Choosing Raw Interview + Giveaway: Sarma Melngailis of New York City’s Pure Food and Wine


(Erica Michelsen)

Boy, do I have a treat for you guys tonight!

Few New York City institutions are more cherished than the neighborhood restaurant. Most everyone has one: a beloved dining spot downstairs or around the corner that they can depend on. This restaurant is rarely adored for its cuisine; if anything, most neighborhood restaurants are fairly average. They’re likely to be a run-of-the-mill French bistro, or a tiny Italian spot with ten tables, or a diner that happens to be open late. What keeps us coming back to these restaurants again and again is not the food, per se, but the reliability. We may never credit our neighborhood restaurant with the best meal we ever had, or the most innovative, but we can count on it for consistency: we know what it offers, what we’re going to get (because most of us have a favorite dish on the menu) and we know that it will be good.

Truth be told, most restaurants are the same to me: high-end or modest, Italian or French, innovative or traditional, there’s a good chance I’m going to be ordering a giant salad and some steamed, grilled, or sautéed vegetables (maybe with a nice vegan sauce or dressing). This doesn’t sadden me: I don’t expect restaurants to carry an abundance of raw, vegan food. Raw vegans are a tiny part of the New York dining population (and an even smaller part of the national one), and there’s no reason why restaurants can or should cater directly to us. Sure, I think that restaurants should try harder to come up with innovative meals without animal proteins, and I believe they should begin waking up about local, organic, whole foods (some already are are). But I don’t expect all restaurants, especially modest neighborhood mainstays, to accommodate me to perfection.

Still, restaurant dining is a huge part of New York City culture. And it does sometimes feel like a secret language I don’t speak: all this worship of certain chefs and dining spots, this excitement about trying the latest branch of the Momofuku empire or the latest steakhouse, this ardor for flipping through New York  Magazine each week and eying new spots to savor. Thankfully, though, there is one part of the restaurant culture that I don’t have to miss out on. Within the last few years, I’ve found my own neighborhood restaurant—it just doesn’t happen to be in my residential neighborhood!

Pure Food and Wine, a mere three blocks from my office, is everything to me that a neighborhood restaurant should be. It’s inviting. It’s fun. It’s friendly. It’s reliable; I can count on Pure for the same consistency and quality that most people attribute to their neighborhood favorites. And best of all, it’s vegan. And raw. What more could a girl ask for??


(Ryu Kodama)

Unlike other neighborhood restaurants, Pure Food and Wine is notable for its cuisine. And I can say with assurance that I have had both the best and most innovative meals of my life there.

I like to preach the gospel of simplicity on this blog, and rightly so; I think that keeping food preparation simple is an integral part of success with a raw lifestyle. That said, I am no different from any other restaurant diner in wanting the occasional dazzling entrée or elaborate dessert—something I couldn’t, and wouldn’t, make at home. And this is where Pure comes in. It’s the place I can take family and friends to show them the true potential of vegan dining, or to prove that raw cuisine, like any other cuisine, is a blank canvas for culinary artistry.

So Pure has become for me a classier, more exciting version of what the neighborhood restaurant is for most people: on the one hand, it’s where I go when I want to be stunned with innovative raw cuisine. On the other, it’s the place I go when the thought of throwing dinner together seems like a drag; a place where I can smile and greet the wait staff by name; a place where I can always rely on my favorite rotation of dishes. The takeaway spot, One Lucky Duck, has become my go-to spot for midday treats, a great place to meet clients, and a shopping destination for raw goodies (they stock everything from prepared foods to raw oils and nut butters to my favorite facial wash).


(Carina Salvi)

My adoration of Pure is only compounded by my admiration for its founder, businesswoman extraordinaire (and total raw hottie) Sarma Melngailis. Sarma is a powerhouse: an entrepreneur (she is the founder, CEO, and proud mother of One Lucky Duck), a restaurateur (the co-founder and owner of Pure), and talented writer (the co-author of Raw Food Real World and author of Living Raw Food). If that isn’t enough, Sarma is also a blogger, a huge presence in the raw community, and a living, breathing embodiment of that ubiquitous “glow.” How Sarma manages to balance all of these tasks is beyond me; all I can say is that she does balance them, with her spirits and her glow intact!

Recently, this very busy lady was kind enough to agree to answer a few of my burning questions for you very lucky Choosing Raw readers. I was curious about Sarma’s experience as a businesswoman, her thoughts on the raw lifestyle, and her personal faves on the Pure menu. And I was thrilled with her answers. I love what Sarma has to say about the pressures of being a businessperson (though the scope of my business is much smaller than hers, I can relate!). And I think you’re all going to love what Sarma has to say about her raw lifestyle.

When I began Choosing Raw, my goal was to present the raw lifestyle in a welcoming voice, without espousing absolutes or judgments. This is the voice Sarma speaks with, and I hope you’ll all enjoy it!!

1)   I know that you covered the details of your raw transition in Raw Food, Real World, but could you recap the basics for us? What inspired you to try the raw lifestyle, and why did you continue?

