On July 7, I announced that Nwenna Kai was coming to Maryland. Although I couldn't make it to Roots Market that day, I was still able to interview her. Nwenna is best known as the creator, founder, and culinary designer of Taste of the Goddess Cafe, one of LA's pioneering organic raw foods cafe, catering companies, and product lines in the Los Angeles area. She has designed the raw vegan product line for the company Foodology, Inc. Her raw food creations are available in over 30 Whole Foods Markets in the southern California area. Below is our interview:
What was the catalyst that brought you to raw food?
About ten years ago while I was grad student studying creative writing at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, I was eating a mostly cooked vegan diet full of tofu, tempeh, and other meat substitute processed foods and I kept getting sick. My most annoying problem was constipation so I intuitively thought that if I ate more salads and fresh juices, I would go to the bathroom, so that’s what I did in the dead of winter in Chicago, I ate only salads and fresh juices. I felt crazy inside. I didn't know what I was doing but it relieved my constipation. Months later a friend of mine took me to Karyn’s Fresh Corner in Chicago and my jaw dropped! I was amazed at all the wonderful foods that you could eat. So I started buying books and equipment and I just experimented in my kitchen at home.
Why did you decide to open a restaurant?
I moved to LA in 2003 as a raw foodist and so I naturally surrounded myself with people who ate like me. After making food in my home kitchen for the local gourmet health food stores, I looked to do more catering and products and needed a commercial kitchen. After driving along Santa Monica Blvd. in West Hollywood, I spotted the small coffee shop that I turned into my restaurant. Years later we moved to a bigger location. I didn’t have any restaurant experience and very little capital but something inside wanted to do this.
What is your advice to someone who wants to start her own business?
Whoah. Eat your greens because you are going to need them. To start a business and to continue to run a business takes passion, drive, a willingness to step out of your comfort zone, a willingness to transform your spiritual life, and a sincere effort to solve a problem. I think the path of being an entrepreneur is a spiritual path designed to teach you how to master your life. Now that’s sexy. Coming in on a mission, living out your mission, helping others and at the same time fulfilling your desires and if you allow yourself to be expansive enough, making millions and perhaps billions of dollars from it.
What is your absolute favorite food to eat?
Kale and portobello mushrooms.
What do you eat on a daily basis?
I keep it simple. I drink a grapefruit juice or a green juice or a berry smoothie in the morning. In the summertime, I live off of coconuts. I graze all day. I eat simply, watermelon for dinner, a kale salad with olive oil and salt, some sliced tomatoes with olive oil and salt, a peach after dinner, celery sticks and nut butter, maybe some banana ice cream at night. Eating like this requires a different way to think. Who would think about eating watermelon for dinner but I will tell you I’m full and feeling good afterwards.
What are your top two pieces of advice for someone just starting out in his/her raw food journey?
Take it slow and listen to your body and to your taste buds. Too often we listen to what other people tell us what to eat and how to eat. If you look at what I eat all day, people ask where is your protein, where is this, where is that. I tell them I haven’t been sick in nine years, case closed. My body isn’t missing anything. We have to understand that our bodies are needing and wanting different things at a different time. We don’t need as much protein as we think. What we need on a daily basis is oxygen.If your body is craving salt, eat salt, but grab some Himalayan salt. If your body is craving sugar, grab for some agave nectar or make a fruit smoothie. Your cravings are telling you exactly what your body is needing.
What is your life's philosophy?
Keep it simple and easy and don’t waste anything. That includes food, money, time, resources, energy, and emotions. We waste so much and then we complain that we don’t have enough of something. I’m convinced that that is the reason why so many of us are always financially challenged. We waste too much.
Any parting words you'd like to share with Raw Mocha Angel readers?
I really hope that black people really make a breakthrough with our health soon. I hear too many times from our people, "I would buy your book but I like my fried chicken too much" or when I had my restaurant people would say to me, "I would come to your restaurant but I gotta have my pork chops." You don’t have to be 100% raw in order to enjoy raw foods. I don’t know where that thinking comes from. It's why I don’t like to label myself a raw foodist. It sets you up to always have to fit into a category or some sort of group. Just because you eat fried chicken doesn’t mean you can’t have wheatgrass the next day.
There is absolutely nothing that we cannot heal, nothing. And I mean the big diseases like cancer, HIV, diabetes, obesity, anger, poverty (yes, poverty is a disease), constipation, headaches. But we have to change our diets which means we have to change our lifestyles.
Thank you so much, Nwenna!
Nwenna was kind enough to offer one lucky Raw Mocha Angel reader a copy of her new book The Goddess of Raw Foods. All you have to do to win is answer one question:
- "What's the funniest comment you've ever heard when you told someone that you're a raw vegan, or even interested in becoming one, or even said the term "raw vegan" in a sentence?"
- Leave a workable email address you check regularly at the end of your post so I can contact you if you win.
- You have until Monday, August 24 by 11:59pm to post your comment
- I will randomly pick and announce a winner on Tuesday, August 25 by 11:59pm. I will also email the winner by that time.
That's it! Good luck to everyone!