"Well, OK, you gotta know that I don't come cheap," he tells the caller bluntly. "It'd cost you a minimum of two grand a day, including travel. . . . Well, you gotta read my book, baby. It's all in there. It's all in there."
Gives Ranchers a Pep Talk
Last month, the Beef Council flew Saltman to Sun Valley, Idaho, where he delivered his talk, "Stop Being Chicken About Beef." His audience, he says, consisted of food editors brandishing Gucci bags, and a bunch of cowboys and ranchers.
Saltman ended up giving the beef men a pep talk: " . . . I told the cowboys they ought to . . . stop apologizing for what they have, and start breeding cattle that have lower fat, and to start looking for other ways of preparing beef products," he recalls.
Saltman estimates that he makes about $15,000 a year in speaking engagements for a wide range of groups. He says he has invested most of the money over the past five years in his lab, where he researches such things as hemoglobin, myoglobin and osteoporosis.
"I feel comfortable as long as I feel honest and I don't have to say things I wouldn't say otherwise," he replied when asked if he was stung by Phil Donahue's suggestion Saltman might have a Beef Council bias. "Everything I say has to be existentially true. I will not lie about a piece of meat."
Saltman was born and reared in Los Angeles, the son of a furniture manufacturer. Both his parents died when he was a child--his mother of pneumonia when he was 5, his father in an automobile accident when he was 14.
He attended public schools, then went to Caltech--on a basketball scholarship, he likes to joke, being 6-foot-5 tall. He spent 14 years on the faculty of the University of Southern California, then became a professor of biology at UCSD in 1967.
He went on to become vice chancellor for academic affairs at UCSD in 1972 and held that position until 1980. But when he was not made chancellor, Saltman returned to teaching; he didn't want to be "second banana."
His earthy teaching style is famous. On a coffee table in his office lies a 1984 "most valuable professor" award from the students of UCSD's Muir College. It is a shellacked Twinkie balanced on a pedestal.
Saltman, 59, plays tennis regularly. He is a lifelong surfer, with a key to the gate to Black's Beach a few hundred yards from his house. Two 9 1/2-foot surfboards stand in the corner of his garage, beside a forest-green Mercedes-Benz.
Saltman became interested in nutrition more than 20 years ago when he was an assistant professor at USC.