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Interview with Brooke Preston of The Green Boheme

02.09.14

Health

Have you ever been so inspired by someone and their message that you can feel yourself starting to choke up?

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It’s happened to me a handful of times in my life, and talking to Brooke Preston was one of them. Brooke is the owner and head chef of The Green Boheme, a raw vegan restaurant in Sacramento. It is the only fully raw restaurant in all of Northern California.

I had been wanting to chat with Brooke ever since I discovered the restaurant last year. I was a new vegan completely spoiled by the raw vegan restaurants in Los Angeles, so whenever I came home to Sacramento I found it very difficult to eat out. Someone told me about this awesome raw food restaurant in the Del Paso area so I decided to give it a try.

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Holy yum. It was love at first bite. I mean, look at this Banana Monkey Sundae!!!

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Brooke’s story, and her amazingly down to earth and contagious energy, touched my soul when I interviewed her. I absolutely love the fact that she went raw for health reasons and encourages people to go as raw as they are comfortable going, however far that may be.

She urges her friends and family not to worry about her when they eat out because she knows that the true importance of eating out with loved ones is about spending time with them, it’s not about the food. It is so refreshing to talk to such a dedicated raw foodie who has this realistic, selfless and inspirational perspective.

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^ Me waiting for the interview, sippin’ on my Black Currant Kombucha! They have Kombucha on tap here. SO. GOOD.

Brooke Preston Interview:

 Q: How long have you been raw?

A: About 7 years now.

Q: How did you get involved with the raw food lifestyle?

A: I became ill with hypothyroidism, and I was not excited about taking medications for the rest of my life so I wanted to look for alternative methods of healing. I went online and ended up on a raw site that talked about how, regardless of your condition, if you are eating a diet of primarily living vegan foods then your body will have the opportunity to heal itself. I thought that made a lot of sense, so started to make the transition almost immediately.

Q: That’s so cool. Is that when you went to culinary school, or had you been a chef before you went raw?

A: I was a chef for about 18 years beforehand. I was on the road to opening an organic corporate lunch delivery service. It was going to have non-packaged, non-preserved, good wholesome organic food including meat and dairy. I honestly thought that was the healthiest way to eat. That’s the way I ate, and I eventually became ill. It really woke me up.

Q: What was it like being raw before starting the restaurant?

A: I was raw completely on my own and realized that was a very hard road. I made a lot of mistakes and I spent a lot of money that I shouldn’t have.

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Q: What were some of the initial mistakes that you made?

A: Looking back, I wouldn’t even call them mistakes. It was more of a learning curve. It took a long time and a lot of money to get educated. I didn’t know anything about green juice or green smoothies. I got up and I ate a chocolate avocado pudding every day, and I did all of the programs out there. I did the 80-10-10 diet by Dr. Douglas Graham, then tried various other methods and experimented on my body for a while.

What I learned is that once your system is cleaned out to a certain level, you can truly start to listen to yourself and stop listening to everyone else’s opinion about what you should do. That was pretty profound to me. When we have a lot of toxins in our body, we don’t realize that those voices are not always speaking clearly to us.

Q: And then the restaurant came to be?

I was so passionate about raw I wanted to share it with everybody, so of course I started making food for people, having them over to my place and trying to share the raw experience. I was convinced I was good at making food. I had been a chef for a long time. But I made some awful food when I went raw. I realized that if I’m making some awful things and having to scratch whole recipes, then other people were definitely having the same issue. I thought about how hard it must be for the average person who is not a chef to get going with this and to be successful.

I ended up going to Living Light Culinary Institute soon after that, where I learned how to get the textures and flavors in raw foods that I was missing from my favorite cooked dishes. I also went through a great course on the science behind raw from a nutrition standpoint. I came back and immediately started teaching, and then opened a pick-up window in Midtown. I was able to test the marketplace there and see how many people wanted raw food. I started out in 2008, and even back then people wanted it. There weren’t a ton of people who wanted it, but they wanted it. Then it evolved into this location.

The insanely delicious Wellness Burger with zucchini bacon (it takes four days to make!!!) wrapped in a lettuce “bun”:

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Q: How do you think the marketplace in Sacramento compares to raw food in larger cities like LA, NYC and SF?

A: It’s something that’s growing every day. I think the prime motivation is the same thing that motivated me. I got sick, and I didn’t understand why.

Q: Did your illness reverse itself once you went raw?

A: Yes, very quickly. The hypothyroidism dropped off. At the time I had accepted that I was 35, I was getting older, and I just had to deal with it. I was pre-diabetic, took Adderall for ADD, had migraines once a week that I took medication for, I had major seasonal allergies that I took medication for, and I thought that that was all part of the game of life. Now I look back and see that nobody at 35 should have to go through that! There is a lot more to it. Now all of those things are gone. I am 42, and I feel better than ever.

