Urban Hippie by Jen Lahey is published every second Tuesday at OttawaMagazine.com. Follow Jen on Twitter @Jen_Lahey.
The website enticing us to try out the new raw vegan resto Herbivore at the Door (70A Leonard Ave.) proclaims that “raw food is sexy,” and if Candice Bernes has anything to do with it, you’ll agree.
Chef and owner of Herbivore at the Door, Bernes was inspired by food as a child growing up in Paris, and later trained under chef Dan Hoyt of Quintessence, New York’s longest running raw restaurant.
On any given day, Bernes says diners can expect to find a variety of fresh, raw, homemade items, such a daily ‘bounty bowl’ filled with salad, sprouts, and additions such as marinated portobello mushrooms, nut and seed burgers, and cooked quinoa.
Also up for grabs: kale chips, broccoli chips and raw dehydrated sunflower seed crackers. Sweets-fiends, there’s something for you, too: watch for the much-sought-after raw vegan ice cream bars, and Bernes’ raw vegan, celiac-friendly date squares. New to the menu this week: matcha lattes with fresh almond hemp milk.
Bernes recently went toe to toe with the Urban Hippie for a few questions about how she got into raw food, why she thinks raw food is worth your time (and your meals!), and exactly what she’d like to serve you.
Can you tell me a bit about yourself, where you’re from and your background as a chef?
My grandmother was an amazing baker and my mother a great cook. As a child I grew up in Paris and remember watching the chefs from a catering event curl butter and bustle in our kitchen. I realized food was a creative outlet I could share with others. A couple of summers ago I decided to go to New York City to learn more about raw food preparation, inspired (read envious) by the raw food blogs I followed.
What led you to get interested in raw food?
My third child was very sick as a baby and I had to give up many foods in order to be able to nurse her: dairy, gluten, soy, and fish. I sought cooking ideas online that would help me to not feel deprived. Raw food kept popping up, and the creative possibilities had me hooked. I started to experiment and take raw food preparation workshops.
Okay, being into raw food is one thing. Opening your own place is another. What made you decide to take the plunge?
Opening my own place was a way to expose more people to raw food cuisine and to give people more options. There seems to be a growing demand for fresh, locally sourced, vegan, and gluten-free food. Raw food can meet all these needs. The more people are exposed to these options, the faster this healthy trend can grow. You are definitely right to call it a plunge. I think you have to be a little crazy and brave to jump into the food industry.
So, raw foods: what’s in it for the average Joe or Jane? What are the benefits of raw foods, in your view?
My experience? Better sleep, brighter skin, more energy, and a desire to hug people a lot… You start to notice just how processed our environment is, and how many steps away from the source of our food we have become. Reducing those steps benefits us health-wise, and benefits the planet.
If you were going to give a petulant ominvore their first raw foods meal, what would you serve them, and why?
Petulant or not, at this time of the year I would make them a collard wrap with dill cashew cream cheese and pea shoots, a heritage tomato salad with a little sea salt, and a slice of my raw apple pie. All served with a glass of freshly squeezed concord grape juice. Very colourful, simple and fresh. Simple allows the individual flavours to show off and it allows people to see that raw food does not have to be complicated.