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chroniclebanner468x54.gif (3884 bytes)Budding Chef Cooks, Writes In the Raw
By Holly Ocasio Rizzo, Chronicle Staff Writer
May 5, 1999

In the world according to Juliano, cooked food kills.

"Look at every other creature on the planet," the single-name chef says. "They don't even get cavities in their teeth. They're in absolute perfect shape, and they do not eat cooked foods. That, to me, is universal proof."

He drops another little piece of Thai coconut into a blender and presses a button. The problem with cooking, he says, is that it zaps the digestion-aiding enzymes in food; in compensating for the loss, the body focuses on digestion, diverting energy from making other enzymes that cleanse and heal.

The blender's whir fills Organica, the Inner Sunset restaurant formerly called Raw Experience that has brought him to the cusp of celebrity.

"I never drink water," he says. "You don't know what it picks up from the pipes. Water in jugs is stagnant, and it creates packaging, which isn't good for the planet. So I drink coconuts."

The recipe for the smoothie he's making isn't in "RAW: The UNcook Book," a volume more than two years in the making that HarperCollins released Saturday. The sweet-smelling combination of organic coconut, date and strawberry is impromptu.

The cellular phone rings. Juliano becomes all business. The caller talks about juicers and the possibility of wrangling Juliano an endorsement deal. After all, Juliano's profile is rising -- a Spin magazine interview earlier this year; a page to order his book on the Web site for actor Woody Harrelson's West Hollywood oxygen-and-raw-foods bar, O2; and, now, book-promotion appearances set up for "Late Night With David Letterman" and other television shows.

It's difficult to picture Juliano on such shows. Would he wear jams and a long-sleeve Gotcha Surf Co. T-shirt, white socks and dark athletic shoes, like he's wearing this day? Would he pull back his past-the-shoulders hair with a rubber band or let it flow freely?

Perhaps the world will see. But his true background may remain hidden; his biography is as soft as his science, pleasantly morphing to fit the moment.

Born Juliano Brotman 29 years ago -- he sometimes says 25 -- he was raised in his father's meat-heavy Italian restaurant and in front of a TV set in his parents' Las Vegas home. He quit school, he says, when he was 8. At 15, he moved with his family to Palm Springs.

His father "fired" him from the restaurant that year for refusing to cut his hair, he says. So Juliano, school-free, spent his days exploring Tahquitz Canyon, a ribbon of natural oases slashed into a desert mountain.

There, the teenager had his culinary epiphany.

"An eagle soared out from the distant trees down to the pool and ascended with a fish clamped in her talons," he writes in the preface to "RAW." "Frogs sunbathed on giant rocks. And I, for the first time, felt a part of nature instead of a distant bystander watching the world on the tube."

He immediately became vegetarian, he says. At 19, he became vegan, giving up all animal products. Finally, he went raw.

"It's been four years since I ate cooked food," he says. "For the first year-and-a-half, I cheated. I ate cooked vegan foods I made myself, and when I did, I felt awful."

To eat raw properly, don't go cold-turkey, he advises. "You need the grains, the rices." In "RAW," he describes raw-food preparation, but a novice needs to seek nutrition advice elsewhere.

Juliano swears to this: Without cooking, his energy grew -- he sleeps as little as two hours a day -- and he felt his thinking become clearer and quicker. In search of like-minded individuals, he moved to San Francisco to join an ayurvedic yoga center. Practitioners of ayurveda, originally a Hindu medicine system, follow dietary recommendations such as always eating hot food in cold seasons.

"They said cooked rice is, like, 5,000 years old, and I said raw was, like, before fire," Juliano says. "So I moved out of the yoga center and got into the restaurant. I just opened the restaurant to eat."

His mother financed the venture, which opened in 1994, serving meatless meatloaf made of portobello mushrooms and nuts, burritos wrapped in cabbage leaves, and cheese-free, meat-free burgers served on breadlike sheets of sprouted buckwheat baked 10 hours in the sun. His sister helped develop the recipes.