I first heard about raw in the summer of 2003. I was reluctantly brought to a small raw café thinking it was going to completely suck. I was bummed out that we weren’t going to the fancy new Jean-Georges restaurant instead. Everything changed in that dinner. The philosophy/rationale (whatever you’d call it) behind eating raw was being explained to me while I was eating (a lot) of yummy food that was so much better than I thought it was going to be, and I felt really good—a noticeable contrast vs. the heavy, want-to-take-a-nap-now feeling that I normally felt after a big restaurant dinner. I was completely intrigued and excited. After that I read as much as I could about raw food while on what I thought was going to be a two-week raw food experiment. I figured it would be hard to endure, that I’d be going crazy wanting a hamburger, chicken, cheese and bread. I didn’t want any of those things, and I felt so amazing in a way I didn’t even know was possible. After only a few days I realized the experiment had become a permanent shift.

2)      A lot of food bloggers lately seem to feel pressured to “go raw” overnight or more quickly than they’re really ready for. Which is why I think they might find it comforting to hear that you don’t flash around the “100% raw” label; you, like me, make room for some cooked foods in your diet, right? What’s the balance that works for you?

I don’t really look for a specific balance of raw vs. cooked. When I’m working in a regular routine I’m usually eating all raw all the time. Admittedly it’s incredibly easy for me when I have my restaurant, our juice bar/takeaway, and One Lucky Duck snacks available whenever I want. But then when I come home and my boyfriend happens to have been inspired at the greenmarket by fresh beets and decided he was going to make a huge pot of borscht, then, I’ll eat a bowl of borscht. (It was really good by the way—full of beets, potatoes, carrots, cannellini beans, cabbage, yum). But then I did feel like I wanted to take a nap immediately. Maybe that ended up being half of what I ate that day. So then I was only half raw. I just never think about percentages, or looking for a balance. I love food, and I like trying other foods and flavors.

And I love nice restaurants. I’m busy so I don’t go out a lot, but if I end up in a really nice restaurant that uses good ingredients, I’ll try just about anything. It just depends whether it feels worth it to me. In Tokyo I was taken to probably one of the best sushi places in that whole city. I ate whatever the chef put in front of me, including teeny whole squids. Eiw. (But it actually tasted really good, once I didn’t have to look at it anymore). There are probably some vegans that would be appalled at what I eat once in a while… but it’s only once in a while.

Otherwise, my diversions are usually still vegan at least. Sometimes I get these odd crazy cravings for chickpeas. I can’t get chickpeas out of my brain. So, I’ll get a can of organic chick peas, dump it into a bowl and toss it with macadamia oil (my favorite), lime juice, and sea salt. Or, put them in a salad. Black beans too. If beans and chickpeas are my diversions from raw, I don’t think that’s anything to worry about. What makes me feel deprived is if I have to go too long without a green shake, or a green juice. I love green shakes (there’s a recipe on my blog and in Living Raw Food) and I love eating mostly raw most of the time!

3)      It goes without saying—or at least, it will come as no surprise to any of my blog readers—that I consider Pure Food and Wine the absolute epitome of fine dining. Part of what I love about Pure is that, unlike some other vegan or healthy restaurants, it feels like a sexy, elegant, urban dining experience. Could you say a few words about the ethos of the restaurant, and how it has grown?

Well, you said it nicely that the restaurant feels sexy and elegant. That’s what we’ve always been going for, in addition to really comfortable and warm. I like having high service standards, but delivered in a friendly way. I want everyone to feel extremely welcome and for that reason we actually don’t hire many raw/vegans (if any at all!). I’d like to get people who otherwise wouldn’t visit this sort of restaurant to come and so I especially don’t ever want anyone to come in and feel judged, or different. I’ve always wanted it to be this way and I think that’s stayed the same. What I see having grown is that more and more people coming in have already heard of raw food and know of the restaurant before—that’s nice.


(Ryu Kodama)

4)      Raw Food, Real World, is a classic in my own cookbook library, so I’m thrilled to dig into Living Raw Food. Could you say a few words about how the new book differs from the last? How has your culinary approach changed since you wrote the first book?

Like the first book, the new book is full of recipes from Pure Food and Wine, but this time they’re divided in two sections: easier recipes for which you don’t need as much time and equipment, and more ambitious recipes that require a bit more planning. The recipes come almost entirely from the staff at the restaurant, so it’s less a reflection of my own culinary approach vs. the restaurant’s culinary development. At this point we have more than enough recipes for a third book and I’d love to do a dessert book too.

Aside from the recipes, Raw Food Real World is more of a beginner’s perspective. My co-author and I described how we felt after our overnight transition from eating absolutely everything to eating only (or, mostly only) raw plant foods. This time I wrote the book alone, and it’s more about what it’s been like for me after five years on mostly raw (now it’s been six, but it was five at the time I wrote it). I also really wanted to address some of the more common questions I’ve been asked over the years, which includes issues related to emotional detox and people’s struggle to “stick with it”.

5)      As a book editor (my other, non-blogging life!), I really relish the intelligence and clarity you bring to your writing. I’ve also noticed that the new book is much more of a book, and less of a cookbook, than the first. How was it being a bit more visible as a narrator this time around?


