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Long-awaited raw foods restaurant prepares to open

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Update: Cafe LOVE can't open its restaurant because of parking issues. However, it can make food in its kitchen and sell the food elsewhere. A full explanation is here.

The Triangle's diverse dining scene soon will add a new culinary option: Café LOVE, which will feature a raw foods menu, is scheduled to open before Valentine's Day at 3219 Old Chapel Hill Road, next to Piper's Deli and between University Drive and MLK Parkway in Durham. The eatery, whose name signifies Live Organic Vegan Eats, will be operated by chef Matthew Daniels and business partner Jane Howard Crutchfield, the couple behind Triangle Raw Foods.

"The kitchen will be operational by January, so we'll shift production there as soon as possible," says Crutchfield from The Cookery in Durham, the commercial kitchen they've used since May 2011. "We don't need an oven, so the space will come together quickly."

The restaurant will offer take-out service and have a small seating area as well as offer cooking classes. "This will really allow Matthew's creative side to shine," Crutchfield says, as Daniels preps a large batch of savory green tacos, which are tucked into broad leaves of romaine and drizzled with cashew cream.

Daniels says that foods eaten raw, or heated to no more than 118 degrees, retain more of their inherent nutritional value than when they are exposed to conventional cooking. Raw vegetables also provide a high fiber and water content, which aid digestion and make consumers feel more full and satisfied.

Raw food aficionados familiar with Triangle Raw Foods through its food truck and packaged foods sold at area Whole Foods stores may be surprised by the menu at Café LOVE. Daniels has more than 60 recipes in his repertoire—pad Thai, ginger-miso squash noodles, Indian carrot paté—and is working on new dishes that can be served with ingredients gently warmed in a dehydrator.

The business has grown rapidly, especially considering it was launched just months after the couple started dating—and not long after they decided to try a week of all-raw eating. Meanwhile, The Cookery announced it would open as a culinary incubator.

"It was like the universe was telling us the time was right for this," Crutchfield says. "It just took off. People really wanted our food."

The Cookery co-owner Nick Hawthorne-Johnson recalls when Daniels and Crutchfield approached him about preparing raw foods in the kitchen. "I was like, OK, sure. I like all kinds of foods. But how much salad will people buy?" he says. "But what he does in here, without so much as sautéing food, is just amazing."

Daniels, who is self-taught, worked as a sous chef some 20 years ago at Pyewacket in Chapel Hill and first dabbled in raw foods while living in California. He was a regular at Roxanne's, the groundbreaking restaurant that introduced the concept of high-end raw dining.

"She let me order off-menu because I can't eat onion," says Daniels, a vegetarian since childhood and a vegan most of his adult life. "It's gotten worse as I've gotten older. I have to be careful because I can go into anaphylactic shock."

Crutchfield says customers often are surprised that none of their savory dishes include onion. "He's learned how to compensate by balancing different flavors to deliver the same flavor," she says. "It's amazing. He can re-create virtually any dish without onion, meat or gluten."

Crutchfield, who became vegan after battling an eating disorder in her teens, says that raw foods had an almost instant impact on her well-being. "My skin cleared up and my energy was incredible," she says. "It's hard to believe that much change could occur in a week, but it did. I was convinced this is the way to go."



Vegan/raw diet can be life changer

Louis Vitello was a chubby kid who grew into an obese adult. At age 25, he weighed 398 pounds and dismissed a doctor's warning that his health habits would send him to an early grave.

"He told me I had 10 years to live if I didn't change my life, so I figured I had time to deal with it," says Vitello, a New Jersey native who moved to Raleigh a few months ago. "I wasn't ready to give things up."

Just days after his diagnosis, however, two terrible things happened. First, an overweight friend suffered a devastating diabetic collapse. After he stayed with the family at the hospital, another friend persuaded him to take a day off to visit. Before Vitello could leave in the morning, the friend's wife called to say her hus-band had died of a massive heart attack.

"They were both big guys like me, who never thought about how their lifestyle was making them sick," says Vitello, now 31, who has lost and kept off more than 200 pounds by strict adherence to a vegan/raw diet. "I didn't want that to be me."

Tired of fad diets, Vitello developed his own weight-loss plan, first by eliminating processed foods and then focusing on vegetables. A former network engineer, he now works as a wellness and weight-loss coach and teaches classes in healthy food preparation at Whisk in Cary. He also maintains a website, Vegan Carolina, which lists vegan restaurants across the state and serves to connect vegans through community-based groups.

"My love of raw foods started with juicing, but there's so much more to it," he says. "I love cooking now, and hope people look at me and see what a vegan/raw diet has helped me achieve."


This article appeared in print with the headline "Show some LOVE."

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