By the time I opened Superfood Bar in the Fall of 2010, I had worked in over 35 restaurants including several health-food cafes. In the months prior to opening, I gathered all the information I could on all types of health-food retail businesses across the country. I researched their menus, ingredients, practices and business-models. I found that the only business-model gaining momentum was that of the cold-press juice bar focused on juice cleanses, made popular by New York based Juice Press and Liquiteria.
This approach is simple: buy the cheapest produce available (maybe organic - maybe not), juice it with a hydraulic-press juicer, pre-blend them into plastic bottles for resale in a merchandiser refrigerator, stamp it with a “best by” date that is 4-6 days after juicing, and over-hype the benefits. All other products available are prepackaged foods. With this approach you can minimize labor, waste, overhead and maximize profit. However, the long term health benefit to the customer is low relative to it's cost. In other words, it's a rip-off.
For the past three years we have censored our message due to it's conflict with conventional wisdom. In the spirit of not making waves or disrespecting other approaches, we have hesitated to advertise these differences. We are no longer hesitating in making these differences known.
People want to know what to eat - what to do. They don't want to waste their time and energy. They know there are problems with our food system and they are simply looking for answers. It would be much less work and more profitable to take the easy way out - mix our juices twice a week, charge more for older, pre-mixed juice, buy packaging that is more chic, spend money on a stylist, focus on selfie skills and social media. Seven years ago, it was tempting from a financial standpoint, but we chose to do something unique and create a whole cuisine educated by food science and culinary know-how. We chose to bring something of higher value to New Orleans, and soon, Denver, Colorado.
If you can find a retail restaurant that is 100% Vegan, buys 99% of there products Certified Organic, uses no processed foods (only foods in bulk), ferments their own cheese, kombucha, kefir, kimchi, etc., please let me know. I have been searching for our counterpart for the past 5 years, asking all the travelers that past through SFB, and searching the internet. There are a few establishments on the coasts that qualify on one or two of these standards, but I can not find anyone else that does it all.
Our approach is a wholefood approach, meaning we only buy plant matter that has been refrigerated, dried, or frozen, and that's it - nothing else. That means nothing juiced, nothing pasteurized, no tinctures or extracts. We do not use agave nectar, any kind of sugar or flours. We never buy ready-made nut milks and nut cheeses – we make our own from whole plant matter. We avoid all of these products even though they are cheaper products that have been excepted as “healthy foods” by businesses nation-wide. THERE IS NO ESTABLISHMENT in the U.S. that maintains all of these high standards - not in New York, not in L.A., not in Chicago. Only New Orleans has a Superfood Bar, but not for long.
A large portion of the produce we purchase for SFB has been picked within the past few days and delivered “fresh” (such as all the organic produce we juice and our salads). However, some of the products we purchase are dehydrated or freeze-dried (acai berry) or even frozen (blueberries). Some people are put off by foods that are not “fresh”. My decades of research have taught me it is important to be open-minded about different ways of storing, and even processing food (such as fermentation) to have a healthy diet today. At SFB we make these choices because it increases the quality and quantity of organic nutrients we can give our customers for their dollar. This the basic equation of our business-model.
When I was young I spent many years living with my father and stepmother in Arkansas. They were vegetable farmers and interested in healthy foods and organic farming in the 1970s. I spent my Summer days working the fields of Stone Valley. We grew just about everything at one point in those fertile soils. At at a very young age I was charged with the care of our animals and crops. I would spend endless hours deep in the forest that surrounded our farm studying nature and its interrelated systems. My stepmother Desire (my culinary hero) fed me Shakley products. I have frequented and work at raw and vegan restaurants since 1989. I was a Mannatech distributor in the mid 1990. I have watched trends come and go in this industry over the decades. The cuisine and practices of Superfood Bar are educated by food science as well as what Chef Amie and I have learned in our years of working in restaurants. All of this goes into the food we serve.
This is my passion. This is why Chef Amie and I opened Superfood Bar in the first place, to serve you something better than the watered-down version of healthfood which had recently taken over the industry. In order for SFB to flourish and spread across the country, we will have to increase our customer base. That's where YOU come in. Please help us to survive and expand. Help spread the word. There is a better way.
In our not so distant past humans spent a large percentage of their time finding food. We later developed the ability to ferment, dry, cook, and even freeze our food. However, these early ways of "processing" enhanced the food's nutrient bio-availability. It wasn't until the end of the 19thcentury that we began to process foods using techniques, such as removing bran from rice, that reduced the foods nutritional value. In the developed world food became very convenient, and more and more processed.
In the same short span of time, these problems were compounded by the trend of spending less and less of our income on food year after year. "Spending on food has fallen from more than 25% of the average American's income in 1933 to only 9.4% in 2010, an all-time low. Between 1980 and 2010, the share of disposable income spent on food in the U.S. fell from 13.2% to 9.4%, which is equivalent to almost a 4% increase in the average American's disposable income over the last 30 years." * This doesn't even factor in the continuous decline of our food's per-dollar nutritional value. As we began to challenge our immune systems with pollution and petrochemicals, we depleted our diet of the very micro nutrients needed to combat their effects. It is no wonder cancer rates are increasing and, for the first time in recorded history, human life expectancy is on a decline in the industrial world.
