A Raw Food Lifestyle and Sustainability in Mexico: Gourmet Raw Food Chef and Instructor Claudio Hall
The MEXICO Report
September 9, 2009
By Susie Albin-Najera
As a spiritual leader is passionate about life, or a gamer passionate about video games, Claudio Hall is passionate about food, raw food to be exact. Born and raised in Mexico City, with mixed American/Mexican bloodlines, Claudio Hall found himself in and out of his grandmother’s restaurant, Fonda el Refugio, located in the trendy Zona Rosa area in the heart of Mexico City. Fonda el Refugio was founded by his grandmother, a noted writer, diplomat and socialite, 55 years ago (who has since passed) and is considered one of the oldest and best-known authentic Mexican restaurants in Mexico. It was here that Hall worked sporadically since he was a teen and grew to manage it for nearly eight years, eventually becoming a leading traditional Mexican Cuisine Chef.
Stemming from a restaurateur family, invested in and passionate about culinary arts, it was natural that Hall began to study culinary arts professionally. While attending Florida Culinary Institute in West Palm Beach, he was influenced by a Chef heading their new Culinary Nutrition program, at which time Hall switched his main focus of study to nutrition. “The information she spoke about really struck a chord with me and I switched my major,” recalls Hall. Part of the curriculum was a field trip to Hippocrates Health Institute (the leading natural and complementary healthcare educational institute) and a week of study devoted entirely to raw (living) food preparations. “I knew that was the way I wanted to go.”
After graduating, Hall went through the program at Living Light Culinary Arts Institute in Ft. Bragg, CA as a Raw Food Chef and Instructor and also the Hippocrates Health Educator one at HHI. He worked as a private Chef and coach in South Florida and also spent six months as Executive Chef at The Soma Center in Lake Worth, FL (a raw food cafe and yoga studio).
Fonda el Refugio is now owned and run by Hall’s mother and uncle. Currently, Hall and his girlfriend, who is also a trained chef and in the field of organic produce, local harvest, sustainability and urban gardening, are currently preparing raw food weekly for a yoga ashram located in the Polanco neighborhood.
Gourmet Raw Food Chef Claudio Hall:
Why is a raw food diet so important?
A raw food diet is important because the majority of us have really lost our way where eating is concerned. The stuff we pass off as food, or sustenance, is… well, killing us slowly at an alarming rate. As much as I believe, almost everyone benefits from a raw/living foods lifestyle. I have found also, from personal experience, that changing decades of eating habits is not a walk in the park for the majority. This is going to be a long road for the movement.
I like to look at it from a realistic angle and figure that any increase or improvement is beneficial. If you only eat raw once a week, that is great. The next step is two days, and so on. Education is key. Spreading the message is important. Some people will get it immediately, some will scoff at it and some will listen and start to think and possibly change their ideas with time.
What are the health benefits of a raw food diet?
The benefits of a raw diet are amazing. People notice your clear skin, your sharp eyes, a large smile, the famous raw “glow“. You sleep better and in less time and wake up with an abundance of energy and positivity. You become kinder, more intuitive, generous and supportive. But the unseen benefits are where it counts. A proper raw/living foods diet helps the body regenerate at a cellular level, at any age. I can say this because I am in Mexico. I have personally seen raw food lifestyles cure people from many terminal and chronic diseases which the conventional medical community had no answer to. People told they had weeks to live left are thriving decades later. Pretty cool.
What is the Raw Food Community like in Mexico?
I did not know one single raw foodist in Mexico City, so I stared the ‘Raw Foods en Mexico’ group on Facebook. There is a huge networking circle between raw foodists on Facebook and the logical choice was to start a group and promote it. Just like with similar groups in the rest of the world, the goal is for people to meet each other, share recipes, resources, tips, ask questions and organize potluck lunches.
The raw food community is such a nurturing field. I always claim the biggest benefit of ending up involved in it is the incredible people you meet. Positive, helping, supportive and generous in spirit. Doing things that help people have a better quality of life is the real reward. I was lucky to have experienced that earlier at my family’s restaurant, which makes absolutely everything from scratch (proud members of the Slow Food movement).
Why is food so important to the Mexican culture?
Mexico has such a rich relationship with food because of a few factors. The size of the country lends itself to having ample climates. This means a wide spectrum of exotic ingredients. It has subdivided regional cuisines which are very unique and different. When the Spaniards arrived, they did not obliterate the previous culture completely. They actually supported and encouraged cuisine. Pre-Columbian recipes and ingredients were adopted. Many cookbooks were written. The French Emperors also infused their culture. The Spanish also had a background influenced by the Moors. Lots of spices combined with our local peppers. I remember eating all kinds of exotic, ethnic foods as a child. Celebrations are always centered around food. Families get together to eat every day. Sharing food and hospitality is important to our culture.
Do you think the culture is (or would be) receptive to raw food diets?
For these same reasons raw foods has a bright future in Mexico. Many classic staples of the diet are raw already (salsas, guacamole, ceviche, (if you count animal protein) fresh fruits and juice mixes, salads and vegetables like jicama). Fresh condiments are used frequently. Due to Mexican’s highly evolved palate, the vibrant flavors of raw food are well received by everyone who tries it. Most people are not scared to try new things and consider themselves well educated about food.
Can you get enough protein on the raw food diet?
There is more than enough protein available in a proper raw food diet. Microgreens, sprouts and leafy green vegetables are a huge key in making that happen. The common analogy is, a cow is where we get protein. Where does that cow get its protein? From eating grasses. Soaked and sprouted nuts, seeds and legumes are other widely used ingredients. Sunflower sprouts, for example, have complete proteins and all amino acids. The cold pressed juice of those sprouts is packed with those nutrients. Wheatgrass juice shares similar properties.
Where does your food or produce come from?
We get most of our produce from a sustainable co-op called Productos de la Chinampa. They harvest on the chinampa plots in the canals of Xochimilco and have a whole Fair Trade thing going with the campesinos. (http://www.delachinampa.com/)
How does one start a raw food diet?
The easiest way to start adding more raw foods into your diet from home is preparing green smoothies. They are blended juices which have dark leafy greens in them. The book Green For Life by Victoria Boutenko explains everything in easy to follow terms. That is a great resource for beginners. There is so much information on the internet. Look for local support groups and potlucks in your area on meetup.com. If people want to study formally about this, they should consider looking at the information from Hippocrates Health Institute or Living Light Culinary Arts Institute.
What’s in store for the future?
We are going to be opening a prepared and prepackaged raw foods deli and juice bar in the Condesa neighborhood (a.k.a the Mexican So-Ho due to its bohemian/artsy nature), within the next couple of months. I will be holding lectures, raw food classes and demos there. We have a rooftop garden there where we grow produce. We are also currently growing wheatgrass at a small scale but looking to expand commercially in that area and with sprouted greens too. Making things that can be sold at other outlets that keeps for weeks is also on the agenda. This is done in conjunction with The Center for Sustainable Technologies that is established there already. Among the different technologies there, sustainable, organic urban agriculture is why we are there, and how to grow and eat delicious, healthy food.
If you would like to find a raw food coach in your area, google the search terms in your city or look for raw food blogs, websites and books.
Gourmet Raw Food Chef Claudio Hall: http://gourmetrawchef.com
Optimum Health Institute (Austin, TX and San Diego, CA): www.optimumhealth.org
Susie Albin-Najera can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.