Papaya King

Photo: Jeremy Liebman

Unless you’re Christy Turlington, Woody Harrelson, or Matthew Kenney, you might not know who Melvin Major (pictured) is. But this juicer to the stars, and to hordes of wheatgrass-chugging fans, is a minor celebrity in his own right. For nine years, he’s reduced kale and carrots (and even onions) to their potable form as LifeThyme Natural Market’s reigning juicer and most recognizable presence—a lanky 39-year-old South Carolinian who looks a little like a dreadlocked Chris Rock. Born-again raw foodist Matthew Kenney was such a fan he hired Major to oversee juicing operations at his Blue/Green Organic Juice Cafés, and to teach classes at his new commissary kitchen in Dumbo. We sat down with juiceman Melvin for a crash course in life behind the Vitamat.

You had quite a following at LifeThyme. Who are some of your famous customers?
I’d get big-time actors and actresses and models. Russell Crowe came in with his bodyguards. Woody Harrelson, every time he’s in New York he looks me up. Willem Dafoe. Rosie Perez.

What makes you so popular?
I’m not one to say I’m all that, but I have great energy, I don’t discriminate, and I love people.

What’s your juicing technique?
I just go with the flow, the vibe of it. Too little or too much of one thing can create a terrible-tasting drink. It just came right to me. I just knew.

How did you come to name a drink after Christy Turlington?
She liked me because I didn’t know who she was. She was like, “Make me something that’s not on the menu, make me something special,” and she loved it. She would hang around for an hour, an hour and a half.

Did you eat your vegetables as a kid?
I grew up down in Hilton Head Island on a big old farm. We had peanuts in the shell, corn, watermelon, zucchini, peppers, squash … and we grew kale for the rabbits.

Were you a vegetarian?
No, I was a meat eater. I ate raccoon and deer. But I haven’t eaten meat for over fifteen years.

What’s your regime like these days?
First I like to drink water with lemon. By about noon, I’ll do all greens with apple, lemon, and ginger. Later on, about three or four, I’ll have a protein shake. I eat fish once or twice a week. Me and my girl, if we’re home, we’ll go into a gallon or more of water a day.

Do you ever eat anything bad for you?
Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. I can’t kick it. I’ll sneak out, go downstairs, hang out in the grocery store with one of the Arab guys, and he knows exactly what I’m doing. I’ll sit there and eat the Reese’s cup and get rid of the evidence.

Papaya King