Q: After you went raw and opened the restaurant, did a lot of people in your life become more interested in raw food?

A: Not in my personal life, no. A few. What the restaurant does is bring people in to learn about raw and get exposed to what raw can really taste like and feel like.

Q: What kinds of classes do you offer at the restaurant?

A: Every Tuesday night we have a Dine & Demo where people come in for dinner and I do a live demo of the featured recipe. It’s a super fun event. We always pack the house and it is very community-oriented.

When you’re going into this lifestyle, you don’t usually have a lot of people in your personal world that are committed to raw like you are. So you might feel alone. It’s really cool to have a place to go and reconnect and know that there are other people like you that are like-minded. The restaurant brings grounding to their choices.

On Thursday nights we have our 30-Day Raw Challenge intensive class. We do it almost every month of the year, which we have done for four years. In the series I teach 6 intensive classes about how to go raw in your own kitchen, how to star local and how to optimize your health over the long term.

Q: How did you come up with the name ‘The Green Boheme’?

A: I was in a prayer session with some very dear friends of mine about this food entity, and one of us saw The Green Boheme and then my spiritual mentor, who is also an artist, started to sketch out our logo. That’s what it has been ever since.

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Q: Can you walk me through a typical day of your eating schedule?

A: A half cup of a probiotic beverage first thing in the morning, then a 16 oz green juice. In the late morning I usually have a 32 oz green smoothie. Around 2:00 I have my main meal of the day, which is something a little bit more complex. Then late afternoon/early evening I have a snack. It’s pretty normal.

Q: Do you have a favorite dish at the restaurant?

A: It depends. Every day is different. I like the variety. I’m in love with the enchiladas right now (pictured below). Every time I eat one I go, “This is the best thing in the whole world.” And then I go, “Well, there’s this over here too.” So many great options.

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(This is when my mom, who had been sitting there listening to us chat while enjoying her delicious raw enchilada, interjected and asked a few questions of her own. Don’t quote me, but I think she was asking these questions because she has wondered these things about ME – her daughter – and really saw an experienced and balanced example in Brooke.)

Q: Has it affected your personal/social life being raw, or not so much because you’re involved in the raw food community?

A: Believe it or not, I’m not really involved with the raw community. We have our own raw community that comes out of the restaurant, but I don’t ever go to raw events. I’m really busy, and because I’m so outward when I’m here I am a very quiet, private person at home. My life is centered around my family.

Also, I’m a firm believer that we shouldn’t be judging people on their food choices. If we happen to help then learn by being an example, then that’s great. I make myself incredibly flexible so for social events and dinners out I always encourage people to not worry about me at all. I’m perfectly happy with that because for me those occasions are not about the food, they’re about the people.

Q: Can you usually find something at a restaurant that you can eat?

A: There have been a few occasions where there is not one thing I can eat or drink on the menu, but I just say, “That’s alright, I had a green juice before I got here.” I’m here to enjoy the people. It’s never a big deal.

Q: Do you know many couples where one partner is raw and one is not?

A: Tons of them. They make it work. I have some guys that are 100% raw and their wives aren’t. They’re the chef in the family, they come through all of our classes, and they make other food for their wives. Or vice versa. I know it seems like a lot of work sometimes, but they’ve made that investment in themselves and they don’t want to let it go.

I always tell people they have to find a balance and figure out how raw they want to be. If it’s impacting their family life too much and it becomes too much of a struggle, then by all means they should have a cooked vegan meal with dinner. If you’re getting your probiotic, your juice and your smoothie in at the first part of the day, then start there. People just freak out when they feel like they can’t be perfect, and the truth is you don’t have to be!

Q: Do you have anything you’d like to add?

A: We are going to be finishing our filming for our 30-Day Raw Challenge that will be going online. It’s available to anyone anywhere, which is very exciting. I really want to make it easy for people to understand and stay focused with what they want to do with the raw goal, whatever that is. There’s so many opinions and so many different ways to go about being raw, it’s good to just have a very level-headed start and then as you research, you take what you feel is important and you let go of what’s not as important.

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Now that I am back in New York, dubbed the “raw food capital of the world,” I legitimately dream about the food at The Green Boheme. I cannot wait until next time I’m home to get some delicious raw goodness. And thank you so much, Brooke, for inspiring me to do my Fully Raw February Challenge. I have decided to add in a few cooked vegan dinners here and there, but being raw for at least the first two meals of the day has made me feel fantastic, energized and rebooted.

Visit The Green Boheme online to check out their awesome menu, schedule of events, programs, videos and more.