Our priorities have changed, and it was just slow enough to result in our current oblivion. We have been conditioned to think food should be cheaper, more convenient, and sweeter than real food is. In our search for convenience and ease, we forgot how to eat, and how to prepare food for ourselves.
What is it going to take to fix these problems? In a word, WORK. Ease and Convenience are the antithesis of work, and the mothers of the inventions that perverted our foods in the first place. Chef Amie and I want to share what we have learned to help you make positive changes in your diet. We will be starting Superfood Classes this summer. If you are interested, please sign up for our email if you haven't already. Simply text the word superfood to 228-28.
In SFBflyer#1, I noted, "with the juice bar approach you can minimize labor, waste, overhead and maximize profit. However, the long term health benefit to the customer is low relative to it's cost." The Superfood Bar way is much more demanding of the owners of the business as well as our employees. Chef Amie and I are taking some of the first steps of a multi-generational effort to create a sustainable cuisine for the future.
In SFBflyer#1, I introduced you to my concept of "building a cuisine". This is something complex. A master system of interlocking systems. However, one part of this is very simple, finding new ways to present the best foods I can get (by our aforementioned criteria) in the most appealing way.
The newest addition to our menu, the Brazil Bowl is a perfect example of this. Cupuaçu is a superfruit from the Amazon, only recently becoming widely available in the U.S. Years ago, when Native Beverages, the company I buy Cupuaçu from, was being conceived I was approached by the owners. They simply wanted to pick my brain about the industry they were entering. Jamie, one of the owners, arrived just as we were closing, so I locked up and we sat down then talked for almost an hour. After learning what they were planning, I encouraged them to seek out the knowledge of the locals regarding dosage and processing, and to keep their process of harvesting and packaging as true to this as possible.
A year and a half later, they come back to me with a raw-fermentation, nutritional dense miracle food. By itself, it is not particularly tasty, but Chef Amie has found great ways to make it delicious, The Brazil Bowl. Not only are the Brazil Bowl and Acai Bowl both as good as it gets for health benefit per dollar, but they are a perfect example of the new, sustainable cuisine we have been creating at Superfood Bar for the past 6 years. Such menu items are manifestations of our missions statement: it is super cancer fighting, rain forest-saving, local bio-dynamic farmer supporting (local blueberries), fair-trade, wild crafted, low carbon-footprint, macro nutrient balanced, and complex in its unique phyto chemical makeup.
In order for SFB to expand beyond Uptown New Orleans we will have to continue to increase our customer base. Our first flyer expanded that base and began the process of educating the public on what is happening at SFB and in this industry, as a whole. We do not have to choose food systems that deplete our bodies, waste fuel, throw away fiber, etc. We can choose to make foods from South American rain-forest part of our daily diet. These choices will give us more antioxidants for our dollar, and will simultaneously commodify and protect the Amazon and other oxygen-producing rain-forest.
We can choose a better way.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s there were more health-food restaurants that used wholefood products to make food to order. There are several exceptions, such as Cafe Gratitude, Native Foods & Erewhon, but most successful “health food” operations in the US are now focused on juicing and juice cleanses. Juice is a processed food, it's not whole, and usually full of sugar. This business-model adds to the pollution toll of our broken food system instead of solving these problems, while exploiting people's ignorance and addiction to convenient, sugary foods.
Juice cleanses have a place in a sustainable, healthy diet. There are many benefits to this practice, however, there are many problems as well.
1) It is not a complete way of eating day-to-day, or a cuisine. This is what we do at Superfood Bar, more on that later.
2) They are ecologically disastrous
From the standpoint of carbon-footprint, it really doesn't get worse. Think about it, growing oranges and carrots in California, ship them to New Orleans, then juice them - removing all pulp. When these companies add the extra step of shipping juice packages to their customers, this adds yet another carbon charge. The carbon-footprints of these businesses are much higher than a wholefood approach. I know because I buy the exact same produce to juice with a cold-press juicer, so I know how much it cost, where it comes from, how much juice I get from it, and how much nutrients it contains. It's not just a matter of the distance, it's weight multiplied by distances divided by micro nutrient content, divided by cost.
We sell fresher juice for less and use much of the pulp to make wholefood snacks. Most importantly, juice is a small part of what we sell. Most of our food is made from whole foods, fortified with superfoods, and a much better bang for your buck. The carrots used by these businesses are grown on mono-culture organic, mega-farms, and are a highly hybridized, high sugar version of a carrot. The carbon-footprint/health benefit ratio is low compared to a wild-crafted acai berry or acerole cherry grown in the Amazon (admittedly farther away) that is dried on location and shipped to New Orleans. I will get into offsetting the loss of enzymes and other properties involved in this process in another discussion.
