"I've always been into food," declares raw food chef, Chad Sarno. "I grew up in a big Italian family, so my main focus in growing up was about eating. No matter what the social gathering, it always ended up in the kitchen. So I was raised on love for food."
Family bonds became associated with food--an undeniable emotional fulfillment, as Chad muses in his book, Vital Creations, "The thought of warm escarole soup bring feelings of nurturance and security, while lasagna and fresh baguette, an overwhelming feeling of celebration and joy."
After growing up and leaving home, Chad discovered his longstanding chronic asthma was caused by milk products. "As soon as I kicked dairy out of my diet, all of my asthma completely dissolved."
Impressed by the power of having so changed his health by changing his diet, Chad embarked on food as his healing path.
At first Chad was attracted to the teachings of nutritionist Ann Wigmore, who popularized the consumption of the strong-tasting wheat grass and seed ferments. "I was inspired by Ann Wigmore, and was intrigued by her philosophy. I understood that a raw food diet was just common sense."
Chad continued to study, reading a lot of books, including the Essene teachings that championed a simple, raw food diet. He practiced preparing raw and organic food for friends and family, and was just in the right place at the right time. "I was at Breitenbush Hot Springs (Detroit, Oregon) where I met Cherie Soria with the Living Light Culinary Arts Institute, and apprenticed with her for about ten days when she asked if I would be the staff chef at her school."
Things started snowballing for Chad at that point, and he realized he was really passionate about preparing gourmet raw food dishes. Soon he was doing a lot of teaching, and discovering along the way that there can be enzymatically rich raw foods that taste absolutely delicious. "It's that comfort heaviness in the food that we're all hooked on." Chad says, and it is the approach of "mainstream" raw food chefs who use nut dishes and dried fruits to attract new converts. But Chad says he tends to lean away from nuts, going more toward vegetables and fruits. "I'm trying to break that paradigm and perception of raw foods that a lot of people have, bringing it up a couple of levels at the restaurants I work with."
Chad was one of the chefs who designed the menu and kitchen layout for Roxanne's raw food restaurant in Larkspur, California.
Is there a trend toward raw foods in our culture? "I think there's a trend to be healthy, and definitely a trend to look beautiful," says Chad. "Everybody thinks its trendy because there are all these movie stars doing it. People are starting to realize, Hey I can throw away all these pills, and just eat good food."
Chad spent about two years of "transitioning" to a completely raw food diet. When he first got turned on to raw fooding, Chad did a sprout fast. "The worst thing you can do," he says. "It turned me off once again. But I kept on doing it...these little sprout and raw food fasts. I never knew raw foods could be comforting. That's basically how I got onto my path, which is focusing on transitional raw food. The mission statement for my company is to make raw food taste as cooked as possible without losing the enzymatic value of it in its natural state. There's only so many people you can get turned on to this lifestyle with just a carrot and an apple, you know? But if you're waving some good pizza in their face with some manicotti and lasagna that tastes and resembles cooked foods, then they're into it."
"When I transitioned to the raw foods lifestyle I ate strictly salads and fruit for the first couple weeks, which by far is the most ideal diet to follow after the transition period dissipates. After a while of experiencing the cleansing process my whole being began to transform. My head began to feel clear, my body felt superhuman with an increase of flexibility and endurance during exercise, the amount of hours I was sleeping was decreasing and I truly just felt as I never have before...alive!
"During this amazing time of inspiration and transformation, there was this certain emptiness I had felt that was beginning to bring me on an emotional roller coaster. This feeling was indescribable, so intense at times that I almost fell back on the cooked wagon.
"I sat with this feeling for a few days asking for guidance from people and through my prayers. The realization came that I was focusing so much on cleansing my physical body, that I did not even consider the amount of emotional ties I had to food I just simply tossed aside and didn't think anything of until the feelings of lack, and emptiness came over me. Now, not everyone has such strong emotional attachments to food, and some can jump 100% to the raw foods lifestyle on salads and fruit with no problem, but for many of us, it is very difficult without considering our conditioning and feeding the emotional body along the way.
"Now, years later, I am able to sit back and laugh at what an emotional wreck I was for a while there, and it continues to amaze me how emotionally attached to food our society has assisted us in being. More and more amazing raw chefs and great raw restaurants are popping up everywhere offering the foods that we are so used to, to assist in the transition to this lifestyle."
Raw Food Nightclub
A target of Rudy Giuliani's New York drug crackdown on nightclubs, Twilo, was shuttered two years ago after repeated drug busts. Phoenix-like, rising from the former Twilo site, Dubliner entrepreneur, Robbie Wootton (INFO), is preparing Spirit to open November 29th. The space has a holistic theme featuring a restaurant with an adjacent bar and lounge area. The main dancefloor has been excavated and dropped to accommodate a mezzanine, and a wellness center was designed upstairs. The restaurant will emphasize vegetarian fare with some raw-food dishes. Wootton's master plan includes the unveiling of five more Spirit venues, the next one in Cape Town, South Africa, with clubs in Athens, Sydney, Shanghai, and Rio to follow. "I was guided to do this," says Wootton. "I know it sounds strange, but that's the reason."
Chad Sarno is one of the chefs contracted by Spirit to design the kitchen and menus to accommodate and integrate a wide range of organic cuisines with raw foods. "I've been working on this project for a number of months now. Spirit is an 1800 capacity nightclub. It's a conscious nightclub, completely shifting the perception of nightclub life, and nightlife in Manhattan. The holistic center in the nightclub is based on the chakra system. There are seven different healing rooms within this center where you can get a different treatment in each one," enthuses Chad.
Although Spirit is offering alcohol as a mainstreaming function, the bottles will be concealed and emphasis put on herbal elixirs. "It's merging two worlds," says Chad. "It's really amazing what they're doing. In the restaurant it's the entire spectrum of whole and organic foods, about 50% raw vegan, that myself and a couple of other chefs are putting together. I'm designing the kitchen so the vegan cuisine we'll be serving is completely separated from any other cuisine that is in there. There are two coolers, two separate sets of pots and pans and mixing bowls. Things are pretty strict. I'm a pretty radical vegan myself, so it's humbling to me to work on a project where some aspects of it I disagree with and surrender to. But it's merging of both worlds in a really amazing way. The feng shui of the place--the colors and design of the chairs and tables, the flow of the wood, and everything, is just really amazing and eclectic. We're open to having family dinners there, and there are community tables where people can share. It's exciting stuff."
Meanwhile, Chad continues to promote and preside over his raw food venture called Vital Creations, a gourmet raw food catering service and training school for upcoming raw food chefs. One of the textbooks is Chad's own spiral-bound cookbook with a message entitled, "Vital Creations: An Organic Life Experience." It is easy to get caught up in Chad's passion for raw fooding, especially when it turns culturally political: