Chef to Chef: Q&A With Raoul Valle, Owner of Green Wave Cafe
|Photo provided by Green Wave Cafe|
Over the past few years, there has been a heightened focus on food and where it comes from. Books like Fast Food Nation and Kitchen Confidential have been huge popular hits.
If you're having nightmares about where your food comes from and how it's been processed, there's one way to get over it: Switch to a raw diet.
I am a chef myself, and I talk to a lot of chefs for this blog. But there's one type of chef that really intrigues me still: the vegan/raw chef. The lifestyle demands a continuous scientific approach to food. They must adhere to specially calibrated recipes and "cooking" techniques that maintain the natural integrity of food. I know why they do it, but how do they do it?
I decided to pick the brain of Raoul Valle, owner of Plantation-based Green Wave Cafe.
Clean Plate Charlie: What kind of numbers do you do?
Raoul Valle: Every chair gets full! People are standing to get in. This last Saturday, for the entire day, from the time we opened to the time we closed, we were mobbed. It was crazy. We won the best of 2010 for New Times. We've been in the Miami Herald, Plantation Forum; we were on with Hulk Hogan and Brooke Hogan, his daughter. People have come in here and filmed documentaries, like Raw World.com. Channel 4 was in here once.
People know about us. It's word of mouth, newspapers articles because we really are the only raw, vegan restaurant, organic, wheat-free in all of Broward County that specializes in this. There's a couple of restaurants that have raw food, but they also have meat products; they serve chicken and stuff like that. And what a lot of people that are into this are afraid of is cross-contamination. If you take a wooden cutting board and you take raw chicken and it has salmonella, bacteria, it goes on the board. You cut the chicken, which will get cooked and the bacteria will get killed. But it's still alive on that piece of wood. You cut lettuce or tomatoes on it, guess what? You transferred the contaminant on the free vegetable; someone will eat and get sick. That can't exist here because there's no animal products. Our food is so clean that if you look at our sewer water, it's clean.
Next door, which is a normal restaurant, they serve burgers and French fries and stuff like that. Every so often, the plumbing to them gets so clogged up that they have to call in a truck to clean what they call the grease trap. I'll go outside to watch; they have yellow chunks that they have to break up with big tubes they suck into the trucks. This is what's happening to people's arteries -- this is in the food! Whether you are eating a French fry or a cheeseburger, this is what's going into your body. This is why there are so many illnesses -- because your cells on a cellular level, your cells need oxygen and nutrients. Anything you put into your body closes up that plumbing; there's less nutrients going into your cells. Instead of them having a big opening, they have a small one. There's blood flowing through there, but your cells are getting what they need: the oxygen and nutrients. That's what causes cancer and heart disease, the lack of oxygen and nutrients. It's like owning a Ferrari and putting regular in it.
Why a raw diet as opposed to vegan?
Well, vegan just means that there are no animal products in our diets -- no cheese, no milk. Cornell University's Dr. T. Colin Campbell wrote a book call the China Study; it was a study done that's still in effect. After nine years, they presented the finding. He claims the number-one cause of cancer is dairy. I would think it would be cigarette smoke, but it's being exposed to dairy, and it shows you in the book. Study after study, which it shows you in the book, dairy, because of its high protein content, which acidifies the body -- it clogs your arteries -- is what's causing cancer. It's right there, and people just have to read it.
What we are doing here is just eating what comes natural to our bodies. Cooking denatures food, it fragments proteins, it totally destroyes all the enzymes in food after 118 degrees. We are going through a health issue with the government with insurance. If people were healthy, we wouldn't need as much health insurance. We'd only need it in case of accidents and disasters. If meat was not subsidized, meat would cost $60. Yet we can go to McDonald's and pay a dollar for a hamburger. We are paying for this through our taxes, and it's destroying our whole world. The Amazon, what is it -- an acre a second they are destroying? It's one of the reasons we are getting the global warming. It's all related to what we eat -- all the problems on the planet. I think it would solve a lot of problems -- I'm not saying all of them. The whole world would change if people turned vegan and eat what they are supposed to. But that's just my opinion.
What's your kitchen like?