To the extent that this book is a lot more personal, it was definitely nerve-wracking to put out. I kept thinking maybe I was sharing too much, or putting forth some kind of less than desirable impression, or worst of all just that no one would care. But then I just figure, F-it, as long as it’s honest then there’s nothing really to regret. My publisher wouldn’t like to know I’m saying this, but the cover makes me really squeamish! It looks too sales-y to me—like I’m pitching a Hawaiian vacation with that cocktail in my hand! I’m not good at posing for photos. Candid photos feel much more genuine. I love my publisher but we definitely fought over the cover and since they have ultimate control, they win. [Editor’s honest note: Yeeeah. We publishers need to work on our book cover savvy.]

But back to the writing… I was really happy that they let me write what I wanted without censoring it, even when I wrote goofy things. I really want to write another book that has no recipes—I’ve been writing it in my head for a long time. I can let our chefs put out more recipe books, and I’ll write this other one. I just need to find the time!

6)      As a restaurateur, a writer, and a small business owner (One Lucky Duck), you are quite an entrepreneur. How do you balance all of your projects without losing your mind? What are some of the pressures that come with being at the helm of so many incredible organizations?

Sometimes I do lose my mind. I probably ought to meditate and do yoga and all that. Instead I just keep letting my mind run and run until it overloads and crashes, and then I’ll have to spend half a day (usually a Sunday) in broken down mode. This happens once in a while! I’d prefer if I could go lie on a beach once in a while, but for now this is how it goes. It’s okay. I think almost all people that have built really big businesses (and I plan for mine to be really big!) will say that there was a period of time where it’s all about survival and pushing forward with every ounce of effort. At some point we’ll reach a cruising altitude and then hopefully I can step back a bit, take more time to relax (which of course will only make me more focused and productive) and be able to create the things I want to create.

I think the biggest pressure comes from knowing so many people rely on you. Not that I want to, but I can’t decide to flake out and move to Hawaii. There are 70 (or so) people working for me. They’re all amazing. But I can’t let them, or anyone else, down. There’s a lot to take care of, a lot at stake, and hence, quite a bit of pressure. I try not to think about that part and just keep moving along. I’m kind of a perfectionist, so when I look at things I see what’s not right, and what needs fixing, updating, etc. Even at other restaurants, if there’s a typo on the menu I’ll spot it right away. I also know what we have planned, so when I look at it’s hard for me to see all the things that aren’t there yet, that aren’t the way I’d like them to be. But I’m guessing it’ll always be like this. And it makes it really fun and satisfying when we make progress.

7)      OK. The question I’ve been dying to ask you! What are some of your favorite recipes from the new book? And what are some classic items on the Pure menu that have stood the test of time?

From the easier side of the book, I love the Heirloom Tomato, Fennel, and Avocado Pressed Salad with Caper Dressing, Pistachio, and Mint. A lot of my favorite flavors in one dish. It’s good to make for a dinner party.


I also love the super-easy Chia Pudding—it really couldn’t possibly be easier, it’s like the raw equivalent of jello pudding where you just stir the liquid in and wait fifteen minutes. Since there’s a recipe called My Favorite Greens Shake, that’s definitely another one I love.

From the more ambitious side of the book, I love the Black Trumpet Mushroom Napoleon with Caramelized Shallots, Herbed Cashew Cream and Apricot-Riesling Sauce. That’s not written on the menu at the restaurant right now, but we have the same thing in little mini bite sized tarts that you usually get if you order the tasting menu and I always order them to start when I have business dinners there. I also absolutely love the Falafel and Tabouleh which is still (and always will be) on our takeaway menu. Also, the Mint Sundae. Unless you don’t like mint, it’s hard not to love that one. [Hi again. Um, this is very true.]


The lasagna is the most classic menu item… specifically, the Zucchini and Tomato Lasagna with Pine Nut Ricotta, Sun Dried Tomato Sauce and Basil Pistashio Pesto [This is the dish that converted my Mom to raw food enthusiasm!]. The Tamales are also a popular dish, also in the first book, and also still on the menu now. And finally, you know my favorite thing from the takeaway is the Mallomar (though not in the book) … yummy. That and mint chocolate chip ice cream. OK… now I’m really hungry! 🙂

* * *

Thank you, Sarma, for giving New York the wonderful institution that is Pure. And thank you for giving me the neighborhood restaurant I never had.

I don’t doubt that Sarma’s musings will inspire so many of you — if only to make some raw ice cream! And to help you in that effort, Sarma has very generously agreed to share a copy of Living Raw Food with one lucky reader! So here’s the deal: respond to this post with a comment about one thing you took away from Sarma’s fabulous interview. I’ll announce the winner two weeks from today, on August 23rd. Good luck to you all!

I also have the winner of my last giveaway to announce! A brand new copy of Born to Run goes to #22: Lorena. I’ll be in touch, Lorena, about sending you the book!

And thanks, as always, for stopping by. May you all enjoy a visit to Pure someday — the sooner, the better!



P.S. Everyone head over to my pal Chocolate Covered Katie‘s blog to read my guest post on veggie pasta!

