THE TRUTH ACCORDING TO..THURSDAYS- INTERVIEW WITH ROD ROTONDI OF LEAF ORGANICS

Hey folks,


Welcome to this edition of The Truth According To…Thursdays! I am so very excited to bring you another interview! I had the pleasure of sitting down with the owner of Leaf Organics here in Los Angeles, Rod Rotondi. I visited his restaurant with my non-vegan friend RP and we both LOVED it! As a matter of fact, my friend RP went back several times the same week! I went back in a few weeks later to snag something for my sweet tooth and I had one of their raw cheesecakes and it was divine! While I was there, I started inquiring about how long Leaf had been there, who was the owner etc. Well, it turns out that Rod was there and I was able to score a sit down interview with him to bring to you guys! I recorded our conversation but have been having technical difficulties uploading it, so you’ll have to settle for my transcribed version. Check it out!


INTERVIEW WITH ROD ROTONDI- OWNER OF LEAF ORGANICS, TEACHER AND AUTHOR

 
ROD ON VEGANISM

 
CWrites: When did your journey into veganism begin?


Rod: It began with vegetarianism about 20years ago. I got into it when I was living in the Middle East where a lot people eat meat and it started to gross me out after a while. It was partly for health reasons, I wasn’t sick, but it just made sense to me. Then of course the ethical reasons, it’s nice not to have to kill any other sentient beings to eat if possible. There’s a lot of great vegetarian food there if you know what to ask for, so that’s where it started. Then in about 1995/1996 I was in NYC and that’s when I learned about raw foods, so I went from sort of or mostly vegetarian to really hard core raw vegan in one fell swoop and then for years that’s what I did, just hard core raw vegan, nothing else, even when there was really nothing else to eat, I was really crazy. Which was fine for a while and it was great, but now since about a couple years now I have started to incorporate some cooked vegan. There’s a lot of foods I grew up with, foods from all around the world that can be made vegan or are naturally vegan. The truth is my favorite kind of food is peasant food from all around the world, that’s the kind I like the best.

CWrites: What do exactly do you mean by peasant food?


Rod: Peasant food is normal poor people’s food before they got rich and started eating tons of rich stuff. For instance, I grew up in an Italian family and peasant food for Italians is pasta, polenta, gnocchi, risotto, and lots of grains, really great sauces and nice use of herbs. Basically no meat because peasants didn’t have meat or have access to meat and if they did it was on a special occasion. I think that if everyone would go back to something like that instead of being hard-core vegan, just go back to the way we used to eat when we had meat like once a week, once a month and that was fine. Now everyone feels like they need to eat meat three times a day or they’re depriving themselves. If you’re vegan six days a week, I’m in love with you and the environment is too and the animals are too and this thing about being hard core, we’re missing the boat because the vast majority of people are not going to go hard core vegan, but they might go for a meatless Monday that’s a start.


ROD ON HIS RESTAURANT/ MENU

 
CWrites: Meat was not hard for me to give up, it was really the cheese. However, there are a lot of vegan cheeses out there to satisfy that. One thing that’s interesting to me is that you have a macaroni and cheese dish on your menu. Now macaroni and cheese is one of the things that I really did enjoy prior to becoming vegan and I have found some places that have it, but the one you have on your menu uses Spirulina. I just did some posts on the use of Spirulina and I’ve found that a lot of people don’t like the taste, so how does that particular dish fare with your customers?

Rod: When people don’t like the taste of Spirulina it’s because they put it in a smoothie when they want something sweet or fruity, but when you use it in a salad, oh my goodness or as a savory dish it does taste cheesy especially when combining it with other items, like we use nutritional yeast. It’s more easily savory. It’s my favorite super food and I think it’s the most healthful.


CWrites: What prompted you to start Leaf?


Rod: I had developed the concept for Leaf Organics back in Massachusetts when I had a raw restaurant there. I came to California to start the concept here. I wanted to make an inclusive restaurant. My interest is where people can eat at everyday because it’s delicious, affordable, convenient, quick and fits in people’s lifestyles.


ROD ON HIS BOOK AND TEACHING



CWrites: I read that you do classes around the city.



Rod: Yes, I teach a lot here in LA and all over the country. I’m supposed to be going to Europe over the summer. I do a lot of teaching and I have a DVD series that you can get on Amazon and a book in paperback called “Raw Foods for Real People” and it sells like mad which is really nice. I’m really proud of it, I worked my butt off on that book. I had no idea how much work a book is.


CWrites: So what brought that about, what made you want to put your experiences in a book to help other people?


Rod: I had been wanting to do this for a while and I think what spurred me on is that I started having students that were writing books about raw foods and I knew they had only taken like one course and were writing books. I wanted to put something together to make it easy for people to make that step because a lot of the raw books out there are not terribly accessible for people. I found this works for me and seen it work for so many other people.


CWrites: Do you find that a lot of people that come to your classes or already raw vegan or do you find that people are trying to learn or a mixture?


Rod: I would say a mixture; I get all kinds of people.


CWrites: In your experience through teaching and running your restaurants, is there any story that stands out about someone whose life has been transformed by a raw vegan diet?


Rod: I get quite a few letters. A man in his sixties who was a drug addict for decades, about six or seven years ago got turned on to raw foods and stopped everything else and I swear he looks younger and younger each time I see him. I was at lunch with someone earlier that had cancer of the lymph nodes, doctors had written him off the whole nine yards. He turned to a raw diet and is now cured completely. Making incremental changes is the most likely to last.




ROD’S PHILOSOPHY


CWrites: On your website, you have quote that I love, it reads: “Everyone has control over what they put in their mouth and these choices make a huge difference for our shared environment- our biosphere, as well as our individual environments- our bodies! Choosing organic, vegan raw foods is not only supporting our individual bodies with optimally nutritious foods, but supporting the growth of the whole organic and vegan industry- basically, our health and the health of our planet.” I love how you refer to our bodies as individual environments. In closing, would you like to add anything to that or share any additional thoughts?



Rod: Some people who are into the raw or vegan cuisines are afraid of food, a lot of fear involved, doing it for all these great reasons and ideas and forgetting to enjoy their food. Food is to be enjoyed not just to sustain us. Food is culture, tradition and sharing, it’s a way for us to commune with each other and nature and the more we embrace it and do it lovingly and happily I think the better off we’ll be. I usually sign my books, love your food, love your planet, love yourself.



I couldn’t agree more! I truly had a great time sitting and talking with Rod. If you live in L.A. or come for a visit, you must get yourself over to Leaf Organics. To learn more about Leaf Organics and Rod, visit http://www.leaforganics.com/.



Thanks so much again Rod for your time and all you do to educate and feed people great food that’s good for our bodies!

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