There's no stove. If you look back there, there's nothing there because everything's made natural. We buy from Global Organics, a shipment a week; fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. We make everything here from scratch. We make our onion bread, which is dehydrated. We have like 12 or 13 excalibur dehydrators here. The burgers are made with walnuts, almonds, and sunflower seeds. We soak almonds and make our own almond milk, which we use for capuccinos and things for people who drink the milk; it's all organic and made from scratch.
What is your biggest challenge in creating recipes?
Well, you want it to taste good. People are so used to conventional food, and they want a substitute. For example, we have a cheeseburger, pizza, spagehetti with meatballs, burritos, tacos, nachos. We create all this with nuts and seeds. Instead of having refried beans, we make them out of sunflower seeds and walnuts. We make walnut meats and marinate it and make it taste like the real thing, except without the bad side effects, only good side effects. We make tortillas with avocado, red peppers, and zucchinis. That's the biggest challenge, to create new dishes. We took the recipe for onion bread and changed it, made it our own. Took out some of the olive oil, changed the mixture between the golden flax and sunflower seeds, and our onion bread is delicious. It's what our burgers are on and the open-face hummus sandwich is on.
How do you create a recipe with your dietary restrictions?
There's no restrictions. We probably eat a bigger variety than most people. We have every fruit and vegetable and nut out there. Some people eat two or three different things every day; we eat hundreds of things. When we were making our onion bread, the original recipe called for three cups of golden flax to three cups of sunflower seeds. It was a little sweet and harder to work with; we slowly started adding the sunflowers back into it. It seems to be the right mixture and have the right taste.
Do you have the food cost concerns of a typical kitchen?
Oh yeah, of course. Organic food for whatever reason is more expensive than conventional food. I think it has to do with taking an acre of land and you grow organic food, you are only going to get half the amount of food that you would with synthetic fertilizer. But with organic food, the soil remains fertile. With synthetic fertilizers, what happens is you destroy the soil and after a few years it becomes like cement. Organic farming, you can't grow the same thing on the same spot every time; you have to crop-rotate. What this crop takes out, the next one will put back in and uses what that crop left.
Can you tell me about your desserts?
We make the cheesecake with cashews and vanilla; the base of it is walnuts, and it's unbelievable. Except this won't hurt you. We sweeten it with dates because we don't use sugar here. Dates are used in a lot of the food we have. The chocolate banana pie has coconut on top, the walnut base. It's made with raw, organic cacoa, which has no dairy in it. It's one of my favorites. After they throw it into the freezer and it hardens, they pull it out and put it in the refrigerator; it retains its firmness.
Will there be a Green Wave 2?
We've been open two years. Our business has multiplied maybe four or five times since we opened, and it's getting busier. On our busiest day, we'll make in one day what we used to make in a week. When this place gets that busy, when people are willing to wait a half-hour, an hour to wait, then it'll be time to open a new one.
Do you have to find specialty line cooks?
We train them. A lot of people that are into this type of food already have a love for the food, so it's easy to train them. Anyone can do it.
Is everyone that works in your kitchen raw?
Not all of them but the majority. Chef Tomas, when he came here, he wasn't; he was just eating what everyone else eats. But he saw the value, and now he's raw, he's vegan. He's done the whole herbal cleanse thing and detox.
What's the first step to changing to a raw diet?
The first step is to educate yourself as to what the diet you are on now is doing to your body. Once you have that education, you can start implementing more organic food, raw food into your diet, still eating a little bit of cooked. If you do it all at once, what happens is your body takes the new food you're giving it and the energy in the food and says, "Wow, let's clean house." It dumps toxins into your system to try to get rid of them. They go into what's called a healing crisis, your toes turn white, breaking out in pimples, vomiting; it's just your body trying to get rid of the toxins. Once you are through with the healing crisis, you surface with more energy and you are cleaner than you've ever been. We have a limited amount of energy in our body, like a battery. We don't have an infinite amount, just so much. What your body does, it uses up to 80 percent of that energy to digest food. We eat three times a day, so we are digesting food a majority of the day. The only time it starts to clean house is when we are asleep and when you fast. That's why they call it breakfast in the morning -- it's clean; it's cleaned the little bit that it can. The minute you stop eating and go on a real fast for three days, your body just starts dumping toxins like crazy and you detox, clean house. A lot of diseases and illnesses will leave you when you detox because you are cleaning. We are like anything else.
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