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  1. I think the thing that I’ll take away from your interview with Sarma is inspiration. She seems so honest; admitting that “There are probably some vegans that would be appalled at what I eat once in a while… but it’s only once in a while.

    Making any big lifestyle transition can be daunting, but it was really refreshing to read an interview with someone who isn’t perfect, and who admits that at first she never thought she would be able to transition to a high-raw lifestyle. Its something that I’m extremely interested in, but have serious reservations about my actual day to day ability to live a lifestyle like that but Sarma has really made me feel that it would be possible. And if I do have the occasional slip ups – it’s okay.

  2. I learnt that life can be like you ARE pitching a Hawaiian vacation–in more ways than one.

    Sarma’s life may appear like a glossy cover to an outside observer, but between the pages is, like any creation that looks beautiful and polished, the product of great effort and hard work. But the satisfaction is worth it.

    The lived raw experience (and everything that entails) is like that, too.

    Sarma’s fusion of passion, lifestyle and work ethic typifies for me the work of creating a better self through knowing who I am, what I want in life, and where I want to be.

    The rewards are: wellbeing, heightened sense of self, that “glow”.

  3. I think Sarma is very inspirational. It’s amazing how she balances running a business, eating raw etc. I love how honest she is when she talks about being in “broken down mode”

  4. What a great informative interview!!! I really liked how Sarma answered the question about being 100% raw all the time, mostly the fact that she doesn’t even think of it as a percentage, but rather does what shes feels–which for the most part is raw. I loved the interview and love your blog!!!

  5. the entire interview was very inspirational to break out of current eating habits and to slowing incorporate raw eating into my life.

  6. I continue to try and bring more raw foods into my diet. It can be tough to be as consistent as I want to be, when my life is so crazy with all the other pieces. Sarma has a unique ability to make one feel good about the effort they have put into it and not feel like they aren’t getting any real benefit from it since they aren’t following the lifestyle 100%. She motivates me to continue as I have been and to strive to bring more raw into my diet!

  7. It was reassuring to hear from Sarma that the goal isn’t to be 100% raw all of the time, even if you have your own raw restaurant (!), but to enjoy yourself and feel good. Thanks so much for posting this interview- I loved reading it!

    And let me just say that the picture of the mint sundae left me drooling over my keyboard- yum!!!

  8. I love reading about other peoples dietary journies! This interview was especially exciting for me as I have heard a lot about Sarma and Pure Food and Wine so its nice to hear some tidbits from her.
    That said, the pictures, and names of some (well most) of those recipes look amazing! I would love to get my hands on a copy of the cookbook to try ’em out!

  9. Wow what a great interview! I love how she is accepting of other people that aren’t raw, and doesn’t want anyone to feel judged coming into her restaurant. And also that she is enjoying life and food like eating what she wanted at the sushi restaurant. I am a firm believer in eating like the culture “When in Rome”. You only live once! Thanks for this interview Gena!

  10. I love how Sarma eats what she wants at the moment and doesn’t make it “all or nothing” with raw food. I love eating mostly raw, but also love to have a cup of organic coffee. I also love that she doesn’t label herself or constrict herself to only eating vegan foods, but will have something decadent once in a while- such a great balance! I don’t have any raw books and have been wanting one of hers forever! 🙂

    Love your blog btw!:)

  11. I became intrigued with Sarma right from the first sentence of the interview. She’s beautiful on the outside and the inside. It is very interesting to learn of all of her business endeavors, her favorite recipies and the simplicity of what she will some day take time to do: spend time at the beach! I love that she speaks of her imperfections as she strives to be a perfectionist. She lets us know what her dreams are and that she really isn’t all that different from each of us. Dreams can come true when one works hard to make them happen. I loved the interview. Thank you for sharing.

  12. I was pretty surprised that Sarma doesn’t limit herself to only raw foods, or that she isn’t obsessed with only eating “raw” foods… I think it’s great that she modifies her diet based on how she feels, or allows herself to indulge in other foods. Thank’s for this wonderful interview – it was so insightful and interesting!

  13. For me, the most inspiring aspect of the interview with Sarma was truly understanding that although she is extremely busy, she still manages to maintain a high-raw lifestyle. In fact, being so busy, makes it more important than ever to take care of our bodies through whole, plant-based, living foods. I also appreciated that she is flexible when it comes to her diet. After reading this, I plan to listen to my intuition in order to make the mostly raw lifestyle work for me without worrying about rules. I also realized that I need to get myself to PURE to try some Mallomars!
    Thanks for the great interview Gena & Sarma! Love the Choosing Raw blog!

  14. I appreciated how she was open about her perfectionist tendencies, and yet she finds balance. Sarma is such a beauty!

  15. It’s really inspiring to read that Sarma is flexible- not all vegan and raw all the time. I struggle with that in my own life, and try to take the attitude, why is it a struggle? But it’s hard to keep that perspective sometimes. This really was a great interview, thank you Gena!

