Article: Healthful, raw-food trend is picking up steam
- 04/25/2002 - Updated 08:05 PM ET
Healthful, raw-food trend is picking up steam
By Jerry Shriver, USA TODAY
Before you get fired up about buying a fancy new stove for your
kitchen, consider this growing cooking trend: uncooked foods. A once-
radical form of vegetarianism called the "raw foods" or "living foods
movement" is creeping into the mainstream via forums such as gourmet
restaurants, upscale food festivals, airline menus and big-name
Since the mid-1990s, the health-food world has embraced a style of
preparation in which all ingredients are raw, organic and vegan (no
fish, meat, eggs or dairy products), and nothing is heated above 118
The rationales are that a diet of fruits, vegetables, legumes and
nuts is inherently healthier, and that heat destroys key nutrients
and enzymes. So instead of ovens and stoves, the essential kitchen
tools are juicers, blenders, high-tech slicers and dehydrators.
Until recently, the movement ("raw foods" and "living foods" are
usually used interchangeably) gained most of its exposure through Web
sites, natural-food stores, trade shows, a handful of modest cafes
and endorsements from a few celebrities, including Woody Harrelson
and Alicia Silverstone.
Now, the larger culinary world is catching on:
Veteran chef Roxanne Klein is winning critical acclaim for her new
Roxanne's in Larkspur, Calif., the first raw-food restaurant to
successfully adopt a fine-dining approach. It features artistic
presentations, an elegant interior incorporating environmentally
friendly materials, an impressive list of organic wines and an
average check of $50 per person.
Renowned Chicago chef Charlie Trotter, who occasionally incorporates
raw-food dishes into his tasting menus, is working with Klein and
superstar photographer Tim Turner on a raw-food book for Ten Speed
Press, due out early next year.
Trotter and Klein will give a presentation on raw foods in June at
the Food & Wine Magazine Classic in Aspen, Colo., the nation's
largest annual food festival.
Lufthansa has begun offering raw-food meals, upon request, on
A just-released book from raw-food guru David Wolfe, Eating for
Beauty (Maul Brothers Publishing, $24.95), promotes the raw-food diet
as part of a wellness/beauty regimen.
The most significant bellwether is the all-raw gourmet menu at
Klein's 64-seat restaurant, the result of more than five years of
research by the classically trained chef. A recent review in the San
Francisco Chronicle awarded the restaurant 3 1/2 stars (out of four).
Reservations are now a must on weekends.
"It has been an amazing challenge to create an incredible dining
experience of sensual flavors with this kind of cuisine," says Klein,
who adds that she was introduced to raw foods by Harrelson. "You have
to study how the dishes are presented, how to get the aromas and
balanced flavors and textures to make it satisfying."
Klein's "lasagna" typifies her approach: Paper-thin slices of
zucchini, substituting for the pasta, are layered with mushrooms,
garlic, herbs, marinated spinach, fresh corn kernels and cashew-based
herbed cheese. The sauce is a marinara made from fresh and sun-dried
tomatoes, herbs and more than 30 spices. It's served room temperature
on a warmed plate that has been dotted with herb oils to enhance the
"We get about five people a day at the door wanting to know more
about this after they've dined here," Klein says.
While Roxanne's appears to be the only raw-food restaurant to have
adopted a consciously gourmet approach, nearly two dozen more modest
eateries have opened across the country in the past few years.
The new Ecopolitan in Minneapolis, for example, already is looking to
expand to other Midwest markets, and 3-year-old Quintessence in New
York has just opened a branch on the trendy Upper West Side.
Wolfe estimates that at least 1 million people in the USA embrace
some aspect of the raw-food diet, based upon traffic at various Web
sites and the 100,000-plus copies of his book, The Sunfood Diet
Success System, that have been sold since 1999.
"And it's just opening up, just beginning," he says.
Wolfe concedes that America is "the fattest nation in the world," but
he is convinced that many more people are beginning "to flip around
and are getting totally health-conscious and fit. It's in the
American nature to go to extremes."
And eating raw foods is an extreme but attractive path to fitness, he
says. "After a meal, you come out more fulfilled, feeling lighter and
clearer. It turns people on to another level of experience. It's for
people who are on the cutting edge."