The rise of raw food in Brisbane

Anne-Louise Brown
Bestseller: Bagels with eggplant 'jerky' at Orawgi cafe.
Bestseller: Bagels with eggplant 'jerky' at Orawgi cafe. Photo: Supplied

In Brisbane, raw food and vegan kitchens are no longer the rare sight they once were; It seems #cleaneating, #raw, #vegan are all over social media.

Jamie Louise Stevenson opened the Orawgi raw vegan cafe in Woolloongabba last year after moving to Brisbane and struggling to maintain her vegan, gluten-free and organic lifestyle.

"I was so sick of complaining about there being no options that I decided I'd create the option," Stevenson said.

Now a second Orawgi cafe is set to open in Hamilton, and Stevenson is on the verge of opening a raw vegan commercial kitchen producing cakes and ready meals.  

Since opening her original Orawgi, she's noticed rapid growth in the local raw food movement.

Alison and Brett Hutley of Botanica Real Food.
Alison and Brett Hutley of Botanica Real Food. Photo: Michelle Smith

"Our most popular menu item is our bagels that we serve with a dill cashew cream cheese and a spicy eggplant jerky."

"When we first opened we sold probably 10 bagels a day. Now we sell out of [20-40] bagels daily.

"In such a short period of time raw food has become really popular in Brisbane and so many people are interested, young and old," Stevenson said.

She said raw cookery means no ingredients are "cooked" at higher than 48C, which is believed to keep natural enzymes intact.

"Through this type of eating I believe food is medicine," Stevenson said. "I discovered raw food through being unwell myself and a lot of our customers are people recovering from illness looking for a healthier life.”

Botanica Real Food in Red Hill has become an institution since opening last year, with its raw salads among the most popular items.

Run by husband and wife duo Ali and Brett Hutley, former private chefs to James and Erica Packer, the Botanica food philosophy is "real food - healthy, tasty and convenient".

Ali Hutley studied nutrition with the Institute of Integrative Nutrition in New York, one of the birthplaces of the raw food movement, after her interest was piqued when she saw an interview with raw food expert David Wolfe.

Maintaining vitamins and enzymes in food is one of the greatest benefits of eating raw, Hutley believes.

"Eating raw really forces you to be aware of what you are consuming, which often means those incidental 'naughty' items don't make it anywhere near your plate," she said.

James Hultgren of Delicious, Regardless desserts is also tapping into the raw food movement with a series of cooking classes.

He's passionate about "from scratch" cooking and through his classes hopes to demystify vegan cookery, teaching participants three to four meals they can make at home, including salad, pasta and dessert.

"Most people have no idea where to start with vegan cooking, so even if the dish that they're going to cook will have a similar taste and texture to what they're used to, most have no idea how to achieve the result without eggs or dairy," he said.

Hultgren says "it becomes easier by the day" to adopt a vegan lifestyle and eat raw foods.

James Hultgren is holding a vegan and raw cooking class ($17) on Tuesday, July 29 at Laneway Learning, Bean Cafe, 181 George Street, Brisbane, as part of Good Food Month. See brisbane.goodfoodmonth.com