His celebrity clientele grew -- Robin Williams, Michael Milken, Steve Jobs and Bryan Adams among them. He started teaching "uncooking," even training Harrelson's O2 chef, he says. To keep up, he splits most of his time between San Francisco and a Santa Monica community center with a raw-foods kitchen.

He's selling Organica, he says, though he'll still teach uncooking there. "It was so much work. I just stood right there behind the counter for four years for 15 hours a day.

"Then about a year-and-a-half later, I realized I was changing the planet. It was like junk food, raw food, gourmet food. There were, like, nine cuisines of the world, and now there's 10."

In Los Angeles, he works on his next career: screenwriting. He hopes to use his raw-food talents to connect with Hollywood financial backers. And, if they don't follow, he's still the new guru on the block preaching the gospel of clean cuisine for long life.

"It's great to have this light feeling from eating raw," he says. "I needed chocolate every day of my life before. Once you eat torte made of carob and dates, you won't even think about chocolate. And you get all this energy from it.

"All you have to do is change your addictions, and you're a healthy person."

Organica (formerly Raw Experience Living Foods Restaurant), 1224 Ninth Ave. (near Judah Street), San Francisco; (415) 665-6519. Open for dinner, but hours change daily.

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LOOK BEFORE YOU LEAP INTO VEGAN

If you're thinking about living on raw alone, you'll need to prepare before jumping in.

That's because a plants-only diet requires careful balance.

"If you're going to a vegan diet, go to a registered dietitian or your doctor to make sure you're meeting your dietary needs," says Tammy Baker, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the American Dietary Association, a national professional organization.

"With careful planning and supplements, you can make a vegan diet work. All it would take to learn how would be one visit to a doctor or a dietitian."

For a wealth of basics about raw-foods diets, visit the "Living and Raw Foods" community Web site at www.living-foods.com. The site also will lead you to a page of information about a Bay Area raw-foodists group, San Francisco Living Foods Enthusiasts. Reach the group's activities hot line at (415) 751-2806.

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STRAWBERRY ROMANOFF

From "Raw: The Uncook Book," by Juliano with Erika Lenkert (HarperCollins Publishers Inc., 1999; 288 pages; $32).

INGREDIENTS:

-- 1 1/2 cups Whipped Cream (see recipe) -- 1 cup sliced strawberries

-- 1/2 cup other berries (optional)

-- 2 tablespoons maple syrup

-- 1 tablespoon chocolate mint

INSTRUCTIONS: In a serving bowl, combine the whipped cream and berries and mix well. Drizzle the maple syrup over it and garnish with chocolate mint.

Serves 2.

PER SERVING: 655 calories, 12 g protein, 57 g carbohydrate, 47 g fat (4 g saturated), 0 mg cholesterol, 15 mg sodium, 6 g fiber.

WHIPPED CREAM

Juliano says: "To make the ultimate Whipped Cream, I like walnuts and/or cashews best. You can use any type of nuts, but they must be raw." Expect a slightly grainy texture and a light-brown color from the nuts.

INGREDIENTS:

-- 1 1/2 cups raw walnuts, cashews or nuts of your choice

-- Filtered water for soaking nuts

-- 1/2 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice

-- 2 tablespoons maple syrup

-- A few drops of almond extract (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS: Put nuts in a container filled with enough water to cover; let soak for at least 2 hours. Drain. Place nuts in a blender; add orange juice, maple syrup and, if you wish, a few drops of almond extract. Blend, scraping down sides of blender jar with a rubber scraper to help cream turn over. Stop and check for sweetness and consistency; add more water if cream is still too stiff. Continue blending until fluffy and smooth.

Use immediately.

Yields 1 1/2 cups.

PER TABLESPOON: 45 calories, 1 g protein, 3 g carbohydrate, 4 g fat (0 g saturated), 0 mg cholesterol, 1 mg sodium, 0 g fiber.

 

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