  16. “Mostly raw most of the time”. I am constantly needing a friendly reminder that this is not about labels or perfection. We still need to live life and enjoy others around us. I couldn’t agree more with Sarma’s view on this. If my boyfriend cooks up a batch of delicious borscht, you better believe I want to try it with no guilt involved!

  17. I love her “go with the flow” way of life….it doesn’t always have to be the is the RIGHT or that is WRONG, especially when it comes to food. Thanks for sharing and thanks a gazillion for the frozen bananas idea — you may have perfected the wheel 🙂

  18. I love that Sarma eats mostly raw, and is non-judgemental. It makes it feel doable.
    Will totally go to Pure Food and Wine if I ever get to NY.

  19. I love that she is doing something that feels right for HER, yet she’s not sooo strict in her raw lifestyle and still maintains balance in her (eating) life. 🙂

    P.S. I neeeeeed to go to Pure Food and Wine!!!!!

  20. What a great interview! I had no idea Sarma has a blog, but I am definitely going to check it out now because she seems like she has a great head on her shoulders. I really like how she doesn’t hire staff that are raw/vegan – I hate for people to feel like I’m judging them, and this way, people who come to the restaurant to try vegan/raw food for the first time never have to feel on the defensive or put down, but welcomed instead. And I’m going to have to try her chickpea/macadamic oil/lime juice/sea salt snack. That sounds incredible! I really want to visit Pure and One Lucky Duck in the future…definitely the next time I get to go to NYC!

  21. I absolutely adored Sarma’s moderate take on raw foods. I liked that she doesn’t kill herself over numbers and being all or nothing – that’s something I really need to work on! 🙂

  22. I love the balanced approach of choosing raw most of the time. She seems very intune with what she wants and what her body needs.

  23. She convinces me when she tells she likes the taste of raw food so much better than cooked food, and that made her permanent shift so easy.

  24. wow. thank you so much for this interview Gena, and also for asking such great questions! Next time I go to New York, I WILL be going there!

  25. I am pretty new to raw foods and I loved reading Sarma’s interview because she is REAL (and therefore she does not alienate newbies such as myself). She lives a normal life in the big city (like me!) and she makes raw work. This kind of ‘raw role model” is sooo inspiring to me because it has the potential to reach people from all walks of life and allow them to find their own unique and healthy path.. all without judgement. I’d love the book! =)

  26. I love that she mentions the cookbook is divided up into “easier” and more ‘Time consuming” recipes. As a semi-novice cook knowing what I am getting into beforehand is very helpful.
    Defintely going to check out Pure Food and Wine my next trip to NYC.

  27. Awesome interview, Gena! And big thanks for the giveaway!! I loved that she presented the raw food lifestyle as very low stress- still eating her boyfriend’s borscht every once in a while, or japanese food, or chickpeas and black beans. I like that she strives to listen to her body and just have balance.

    I really hope I can eat there someday!!

    Thanks again,

  28. I’m glad that Sarma brought out that eating raw doesn’t have to be complicated. I think I make it harder than it has to be – all or nothing thinking.

  29. You’re so lucky living/working so close by to Pure! I made another recipe from the new book last night and really enjoyed it. I kept saying to myself as I ate it that I really have to get to NYC soon 🙂
    And so happy to read that there’s more than enough recipes for a 3rd book too! Looking forward to it already…
    (as an aside, I clearly already have the current book…)
    xo e.

  30. Hi Gena,

    Thank you for posting such a great, honest interview. How perfect that I just read this post on Monday and that day my girlfriends visiting from out of town invited me to join them for dinner at Pure (my first time). The food was so delicious and my body was so happy during and after the meal. What resonated most with me in the interview was that, from the outside, we see a beautiful, successful business woman who seems to have it all figured out. In reading her responses, however, we learn that she’s just as worried about being and doing enough for herself and everyone else as the rest of us are. My favorite frame from the interview was her statement, “But then I just figure, F-it, as long as it’s honest then there’s nothing really to regret.” Isn’t this ultimately what helps us all move forward in our lives? The moment when we realize that, no matter what path we choose, as long as it is true to who we are and that we live our most authentic lives, to the best of our ability, with the information and energy that we have at that time, then we’re going to be just fine. And along the way, we may even aspire others to strive for their best lives, too.

    You can’t really go wrong with eating live, nutritious food. This blog is a reflection of that lifestyle: honest, nourishing, and so delicious for the soul and the senses. Thank you. With gratitude, Margaret xo

  31. I loved when Sarma was talking about how many people with big businesses get to a point where it’s all about survival and pushing forward with every ounce of effort. I think that the same could be said for starting a raw lifestyle. There may come a point when its hard to stick with and you are having cravings…you may even fall of the wagon, so to speak. But, you just have to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and keep pushing forward! Love this! And I LOVE your blog! I just discovered you when I saw you on Matt Monarch’s tv show and I am so impressed both with your writing style and your commitment to representing the raw food lifestyle in the mainstream. 🙂

  32. I think what I took away was relating to how she sometimes feels overwhelmed just like I do. I work full-time, have a direct sales business with fellow team members that I lead, wife, mother and take 2 online classes. So it really made her an average person like me who works just as hard as I feel I do. Sometimes we think those who are in the spot light have it easy but they work just as hard as we do but maybe get to take a longer break sometimes. She is a very down to her young lady and a great role model for the younger generation and women.