Our oceans, marine life, and waterways are chocking on plastic. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the name given to just one of these continent size monuments to our stupidity. I have no doubt some of the plastic bottles sold by New Orleans businesses are never recycled and now sit in our landfills and are a part of the massive amount of plastics in our oceans and waterways. I have been pulling their recyclable plastic bottles out of my garbage can, to recycle them, for years. I am sure the bottles thrown away in the garbage can at SFB are not the only ones thrown away and not recycled.
Superfood Bar's packaging has been biodegradable (made from plants) from day one. We even worked with a company attempting to manufacture biodegradable packaging right here in Louisiana using Louisiana sugarcane. We are now working with a local organic farmer who is growing the superfood moringa for the Greenboost on our smoothie menu.
3) Most servings do not have any fats
Although the absence of this macro-nutrients is part of how the “detox” works, it is important to keep in mind, when you are not consuming any fat your absorption rate of all fat-soluble vitamins plummets. For Instance, kale's cartenoids, flavanoids, and Vitamin K are all fat-soluble. And these are the healthiest versions of these key vitamins you can get. They were certified Organic. You paid for them. These vitamins are in food-form, not synthetic or food-derived. They were shipped cross-country. We are all paying for the pollution created from the excessive shipping, only for it to be literally flushed down the toilet. What a shame.
4) We all need to ingest more organic fiber
Juicing removes the fiber as well as powerful flavanoids and some minerals, such as in the pulp of citrus. Additionally, these other parts of the wholefood, are paired with the juice for a reason. Your body uses them to properly make use of the vitamins and sugars found in the juice. With the fiber removed, your body absorbs fructose sugar more easily. Again, this is the healthiest versions of fiber you can get. It was certified Organic. It is in food-form, not synthetic or food-derived. When you ingest a weak organic acid, like those found in all citrus, your body buffers their digestion with the minerals available. This is how an acidic food has an alkalizing effect on your body. The minerals are the alkaline part. When you don't supply them through food, your body pulls them from your body.
Juicing and Juice Cleanses, by themselves, usually will have a short-term positive effect on your overall health and well being - there is no doubt. However, unless you are one of the very few people that have a simple, healthy, diet and they stick to every day of their life, a juice cleanse is simply another bad habit, and an expensive one at that.
5) They are unnecessary
In certain circumstances, a juice cleanse, or even juice diet is a great idea, even life-saving. However, if you have good eating habits, they are unnecessary. Your body has its own ways to detox. If you do not have good eating habits, then fixing this problem should definitely be your focus, not a juice cleanse, or even buying a juicer. If you want to fast, then fast - that means no food, only water. This is super cheap and a great way to detox without wrecking our environment or your wallet in the process. I would encourage everyone to gain a simple understanding of the 24 hour detox cycles of the human body to make use of them by small changes, such as drinking 2 quarts of water before anything else goes into your body in the morning or not eating any solid foods past a certain time of night. This cost nothing, and will save you money without even getting dizzy.
6) All Plastic Bottles Leach Petrol-Chemicals into Liquids
“Organic” juice is no exception. The FDA collects money from farmers to be certified Organic, and that's where the oversight for this certification ends. I have seen interviews with FDA officials immediately ended when the safety of plastic was mentioned. PBA-free plastics leach other chemicals, some of which are estrogen-disrupting. Although they have been mostly quieted, many experts have expressed grave concerns for the effects of these chemicals. You don't have to take my word for it. Read the article, “The Scary New Evidence on Bpa Free Plastic”, in the march 2014 Mother Jones News. We Use Glass and “Plastics” Made from Plants at SFB.
7) Juice Cleanses are not a sustainable diet, or a sustainable habit
When I am asked for advice on what to eat, I often tell people to, “find your staples.” What I mean by this is simple, identify healthy, affordable sources for your macro nutrients (foods high in protein, fats, & carbohydrates) that are affordable, easy to store, easy to prepare, and are foods you like enough to enjoy eating several times a week. I have come to see this as a first step. Our wrap menu at SFB is a perfect example of the these types of meals. These are my staples, so I get most of my calories from oats, black beans, sunflower seeds, coconut, avocado, and brown rice. Figuring out how to get greens, reds, pro-biotics, enzymes, etc into your diet is easy once you have this basic diet structure.
The YoYo effect of a juice cleanse only serves to delay this first step, and is often uses to rationalize other extremes in the opposite direction such as eating very unhealthy foods for a while or excessive alcohol intake.
8) If you lose weight on a juice cleanse, as with most fad diets, the weight usually comes right back because it is not a sustainable way of eating.
9) Pre-mixing juice into plastic bottles is one of the worst ways to prepare it
We Do Juicing Different at SFB. If you are going to do it, do it right. Keep your juice out of plastic. Keep it cold, separated, and drink it within 24-36 hours of juicing. We mix our juice to order. This helps to retain vitamins and enzymes, and you can see what going into your juice. There is zero transparency in premixed, ready-made, bottled juice. Because we sell out of juice most days around 3-5 pm, our juices are served closer to the time of juicing. We do sell juice, but it's a small part of our sales. We do not rely on it to pay the bills. Most of the juice we sell is consumed right away, partly because we do not advise picking up more than a day's worth at a time. We also have the lowest prices for organic, cold-press juice in New Orleans.