to create in their kitchens what we make for them daily in ours.

How is MetroFresh doing? You expanded a few years back and before that, talked about opening other outlets. 

MetroFresh is doing great. Three years ago we doubled the size of the restaurant and added a wine bar. It's been incredibly gratifying to watch as more and more people come in every day. The expansion in our existing space has been a great success. At this time I'm just enjoying it, and have no plans for expansion into other locations.

Do you ever consider getting back into acting?

I don't consider acting again – certainly not on a permanent basis. I loved my acting career and am proud of what I did in show business. But I really love my life now and don't need to act to make it whole. That being said, if a play or a roll on screen fell in my lap, I'd be happy to do it. I do enjoy performing. As a matter of fact, we're doing a special Sunday night event at MetroFresh this Sunday. It's a “Rat Pack Dinner” celebrating the style, music and cuisine of Las Vegas circa 1955. I'll be singing a few Rat Pack songs as will several members of my staff during the four-course meal. It's going to be a blast. (There are still a few spots available.) 

You and Richie are such a strong, inspiring couple. How do you keep the spark alive?

We're best friends. We take the time to appreciate our life and realize every day how fortunate we are. We make time to be with each other no matter what else is going on. We try to have date nights out of the house, but frankly, hanging at home, with a nice glass of wine, the fire roaring. eating a good meal and playing with our two dogs and one cat, is the best!

Did you guys finally tie the knot last fall?

We are planning on getting married this May! 

With such a hectic schedule, how do you spend your down time?

See above! That's pretty much what we do. I also read a lot. My favorite thing on a day off is to read the New York Times on the couch with my eyes closed.

You're an accomplished actor and a successful business owner. Is there anything else you want to accomplish?

I'm really happy with how my life is right now. Contentment is knowing what enough is. We often find ourselves looking around the corner for the next thing and the next thing after that. I try to appreciate life as it is. That's not to say that something might come up in the future that I might go after, but for now, I don't really need anything else. That's a pretty great place to be.

Find out more about Anderson's new book “Food & Thought,” and follow MetroFresh on Facebook and Twitter.

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