Fancy Fruits, the raw food 'health-staurant'
Tamara Bailey, Gleaner Writer
HE GREW up seeing his parents using the conventional method of food preparation, but somehow, it never appealed to him. The need to keep food in its most natural form and use it as a source of medicinal value was of more importance than a full stomach, and so the journey to healing the masses began.
Yahya El, owner and operator of Fancy Fruits 'Health-staurant', located at 33 Ward Avenue, Mandeville, began operations at his live food store in April of this year after realising just how detrimental bad eating habits were.
"We call this a health-staurant and not a restaurant because this is not a place to rest. It's the place to feel alive with live food. Everything is raw, we don't cook anything. As a matter of fact, we don't have a stove in the kitchen. Instead, we use a dehydrator," said El.
Customers who enter the store are greeted warmly and are allowed the opportunity to bask in the beauty of varnished bamboo, and fruits of all sorts are carefully arranged and packed with notes on the health benefits, so as to be in the know before consumption.
"We try to cater to the holistic development of people, so we cater to them physically through our natural dishes, fruits and juices, and we engage the mind and we offer a home-away-from-home kind of experience."
With the knowledge that some people would not readily accept his idea of having a raw-food diet, El said his renewed inspiration to continue along the path came from his wife and his mentor, Jahval Miller.
"I have been seeking the guidance of my mentor, Jahval, for years, and as one who has his own line of roots and tonics, he gave me the encouragement I needed to get this store up. There were times when I thought it wouldn't be possible because of the finances, but my wife really helped with the business plan and marketing ... . I believe this is my contribution to mankind, and so I have put my reservations aside and I'm committed," El told Rural Xpress.
El said this venture has taught him a great deal. "I have been on a fruit, nuts and vegetable raw-food diet for over two years now, and I know the power of food as medicine, but since I have been here, it has just been amazing to see how people with hypertension and poor circulation for years can just have the problem reduced or eradicated after changing their diets."
It is as a result of the alleged potency of these products which has seen his customer base, which was primarily Rastafarians, grow to include adults and children from all walks of life.
"If more people would only know the poison they consume in some of these foods on shelves, they would stop ... . We are hooked on this salt-tooth, sweet-tooth notion, but we have to treat our bodies right so it can work for us. We are committing suicide through some of the foods we eat," said El.
With dishes such as curried plantain made with ripe plantain, seasoned with turmeric, scallion, sweet pepper, oregano, olive oil; and lime and zucchini pasta salad made with squash, zucchini, and a secret sauce of peppers, Chef Dwayne Alkay said meals are carefully planned and prepared to aid the body's development and not to harm it.
"We know people may say you need heat to kill food bacteria and to tenderise it, but what many persons don't know is that there is something called lime that is powerful beyond measure - it tenderises it, kills bacteria, and along with the dehydrator, we ensure foods are of the highest quality here."
El, in the next few years, hopes to have a raw-food health-staurants across the island, not for major profit or personal gain, but for human welfare.