The raw food movement has been around for years -- remember the episode in Sex and the City, in which the girls suffer through a meal of wheatgrass shots because Samantha has a crush on the waiter? -- but recently, it has morphed into something much more accessible, refined and sophisticated. Restaurateur, chef and entrepreneur Sarma Melngailis has been at the forefront of this shift. At Pure Food & Wine, her raw vegan restaurant in Manhattan's Gramercy district, the menu abounds with innovative dishes that are as delicious as they are beautifully prepared and the crowd mingling in the chic deep red dining room is a hip mix. "It's true that more and more people defy the stereotyped look formerly associated with being vegan," says Melngailis, who began her career in finance but shifted into the culinary world in the late 1990s, by studying at the French Culinary Institute, and has never looked back. "For instance, I know a lot of men who eat raw who are hardly the unshaven, crunchy vegan-looking type, but rather guys in suits."
To make the kinds of healthy, well-balanced food available to a greater market, Melngailis launched One Lucky Duck (www.oneluckyduck.com), an online source for the raw and organic snacks and ingredients, like fresh bee pollen and flax seeds, as well as organic beauty products. (These days many models don't just eat raw; they use all-natural beauty products and make-up.) The site also includes Melngailis' blog, with recipes and loads of tips on how to lead a more balanced lifestyle. "I think if people begin to look at food more as nourishment and fuel, rather than something to alleviate a growling stomach, and learn about the environmental impacts of our food system, then a shift will come naturally," says Melngailis when asked about how to arrive at a more balanced diet. "With all of the knowledge of where food comes from and what it does to your body, our indulgences naturally are becoming healthier."
Read an Indagare Q&A with Melngailis on how regular people can go raw in a sensible manner (not a "turn-your-life-upside-down and join-a-cult kind of way,") about what she always stocks in her fridge, which places in New York City and beyond inspire her and her favorite organic beauty products.
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