  33. Hiya Gena,

    Well one thing I discovered from your entry is Sarma herself and her restaurants! I have not heard of her before your blog entry and goodness me, I live in New York. I feel as if I have been living under a rock (hey, I am on Long Island). What I most admire however is the fact that while in Tokyo she ate squid. I strongly advocate experiencing other cultures and cuisines especially while visiting/living on their turf and I’m happy to know Sarma is fluid enough to flow with life and temporary dietary changes. Knowing this, I plan on visiting Pure and One Lucky Duck very soon. By the by, great interview.


  34. After looking at Sarma’s books online and seeing pictures of her beautiful restaurant, it was great to see how down-to-earth she is despite all of the glamour both she and her restaurant project.

    And I enjoyed being reminded that creating a positive place in the world takes a lot of work and time, even if it’s enjoyable. I think that sometimes many of us (at least me!) give up on a passionate idea before we begin because we think it should just happen without a lot of effort. Sarma reminded me that you need to really stick with a project and give it all you have before it starts to have a life of its own.

    Thanks for the great interview!

  35. I totally relate to what Sarma said about being continuously motivated when you have many people relying on you. I think this can be both good and bad but seeing someone as successful as Sarma balance this must mean the good outweighs the bad!! GREAT INTERVIEW!!!

  36. i’m completely inspired by sarma’s non-obsession with being completely raw — and the fact that she’ll eat a whole squid (yay!). i tend to take to ideas that are presented in sane and flexible way. this is the first time i’m actually inspired to be mostly raw — others seemed to make it this exclusive club of ‘the strong.’ by taking out the pressure of being 100%, i’m inspired to give this a try. thanks for posting such a great interview!

  37. The things I took away from the interview with Sarma is that she is very candid about what it takes to have her lifestyle, i.e, it takes a lot of work. And, the questions drew out her overall passion about good food and getting that message to people either in a restaurant or through her books. I like that she is does not advocate ALL raw and even advises against it for newbies.

    There seems to be a sea change in people’s perceptions now that there are movies like King Corn and Food, Inc. I hope Sarma continues being successful spreading the message about the benefits of raw food.

  38. I love that it started as a two week experiment but she felt so much better it became permanent…maybe I should start an experiment of my own!

  39. What an exciting post AND giveaway!! Basically this whole post has lit some fire under my tuccus (sp?) to dine at Pure Food and Wine!!! I want to try the lasagna and experience the sexy ambience. It sounds heavenly and I cannot believe I live here have not gone there yet! Thanks so much for the post!

  40. This is how interviewing should be done – kudos! The questions were interesting, not run-of-the-mill and informative.

    I would love to win a copy of Sarma’s new book. I’m new (2 months) to the RAW lifestyle and a bit overwhelmed. I’ve made the easy changes of cutting out processed foods and meats about 95 % of the time. Thanks to your blog and YouTube I’ve learned to make about 6 meals pretty well. As much as I love them I need some new ones. I’m also trying to convince my future husband to eat raw with me and being the typical all-American male he’s hesitant to try new ‘healthy’ things. If I could master a few recipes from the new book and present them in a fun way I know he’d be hooked. We want to have a baby next year and while I’m doing everything I can to get healthy…his eating habits leave a little to be desired 🙂

    Since we’re moving to NY all our extra income is being budgeted for that and I can’t really spend money on a new book. This would be a great “first” recipe/how-to book for my RAW collection.

    I’m completely bummed because I was just in NYC for the first time last weekend and I can’t believe I missed out on Sarma’s restaurant. My fiance surprised me with the trip and he had every detail planned ahead of time. Next visit I’ll be stopping by for sure!

  41. I really like the fact that she makes an effort NOT to hire an all raw or vegan staff at Pure. I’m sure it makes for a less intimidating dining experience for those who are just beginning to contemplate a raw lifestyle (like me!).

  42. Great interview – I love how honest she was about the book cover! I really really want to visit pure food and wine, especially after reading this. I was surprised to learn that she rarely hires raw or vegan people in order to make all sorts of people feel comfortable eating there.

  43. I enjoyed reading this interview. I admire Sarma for purposefully choosing a restaurant staff/atmosphere designed to embrace all customers regardless of their experience, or lack thereof, with raw foods. I would love to win Sarma’s new book, thank you for doing the giveaway!

  44. I have listened to hear interview on RawVegan radio and really found her to be very interesting, this was a great follow up! I learned that I seriously need to go out and get some chia seeds!

  45. I love Sarma as well. 🙂 One thing I took away was that publishing a book is a lot of work, and that sometimes you win some (sometimes you don’t – like the cover!). It’s really interesting how the process of birthing a book is a lot like having kids! Woah.

  46. I learned that even though it may seem like you have it all, it is still a struggle and it takes extreme dedication and motivation to keep it going. I also love her philosophy about not beating yourself up if you have something non-raw, that is a great way to live.

