|Photo by Juan Marulanda
Renée is the Head Raw Chef at newly opened Home Juice Bar in Docklands. She is also my yoga teacher. Although, I have to admit, yoga and I have not been on the relationship continuum of late. I’m just so inflexible…
Since I have known her, Renée has always been a passionate advocate of the plant based or raw organic diet.
I like food. Understatement of the year. But initially I, like many others, couldn’t quite get my head around what a raw food meal might look like. And, I’m ashamed to say, a vision came to mind of a big white plate dressed with a carrot pulled straight from the garden, complete with organic compost clinging to its non-genetically modified form and a handful of activated almonds. It sounded as though there would be a lot of crunching involved.
I was intrigued.
Now, I really like cooking and so I rose to the challenge. Not that there is much, in fact any, cooking involved. Nevertheless. I got some recipes from Renée, rolled up my yoga pants and got amongst it.
The first raw dish I made was a “lasagne”, which I took to a picnic in the Carlton Gardens. It was a vegan picnic and immaculate women with bright red lipstick arrived on retro wicker-basketed bikes with an array of incredible vegan and raw offerings. And mine stacked up. Quite literally, in fact, given it was lasagne, so from the start there is stacking involved.
Layers of very thinly sliced courgette instead of pasta sheets were alternated with layers of blended fresh tomatoes and a little salt, a basil pesto, and a cashew “cheese”, where the nuts are blended with lemon juice and tahini to produce a rich and creamy element.
It was like eating summer, if summer could be eaten.
I was hooked.
Next it was fooling the family menfolk at the Christmas table with “cheesecake” aka raw vegan tart with soaked nuts and dates and maple syrup and suchlike.
There is greatness to be had in the raw food. The only thing is, all those nuts and organic first pressed coconut oil are fairly expensive. And the dishes tend to be labour intensive what with the soaking and activating and blending.
But Renée is finally getting to unleash her beautiful food on a wider public at Home Juice Bar, so I thought it was about time I got the complete low down.
I met with Renée the morning after she had spent the night in the kitchen preparing food.
She explained to me that the concept of eating raw has been around for a long time, it’s just that it has hit critical mass and become popular in the last two years. The idea is that food in its raw state holistically contains the entire vitamin and mineral content our body needs and the enzymes remain intact. When we heat food over a certain temperature we are actually killing all of the goodness in the food. In saying that, she added, within the raw food movement, dehydration can be used, which is around 42° Celsius. The enzymes and mineral content within the food remain intact at that level of cooking…or un-cooking. Enzymes get missed a lot in the nutritional fads that come about. People talk about vitamins and minerals but they don’t go into the enzymes and pro-biotics.
If you think about it from an energetic point of view, which is important for Renée, it’s about creating frequency. Everything in the universe contains frequency, she explained, and food is a portion of that frequency.
“When we consume food in its raw state, we are consuming high frequency food and then as soon as we start to heat it, we are killing it or dropping the frequency. The frequency that we hold and the frequency the food holds is a co-creation. It’s feeding and nourishing us on a whole other level. Not only nutritionally but on an energetic level as well.”
Renée first started playing around with the concept of raw food in 2009, she recalls. The whole idea made sense to her. Coming from a background in Chinese medicine, it was an unusual flip because in Chinese medicine the foundation belief system is you cook the crap out of everything. Slow-cooked soups and stews with lots of meat. There was a lot of unlearning that had to happen for Renée. But, at the same time, working with raw food was a natural process for. She started researching and playing around with recipes. She would research normal recipes and think, “how can I turn this into a raw food recipe?” Then she realised that it wasn’t new. She wasn’t inventing anything. She had thought she was coming up with these great concepts but people were already doing them. So then she just embraced it.
When I suggested my idea that cold food in winter wasn’t particularly appealing to me, Renée agreed: “What it comes down to is that everyone is different. Every body type is different. Some people can handle a completely plant-based diet, some can handle only a certain amount of it. I believe it’s a seasonal thing. It’s important not to do something because it’s popular. You have to internally check how things feel for you. In the depths of winter, I believe that I need to eat warm soups and steamed vegetables, so I don’t choose to eat completely raw. When you eat seasonally and organically you’re choosing foods on a seasonal level and in summer, there are so many fresh vegetables and fruits and you want to eat more of that.”
Whew. Is what I thought.
Renée was adamant that I understand her philosophy, “When we consume food, it’s an experience. Right from the moment we have the thought, we are already in the process. And it’s about sharing. You share the experience of food with others. For me, making food is like meditation, I am always in a good space. I wouldn’t want to make that food if I was upset. That’s the spiritual aspect for me.”
Renée is a Raw Food Chef and Yoga Instructor. She is also a legend.