Raw foods restaurants are establishments that only serve dishes prepared in accordance with raw eating guidelines. Eating raw generally means that no ingredient can be heated above 115 degrees Fahrenheit (46°C) in preparation for the meal. Theoretically, consuming organic, unprocessed ingredients as close to their natural state as possible is associated with greater health benefits than eating cooked foods. Raw foods restaurants cater to people who choose not to eat traditionally cooked foods.
Eating raw is believed to preserve the enzymes present in natural foods that aid in digestion, as well as eliminate the sometimes unhealthy byproducts of cooking food. According to raw eaters, the foods are highest in nutrients when they are raw, and cooking only serves to leech out healthful vitamins and minerals. The focus of raw eating, and consequently raw foods restaurants, is achieving health by eating as close to the earth as possible, and eliminating any extraneous processing.
It is fairly common for raw foods restaurants to be associated with vegetarian and vegan lifestyles, because the easiest foods to prepare and eat raw are generally considered to be vegetables. Vegetables certainly make up vast portions of the menus at raw foods restaurants, but they are not the only options. The process of sprouting makes grains easy enough to digest that they can be transformed into bread products without being baked at high temperatures. Thinly sliced meat and fish can also be served raw or slightly warm, sometimes marinated in an acidic liquid such as lemon juice or vinegar to chemically “cook” the protein without using heat.
Cooking food usually accounts for a lot of the flavor found in more traditional dishes, so in the absence of heat, chefs at raw foods restaurants must be creative. Raw foods restaurants usually feature foods that have been soaked, marinated, processed through a blender or juicer, or even dehydrated. These techniques not only allow for foods to be digested properly without being partially broken down by applying heat, but also allow chefs to mimic the tastes and textures of foods that have been traditionally cooked.
Chefs who cook raw usually eat raw themselves and are well-versed in the restrictions of this dietary style. As a result, they also know how to circumvent the rules and create tasty dishes. While a raw foods beginner might not be able to produce much more than a simple salad or vegetable platter, experienced chefs can make the raw foods restaurant experience just as lavish and delicious as its more traditional counterparts.