  47. I love the fact that Sarma does not take an all or nothing approach to eating raw. Instead she seems to listen to her body and focus on eating healthy.

    By the way, I was so excited to see this post. I am headed to NY for the half marathon this weekend and I’ve already made a reservation for dinner at Pure on Sunday after the run! Now, I’m looking forward to going there even more! I see a mint sundae in my future:)

  48. What a beatiful interview Gena. Thank you! I’ve been incorporating more and more raw foods into my diet ever since I came across your blog. Keep it up!

  49. I love how Sarma is honest and confident about the fact that she is not always 100% raw vegan. I think a lot of times people get so wrapped up in these labels and have preached about it for so long that it would be horrendous to admit or be out and have something that isn’t 100% raw or isn’t vegan. What I liked even more is how she described that she is really only deprived when she hasn’t had her green juice! Now that’s inspiring 🙂

  50. That was such a beautiful post and interview, Gena.

    I am a new fan of raw cooking, recently exposed by your blog and the popularity of the viral banana soft serve. 🙂

    What I took from the interview was that it is possible to create elegant and and healthy raw food without being elitest or militant. That’s why I like your voice so much. Raw preparation is something I want to become familiar with. I only wish I could visit Sarma’s restaurant!

  51. it’s so nice to see that even Sarma doesn’t have that “all or nothing” mindset regarding her raw food lifestyle – it gives me hope that i can do this too 🙂

  52. Along with many others, at first I tried to transition to raw full force–I thought no looking back! I gave myself a week–the time it took me to finish reading my first raw book and all of the blogs and even after all of the suggestions not to do 100%, I felt it would have to be all or nothing. When I encountered my first problem dinner (with friends) I felt guilty for falling away from my new love for raw foods. It’s great to know others who hold so strong to raw foods sometimes do less than 100%–even dropping to 50%. My biggest problems are holding on so tightly to the “rules” like food combining, etc. but obviously this is a processs and will continue to be throughout. If I won her book would be my first raw recipe book!

  53. I would sooooo love to win this book! I have “Raw Food, Real World” and just love it…so full of great recipes, stories, and photography.

    I really identify with the part of this interview where Sarma talks about eating some cooked food once in a while. I used to have big guilt about not being 100% raw..but have since settled into the idea that it’s ok to eat some cooked food. Steamed veggies with brown basmati rice is great sometimes and I also have a great love for sushi that I am not willing to give up…but it’s ok…it’s not like I’m eating cheeseburgers!!!

    Thank you for the great interview and giveaway! Good luck everyone!

  54. I appreciate the fact that she has such flexibility. So many people think it has to be all or nothing, but she seems to realize that true balance can only be achieved through an open mind (and hungry tummy).

  55. I can’t tell you how inspiring this interview was for me. As someone who is just starting on her raw journey, it was incredibly reassuring to hear Sarma talk about her willingness to try different types of food and to also listen to what her body is craving even if it’s not 100% raw. Baked yams and sweet potato fries are always on my mind and in the bigger scope of things, I feel like it’s okay to give into these diversions every once in awhile.

  56. That sure was a treat indeed! Thanks for posting such a great piece about Pure. I’m sure we’ll be headed there when we’re back in NY.

    Love and Hugs,

  57. I love that Sarma shared her “mostly raw, most of the time” approach. I think that is such an admirable stance to take when it comes to raw food. I have driven myself crazy in the past, trying to be 100% percent raw, but I find life so much more enjoyable when I don’t stress about labeling my diet. Thanks for sharing the inspiring interview!

  58. I really appreciate and admire the fact that she is not afraid or ashamed to stray from the raw food path. I have considered going raw, but for some odd reason, I think it has to be an all or nothing thing. After reading her interview, I realized that being raw does not have to be an all or nothing thing; even if i can find ways to incorporate a couple of raw meals/snacks into my day, I am making changeds towards a healthier lifestyle.

  59. I’ve read a few interviews with Sarma now, and my respect and admiration of her just grows. I really resonated with the pressure, the energy and the responsibility it takes to run a large food service operation. I used to do the same in upstate New York and had a staff of 64 that relied on me. The pressure is enormous. I hope to one day have the opportunity to visit Pure Food & Wine and One Lucky Duck takeaway (and maybe even meet this wondrous warrior goddess).

  60. Yes, I love that restaurant! I make my family take me there every year, haha. I actually hope to go again on my birthday (next month), and introduce my friend to raw food. I was most impressed by how fast Sarma was able to make her vision a reality. I was so surprised that her first raw meal was only 6ish years ago!

  61. It is Sarma’s first book that inspired my foray into raw foods. It made this healthy food appear as a beautiful art to me, and what a thing to live and breath, literally? I cite woman as you two to be true inspiration.
    I thank you for living truly and sharing with all the others who happen to stumble upon your path.

  62. Wow, I’m so glad I stopped by today! I’m sitting here eating my dinner and reading this lovely interview. One thing that I took away from Sarma’s interview was her humility! She sounds so down to earth and relatable. I don’t exactly think there is a classification for what kind of meals I eat. I’m not 100% raw, vegan, or even vegetarian, but the majority of what I eat happens to be raw veggies. This is been a natural progression over the years. This interview has me really interested in raw food and especially her 2 week trial idea. Thanks so much! This really made my day!

