Whole Life Times
Children of the RAWvolution
by Eliza Thomas
Chef Matt Amsden, with his partner Janabai, makes eating raw as simple as opening the fridge
The way Matt Amsden describes it, he went raw “virtually overnight. I heard [leading raw foods author] David Wolfe lecturing on Howard Stern, and I was hooked.” It was 1998 and, moved by Wolfe’s words, the then 21-year-old Amsden—who claims he had never given a prior thought to what and how he ate—made the radical conversion to a completely uncooked diet. “It was pretty crazy. I started out eating salads and fruit and stuff, and reading everything I could get my hands on… but there wasn’t as much information out as there is now.”
One hundred percent raw ever since, the 28-year-old, Santa Monica-based culinary whiz kid has moved far beyond everyday fruit and salad to become one of the nation’s premier raw foods innovators. Amsden, along with his partner Janabai, fronts RAWvolution, a first-of-its-kind raw foods service that delivers weekly boxes of freshly prepared gourmet raw foods to grateful diners around the block and around the country.
Humble and sincere, Amsden possesses a wealth of raw and living foods know-how, and a passion for sleuthing out the finest and freshest ingredients from which he crafts his cuisine. To compile the “Raw-box”—for which the menu changes weekly depending on what’s in season—Amsden and Janabai scour area farmers’ markets, filling in the blanks at the Santa Monica Co-Op. “My clients who receive the box know that what they’re getting is good stuff, fresh from local farmers, organic or wild grown,” pledges Matt.
Through word of mouth and the mouthwatering breadth of Matt’s talent, RAWvolution has garnered a legion of devoted clients—and, since this is LA, several are celebrities. Alicia Silverstone, Lisa Bonet, Margaret Cho, Woody Harrelson and Forrest Whitaker have all joined the rawvolution. Even David Wolfe, the man whose passion for living foods was Amsden’s inspiration, has become a fan and friend, regularly using Amsden to cater his seminars and retreats.
“[As] anyone who has ever enjoyed a soft, ripe peach at the peak of peach season knows,” asserts Matt, “the flavor of raw foods is so fresh and alive because they are as nature intended—full of living water and life force.” After a short time eating raw, Matt avers, you begin to feel as if your palette has “been cleansed from the inside out” and your ability to identify and enjoy flavors heightens. From his early days of going raw, Matt remembers, “I had always loved watermelon, but experiencing the depth of the flavor was almost a moving experience… it was almost unbelievable that something could taste so good.”
But Amsden concedes, making the shift to a completely uncooked diet can be challenging for the new convert. “A lot of people are sold on the idea of raw, but are either not motivated or knowledgeable enough to make it work for themselves, or don’t want to make the full investment of time and purchase the equipment.” That’s where the Raw-box comes in. “It’s an easy way to incorporate more raw foods into your lifestyle. You can literally just open the fridge and there’s a healthy, fully-prepared meal for you.”
Each week, the Raw-box features a selection of two soups (such as creamy celery or tomato herb), two entrees (like zucchini pasta Alfredo or stir-not-fry), four side dishes (like cauliflower couscous and Greek pizza) and two desserts (such as strawberry pie or apple raisin cookies), designed to feed a customer for four to five days. Foods are packaged in recyclable stay-fresh containers, and can be picked up from a centrally located Santa Monica kitchen or shipped to a customer’s door.
In between painstakingly shopping and meticulously preparing and distributing the Raw-box to clients, Amsden makes time to give lectures, teach classes, host community dinners and do personalized nutrition consulting around town and at raw foods retreats worldwide. He recently contributed his signature recipes to The Complete Book of Raw Food and has a publishing deal with HarperCollins to release the RAWvolution cookbook in 2006.
And as if that weren’t enough, just last month Amsden assisted Janabai in opening The Euphoria Company, a brand new one-stop-shop, live food boutique on Broadway in Santa Monica. “Sourcing the most powerful food ingredients is what the shop is about,” says Matt: Italian olives, vanilla beans from Madagascar, raw organic teas, raw chocolate. The best high-speed blenders and food dehydrators. “Basically everything you need to enjoy eating raw to the fullest. We hope to educate people to try new things.”
“The simplicity of feeding oneself from only the plants of this earth is paradoxically one of the most profound things one can do,” says Matt. “Once the way in which we feed ourselves changes or evolves, our entire existence evolves. No single thing as much as eating, something most of us do as much as three times every single day, affects our lives or the world we live in as much.”
You can catch Matt biking around town (he doesn’t own a car) or conducting
Thursday night free raw foods lectures at the Euphoria Company (euphoriacompany.com
310.383.1513). Or contact him directly
at RAWvolution.com 310.721.4222