An explosion in business catering to vegan and raw diets
New Orleans has earned its entrenched reputation as a place where trends are slow and late to catch on – think skinny jeans, yoga and modern cocktail culture – but when we do finally embrace a trend we tend to do so with a vengeance (see above) then we clutch desperately to it long after other (more cutting-edge? or is it less change-averse?) places and their inhabitants have moved on to the Next New Thing, which will eventually, eventually, make it into our embrace. Then we begin the process again.
In 2010 (only four years ago) the documentary Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, which follows the two-month juice fast of blubbery Joe Cross across the United States – as he ultimately loses 100 pounds, kicks all of his meds, goes on to live the glory life and inspired others to do so – launched an immediate up-cropping of juice bars and a doubling in the sale of Breville juicers pretty much everywhere but here. Instead we were still just starting to wrap our heads around the locavore movement and the grass-fed-barbecue-from-a-food-truck movement the rest of the country had dashed from to embrace the juicing/vegan/raw movement.
True to our form, now that the rest of the country is wearing palazzo pants to munch chicken wings battered with cassava flour, sprinkled with umami salt and dunked in Chamoy sauce, we’re pulling on our skinnies to slurp at organic juice bars or to much raw, superfood and/or vegan meals (they all seem to go hand-in-hand) at a host of places, such as the newly opened Raw Republic, that are servicing our newfound cravings. Brave early-comer entrepreneurs into the movement, like the Superfood Bar and The Green Fork, which began as a delivery-only service in 2010, are finally starting to feel the love from the masses in a real way instead of merely catering to the smattering of health hipsters who quietly existed in a parallel universe prior to the relatively recent general enlightenment. The Green Fork went from delivery service to a Prytania Street brick-and-mortar in ’12 offering juices and primarily grab-and-go salads and sandwiches and jars of soup. A second location opened in Old Metairie last fall.
In 2011, Joseph Stone rented a 180-sqaure-foot storefront on a then-lackluster stretch of Magazine Street because he needed a workspace to grow his hobby of fermenting foods and the $450 rent was cheap. When he began distributing his signature Samurai Kombucha tea around town, enthusiastic response eventually led him to last year expand into the storefront next door, where he slept on the floor so he could pay the increased rent. Today the kitchen at the Superfood Bar is run by chef Amie Havens, a Restaurant August kitchen alum, who turns out organic smoothies and juice blends and a selection of vegan and mostly raw salads, wraps and a soup of the day. Business is brisk, and Stone now sleeps upstairs where he contemplates expansion, franchising and investors. “I never intended to have a restaurant,” Stone says. “ I just wanted to make fermented tea! But this is where the path had led me and it’s a good one.”
The melodiously named Sheena Mannina was first exposed to juicing and vegan food culture before college at LSU while working at an upscale juicery in the East Hamptons. After earning certification from the Institute of Integratative Nutrition (INN) the area native returned home a year and a half ago to be close to her ailing father, who was suffering from cancer. “I just kept wondering ‘What’s causing all this shit?’ and I felt compelled to bring greater comprehensive wellness to New Orleans.” She immediately started making smoothies and delivering them to friends in jars because she couldn’t afford a juicer.
The response was immediate and enthusiastic. In November 2013 the 25 year-old entrepreneur and her boyfriend and business partner Evan Cretini, 27, opened their brick-and-mortar location in a small Magazine Street storefront and stocked the sleek, minimalist space with jewel-hued cold-pressed juices, invigorating tonics and smoothies, cleansing systems and a small selection of colorful, raw, vegan prepared foods. A concealed vaporizer pumps out a blend of Balance, Lift and Clarity, a few of the custom blended essential oils sold in the shop, alongside a small selection of vegan organic cosmetics and wellness books. “Everything here is a mindfully selected, nature intended product,” Mannina says. “Even our T-shirts are organic cotton and printed with plant inks.”
Soothing, patient, serene and knowledgeable, Mannina seems almost to float blissfully along in what she calls her “detox market” as she guides customers through the steps they must take to adopt her lifestyle and the very obvious benefits to be enjoyed by doing so. That she’s also a radiant beauty with clear skin, bright eyes and glossy hair surely doesn’t hinder her efforts: She seems to have unlocked the secrets to the Good Life. Who among us would not want the keys to that kingdom?
On their website Mannina and Cretini observe “In a world that’s filled with artificials, our mission as a community of experts is to educate and enlighten others. The ultimate goal is to provide a respite for those seeking truth and a deeper level of self-care. We believe in purity, integrity and truth. We stand for a better way of life.”
Raw Republic co-owner Sheena Mannina
Superfood Bar owner Joseph Stone
Right By You
The Green Fork
1400 Prytania St.
200 Metairie Road
4528 Magazine St.
4113 Magazine St.