It’s a good thing: Martha Stewart visits N.C. Research Campus

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Emily Ford and Sara Gregory
KANNAPOLIS ó Martha Stewart toured the N.C. Research Campus Thursday under a veil of secrecy.
The nationally known lifestyle guru toured the UNC Nutrition Research Institute and told The Post that she was here to learn about nutrition research.
Campus founder David H. Murdock gave Stewart a tour of the 350-acre biotechnology complex that broke ground in February 2006.
“It’s fascinating to see something happening in such a short time,” Stewart said. “The effort should be applauded.”
Murdock drove her around Cannon Village in his blue Range Rover as she snapped photos from the passenger window.
She plans to take ideas from the “impressive” research campus back to her Center for Living at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.
“This research is happening in different places across the country,” she said.
Stewart’s visit will benefit Kannapolis, said Victoria Christian, chief operating officer for Duke University’s MURDOCK Study.
“It can only be good for Kannapolis to get on the radar of people like that in a positive way,” Christian said.
Stewart met Christian and Dr. Rob Califf, leader of the MURDOCK Study, while she toured the Core Lab Building.
Someone with Stewart’s influence could be a powerful advocate for the study.
“If she were taken by the study and talked about it in her circles, it could add an interesting benefit,” Christian said.
Murdock, who owns Dole Food Co., gave Duke $35 million last year to launch the study, which stands for Measurement to Understand Reclassification of Disease of Cabarrus/Kannapolis.
The study will depend on participation from thousands of local residents to better understand chronic diseases like hepatitis and diabetes.
Stewart toured the Core Lab with two companions, Christian said, including a woman from Stewart’s magazine Body+Soul, which is dedicated to health and wellness, and a geriatrician.
They requested more information about the MURDOCK Study, Christian said.
Stewart “is interested in robust, healthy aging, and Mr. Murdock is an icon of that,” Christian said of the 85-year-old billionaire.
Murdock often tells audiences of his passion for exercise and nutrition.
Stewart’s center at Mt. Sinai works to make health care resources available to aging adults, according to its Web site. She turns 67 on Sunday.
After visiting the campus, Stewart and Murdock were expected to dine together.
Murdock’s chef, John Sedlak, said he was preparing dinner for Stewart and Murdock. Sedlak is the executive chef at Murdock’s restaurant, 46.
Sedlak said he wasn’t nervous to cook for Stewart, the domestic diva who runs a media empire and is known for making everything from scratch.
“I have cooked for a lot of big names,” he said.
Sedlak’s tentative menu included seafood prepared with a southern spin, probably incorporating grits, he said. He planned to serve fresh produce picked from Murdock’s expansive gardens at his Rowan County home, Pity Sake Lodge, including tomatoes for fried green tomatoes.
Sedlak said he planned to offer Stewart and Murdock something made from fresh peaches, as well as homemade sorbet.
Last week’s preparations for the arrival of Murdock and his mystery guest angered NASCAR fans when Research Campus developer Castle & Cooke asked the city of Kannapolis to remove the Dale Trail banners from Dale Earnhardt Boulevard. The city has since issued a letter to Earnhardt fans assuring them the city will continue to honor the memory of its native son in other ways.
The incident sparked a widespread debate about how Kannapolis should honor its past as a mill town and NASCAR cradle while preparing for its future as a biotechnology hub.
Stewart said Thursday that she didn’t know whether she would visit sites on the Dale Trail before she leaves town this morning.
“I haven’t a clue,” she said. “That’s up to Mr. Murdock.”
Castle & Cooke officials could not be reached for comment regarding Stewart’s visit.
Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc. posted a second quarter profit sparked by strong growth in its merchandising revenue. The company had second-quarter income of $328 million, compared with a loss last year of $6.74 million. Revenue grew 5 percent to $77.1 from $73.1 million in the same period a year earlier.