Published on March 1st, 2018 | by Sarah Buehrle0
Restaurants Offering Foreign Fare with a Side of Health
by Sarah Buehrle
Local restaurants are dipping into other cultures to ladle up fast food and sit-down dining that is healthy for customers.
Loving Hut is a restaurant chain with locations around the world, 38 of those in the United States. What each has in common is that the menu, though unique to each country and each location, is vegan.
Its two locations in Georgia are in Greater Atlanta. The Norcross location, at 6385 Spalding Drive, Peachtree Corners, has everything from curry to chow mein to nachos supreme on the menu.
“We’re not a fast food chain, although we have over 200 Loving Huts all over the world,” says Jeanne Minier, assistant manager at that site. “In Loving Hut Norcross we try to make it really international. We have Asian, American, Italian, Mexican, East Indian, Southern. It’s a fusion of everything: good health, good food.”
Minier said her location uses a variety of soy proteins to mimic meat, employs low-salt practices and is careful with types of oils, or will sauté with water at the customer’s request for even more health benefits.
The Norcross Loving Hut, owned by Tammy Chui, hosts a monthly buffet. Minier says popular items, such as the vegan cheese mozzarella cheese sticks and the green bean entree, fly off the line.
“It’s just easy to duplicate whatever you really like without making it about the misery of the animal, without the harsh fats and what it does to the body,” says Minier. “What we’re trying to do its help people get healthier as well as help the planet, help the animals. It’s something that’s kind of all together.”
Atlantans have access to a variety of delicious ethnic foods, according to restaurant owner Richard Turnbull. But he and his father, Robert Turnbull, wanted to give residents the food they deserve.
The Turnbull family has owned the Sandy Springs Loving Hut restaurant, at 220 Hammond Drive NE, for four years. Richard said his father, who passed away recently, was an English sailor who won awards for his cooking before he became vegetarian. The Turnbulls’ menu, like those at most Loving Huts, contains dishes from many cultures, from falafel to wonton soup, the last a nod to Richard’s mother’s heritage.
“Through years of traveling, he took me around to Thailand, Jamaica, Hong Kong— and we came up with ideas on how we could come up with ethnic cuisine, and we thought this is what Atlanta deserves,” says Turnbull. “Every human being deserves good food. It should be a natural-born right.”
Citing the China Study by T. Collin Campbell and Thomas Campbell, Turnbull says people have begun to focus too much on fat, salt and sugar, and have lost the health benefits of the healthy eating practiced by generations past.
L Shaqoor is manager of Midtown Vitality Bowls at 855 Peachtree St. The store, also part of a national chain, is best known for its acai bowls, a Brazilian tradition of pureeing acai fruit and topping the thick puree with textured foods—such as granola, coconut shavings and berries—and honey
Shaqoor says the Vitality Bowls breakfast bowls, which are smaller than its lunch bowls, are perfect for a healthy breakfast.
“There’s a lot that the acai berry does that you don’t get with bacon and eggs,” says Shaqoor. “The acai berry has antioxidants that fight free radicals. It reduces risk factors for cancer. The acai berry is one of the most nutritionally complete foods on this planet.”
Customers appear to embrace the meatless Brazilian food, Shaqoor says, noting most customers comment on how beautiful the bowls are.
“It’s very picturesque; it attracts the eye,” says Shaqoor. “It’s got fruit all over it. It’s got a honey drizzle. It shines.”
All three restaurants extend their compassion to the planet. They use recyclable or recycled materials for to-go containers and bags. Both Minier and Turnbull say they believe the extra expense is worth it.
Turnbull says his father’s philosophy was that the restaurant industry is about more than just producing food for people. “I remember him saying—whenever I would get disillusioned or I didn’t want to do this anymore, he’d say, ‘This is not just about food. You’re trying to change people’s lives. In your own small way, you’re trying to make less suffering. There’s too much pain and suffering in the world. The quickest way is through someone’s mouth. It’s almost sacred. You can bring something clean and healthy, and you can nourish people’s souls.’
“That’s what he told me. And that’s why I kept going.”