  63. I was most inspired by the humanity she demonstrated, and the points at which she allowed herself to slip from behind the publisher’s persona, the public image, and the book cover, to reveal her weaknesses, her broke-down sundays, her fears, and her big dreams for her small business. It was refreshing to read so humble an account. When faced with a bookstore wall of glossy, presentational, sales-flash driven covers glossing so many raw food books, it’s not always easy to remember that the minds, lives and personal stories behind them belong to real, flawed, complex, and fallible human beings, and that transitioning, staying the course, and finding balance in daily life may be just as difficult for them as it is for oneself. The humility that was present throughout her interview (and beautiful job on the interview, by the way!) made me all the more intrigued to read her no-recipes, all-thought book, if she ever finds time to write it.

    Thank you very much, Gena, for this lovely interview. It graced my afternoon. All my best, Luc.

  64. I love love love her transition story! I am also inspired by her honesty, and that she is an example of how raw foods/healthy lifestyle can absolutely be a part of a busy, professional life. A lot of people think if you are going to “go raw” or improve your lifestyle, you’ve got to be ready to move out of the city, meditate for hours and throw out the cell phone. Its great to see examples of various lifestyles so we all know there is something for everyone! 🙂

  65. Great interview and Sarma is so pretty! I love raw food! I have her first book, but haven’t seen the second one yet! The restaurant is beautiful with those lights! I have learned from raw food also, like Sarma…..that everything is in moderation and don’t force yourself to do things….it is a process!


  66. What a fantastic interview! As stated before, the introduction to raw foods has been an amazing thing for me, but also a struggle. The fact that Sarma “allows” (not the right word, but it works for now) to eat other things, to experience different food, really helped me. I know you and I have talked about the “all or nothing” approach before, but sometimes I still can’t get it out of my head. It’s good to know that even someone as dedicated and creative as Sarma still values the experience of trying new foods from time to time.

    Also, could Pure be ANY MORE beautiful? Wow, get me to NYC immediately!

  67. I agree with a lot of the comments on this interview: it is refreshing and encouraging to see pragmatism instead of dogmatism preached. I love to mix up my diet, but there is no denying how great I feel when I eat mostly raw. That fact is what keeps me coming back to raw.

  68. Thanks for the great interview! I took away that you truly can turn your passion into your career. I’m having a difficult time trying to figure out what to do with my life right now, and it was inspiring to hear how Sarma took something she loved and turned it into a career she loves.

  69. Both of you preach moderation and determining what’s best for oneself in your blogs, which is why they both appeal to me and I read them so religiously! I’ve been able to incorporate some great, simple raw foods into my vegetarian diet thus far (raw goat cheddar, banana soft serve (even the bf loved it!), new juice concoctions, etc)and I look forward to continuing to do so! I’ll be in NYC in october and I can’t wait to hit up Pure and the takeaway! 🙂

    Thanks for writing this blog Gena, and to Sarma for agreeing to the interview! It was a fantastic read!

  70. I really enjoyed this interview. I’m really glad that Sarma is unapologetic about eating non-vegan, because sometimes you have to be flexible! It’s one of my goals in life to get back to New York City and enjoy all that it has to offer with various vegan restaurants, especially Pure Food and Wine!

  71. I like the fact that she does not eat 100% raw all the time and she enjoys all kinds of food!

  72. wow, she’s sounds so sweet! and she’s GORGEOUS! what i took away from this interview is that you don’t have to strictly abide by a certain diet 100% of the time to enjoy what it has to offer. sarma allows herself to try different foods, and enjoy cultural culinary experiences. overall, what i mainly got from this is that eating food should be a pleasurable experience, not an experience overwhelmed by percentages and numbers. there’s no need to think in those types of terms. you don’t have to deny yourself delicious foods that you truly want, just because you feel the need to stick to something 100% of the time.

    oh and i just have to say that pure food and wine looks incredible! whenever people blog about eating there, i get so jealous! and i would LOVE a copy of living raw food! the recipes sarma talked about sound delicious.

  73. I really like the balance that she shows about raw food – about it not being all or nothing. Frankly, I can’t imagine life without chickpeas. But the idea of making these experimental changes and seeing how they affect your health is really key. I’m not raw, vegan, or even vegetarian. But I made an effort early this year to increase the amount of vegan and raw food in my diet, and I have to say…I haven’t been sick once, in almost a year.

  74. i like the fact that even she doesn’t stick to a 100% raw food diet – that there are occasions to “treat’ yourself to what your body is craving, and there is nothing wrong with that.

    i hope to get to pure sooner than later – wish it was more in my nyc work / living neighborhood – that lasagna looks amazing.

  75. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Sarma! (and I just discovered her a few weeks ago) What I love about her is that she isn’t perfect and she is so honest and gives us a lot of personal information (which is exactly what she was concerned about when writing the second book, apparently). How ironic…

  76. I like Sarma’s attitude towards raw food–it doesn’t have to be all or nothing.