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Food and Drink: Even the pizza is raw A Californian revolutionary is eyeing London. John Hiscock tastes the future

The Daily Telegraph London
August 8, 1998

THE LAST time a new cuisine was created was 200 years ago when America invented the barbecue, states Juliano confidently, but probably erroneously. Now, enough time has elapsed, he believes, to introduce the world to another culinary revolution. Juliano - he uses only his Christian name - is the owner of Raw Experience, a San Francisco restaurant devoted to using only raw vegetables, herbs and spices. He has created an innovative, albeit strange, menu that has already attracted an ardent following.

As with most trends that begin in California, raw cuisine looks as though it will not take long to spread. It has been so successful that Juliano is opening another Raw Experience in Los Angeles in November and hopes to branch out to London. "I'm going to nominate myself for the Nobel Peace Prize - I've invented a whole new cuisine," he boasted, taking an afternoon break between the lunch and dinner crowds that flock to Raw Experience, in the Inner Sunset district of the city and on the edge of the long-time hippie hangout Haight-Ashbury.

"This is a very serious, important creation. It's not just a couple of things here and there, it's a new way of preparing food. No animals had to die, no electricity or gas was used and no rubbish was created because everything comes in its own peel." Unashamedly immodest and infectiously enthusiastic, 25-year-old Juliano runs through some of the dishes on the menu: living pizza served on a raw buckwheat crust; "salmon" sushi made of pulped carrot; wild rice soaked in water for 30 days, sprouting and growing as it is served; and living sun-cultured herb mock tofu. He has even taken the traditional Mexican burrito and adapted it by wrapping shiitake mushrooms, pine-nut cheese, cilantro and salsa in a purple cabbage leaf.

"All these recipes I've created myself," he says. "Anything people make from regular ingredients I can make better with raw food. I make all kinds of sushi - in fact, I do amazing things with sushi. I use every sort of nut and seed and avocado. If I want meat I just put some Portabella mushrooms in soya sauce. I can do anything. My food not only tastes better than anything you find at any other restaurant but it's also much better for you. You actually feel good after eating one of these meals."

His vegetables and herbs are "bio-dynamically" grown, which, he says, far surpasses organic farming standards because the plants are grown farther away from each other, allowing for "improved nutrient availability within the soil and spring water irrigating".

The front of Raw Experience's menu features a quote from Albert Einstein: "Nothing will benefit health and increase the chances for survival of life on earth as the evolution to a vegetarian diet." And Juliano is a living advertisement for the health qualities of his food. Slim and suntanned, he wears only a cut-off T-shirt and shorts all year round - "If I feel cold I just go for a run or do some push- ups and I quickly warm up" - and he spurns the use of toothpaste or shampoo and uses only oatmeal soap. "Animals never take medication or go to the doctor and they're fine," he says. "A bar of soap is all you need."

Raw Experience is firmly established with the celebrity crowd and regulars include Robin Williams, Danny Glover and Woody Harrelson. Juliano's recipes are probably not to everyone's taste but I thoroughly enjoyed my meal and came away marvelling at how something that sounds so unappetising to the average fish-and-meat eater can taste so interesting and be so satisfying. The Italian pizza, consisting of a layer of vegan ricotta, marinara, cured eggplant, Portabella mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, basil leaves and spices and served on a wooden board, was delicious, as was a mango smoothie - "they're out of this world" raved the waitress, with good reason - and a raw torte. Others obviously think so, too. My fellow diners included a pair of middle-aged women, a mother and her son and several groups of Generation Xers and young professionals.

The main area of the restaurant is light and airy, with glass- topped tables and ferns giving a tropical feel. There is also an elevated area where diners must remove their shoes before reclining on cushions Moroccan-style at low tables.

Juliano's prices are reasonable. A set menu features: "ancient salad"; soup with yellow tomatoes, herbs and Portabella mushrooms; Sicilian pizza (topped with sun-dried tomatoes and cured eggplant); and a torte for pounds 20. Individual appetisers cost about pounds 4 and entrees range from pounds 7 to pounds 9.

The son of a Las Vegas restaurant owner and his vegetarian wife, Juliano began creating his own dishes as a form of teenage rebellion against his father's meaty recipes. "Although he cooked with meat, he was also fond of herbs and spices so I took those into my recipes and did away with the meat," says Juliano. "Apart from coming up with new dishes, I was creating something healthy and beneficial."

His sister, Carol, who, with their mother, works at Raw Experience, praises the energetic Juliano: "He works so hard and only sleeps about three hours a night," she says. "He is always coming up with new ideas." Juliano wholeheartedly endorses her comments. "I'm a genius," he says simply as he heads back to the kitchen.

Raw Experience, 1224 Ninth Avenue, San Francisco, California 94122 (001 415 665 6519).

(Copyright 1998 (c) The Telegraph plc, London)

1998 UMI Company; All Rights Reserved. Only fair use, as provided by the United States copyright law, is permitted. UMI Company makes no warranty regarding the accuracy, completeness or timelines of the Publications or the records they contain, or any warranty, express or implied, including any warranty of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose, and shall not be liable for damages of any kind or lost profits or other claims related to them or their use.

 

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