by Tom Sims
One of the first things you notice when you meet Ta-Raw Hamilton, otherwise known as “Chef Hamilton,” is passion. Ta-Raw is passionate about food, health, and life! She is passionate about ideas and building dreams. That is evident in her approach to everything she and her family do. The culinary team of Tara, Rachel, Kyal, and Ariana Hamilton are at the heart of Revive Cafe and Organic Fresno.
The passion is about local, raw, organic food that nurtures the body and the spirit. It is about feeding body and soul with natural, wholesome, and authentic foods, and giving back to the community.
Ta-Raw readily tells her story and recounts her journey from India, where she was raised as the daughter of a Punjabi priest, to Canada, San Diego, and finally to the Central Valley where she and her husband bought a vineyard so that they could have a park for their daughter’s wedding. Soon they discovered that the land could provide more than just an idyllic setting for nuptials. It could heal and restore.
After taking a course at the Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential, she began to take the relationship between food and nutrition seriously. After 72 hours on their recommended diet, Ta-Raw began to feel 100% better than she had ever felt before. The transformation astounded her and left a lasting impression. It created a drive to learn, know, and share more. Whole Farms was born. By raising wholesome, whole food, the Hamiltons “strive to be ambassadors of health … We are involved in the community in trying to make nutrition accessible.”
Through their blogs, Facebook presence, classes, farmers markets, and food delivery programs, they have tried to bring people together with foods that are delicious and nourishing at affordable prices.
The next step was a restaurant. Revive Cafe was born. Revive was a welcome addition to the downtown culinary options. According to the Hamiltons, “Whole Farms Revive Cafe is the first organic, raw, vegan cafe in Fresno.” They specialize in smoothies, fresh pressed juices, salads and entrees. All the food at Revive is raw and vegan. They are also gluten-free and GMO-free.
Every Sunday afternoon, Ta-Raw teaches a cooking class with delicious samples. Education is a very strong component of this family’s community outreach. Son Kyal is a “Raw Food & Wellness Coach” who has initiated the “Rawvive Reboot Challenge.” The Reboot, according to Kyal, “Challenges you to experience the benefits of raw food and juice for yourself by committing to a 10 Day Juice Cleanse, 30 Day Juice Cleanse, or 30 Day Raw Food and Juice Transformation”.
With Revive’s success came the need for expansion. On Monday, April 9, Organic Fresno opened at 990 Parkway Drive in Fresno. Organic Fresno serves vegan and vegetarian dishes, offering cheese from raw milk and cooked (but not overcooked) foods. The new restaurant has room for a farmer’s market, a store, gardens, and expanded classes as well as Ta-Raw’s ever growing catering business. It is located just off the 99 freeway so that travelers can have a chance to have a rural, agricultural-culinary experience as they pass through Fresno.
On a recent visit, I had great difficulty settling on a lunch item to sample. I had the pizza and it fed me for three meals. It was the most commanding sauce I have ever tasted on a pizza. The whole grain crust was neither dry nor bland. I did not even get cheese and I am a cheese addict. The flavors exploded in my mouth and left me at loss for words to describe them. At the risk of sounding trite and uninformed, it was simply delicious. It was the right combination of everything. I will return.
Organic Fresno is a neighborhood asset. Because of its location and confluence of motels and freeway, Parkway Drive is frequented by practitioners of prostitution and is often thought of as an undesirable blight on the community. Organic Fresno embraces and seeks to lift the community. One of their signature dishes, Pasta Puttanesca, seeks to honor the neighborhood with its traditional Italian sauce characteristic of what one might have smelled in long-ago brothel districts in Italy. The story is on the menu.
Ta-Raw is not value-neutral. In fact, she is very committed to her faith. She just takes people where they are and seeks to lift them and their communities. She likes people and finds that when people are treated with respect, they respond in-kind.
What about healthy food access for the poor and marginalized? Ta-Raw points out that it only takes half as much wholesome food to meet one’s nutritional requirements as it does junk food. Healthy, organic food is also more satisfying. Therefore, even though good foods may cost more, they last longer and thus, cost less. The logic is impeccable.
The Hamiltons consider themselves “farmacists” and “agitivists.” In the tradition of Hypocrates who said, “Let food be your medicine,” they are promoting wellness. As agricultural advocates, they agitate for a change of mindset. Ta-Raw’s husband is the “reflector” and deep thinker in the family who figures out solutions to big problems. Ta-Raw is involved in implementation and communication, often coming to the table with community groups and others advocating for positive change.
The dream is big, but it is also local. Ta-Raw understands that change comes slowly. She collaborates with people in the community who share her mindset, promotes local growers, and speaks with anyone who will listen. She is passionate and that passion is contagious. She wants people to understand the nutritional value of food and think about what they eat. Why should people visit Organic Fresno (or Revive)? Ta-Raw gives six reasons:
1. Easy on, easy off access from the freeway whether you’re going north or south
2. Local, family run business and not a national chain
3. Supports Local Organic Farmers by buying and using their produce in our dishes and make it available for purchase
4. Healthy food focused on plant based diets that makes you feel great. Vegan and Vegetarian dishes. Dairy Free Smoothies, Fresh Pressed Juices and Raw, Vegan Desserts
5. Affordable. Breakfast menu is $7 and Lunch menu is $10
6. Everything is made from scratch and custom made for you using local, seasonal, organic veggies and you can taste the difference quality and love makes.
We are farmacists and agtivists. We grow the food, prepare the food and teach how to make these dishes at home. Stop by and support a local food system and the SLOW food movement.
Read more about restaurant hours, preparing food, joining the tea and juice clubs, purchasing locally, recipes, and links to important sites at http://ta-raw.com.
For information on Revive Cafe: www.ta-raw.com/Whole_Farms/Revive_Cafe.html
For information on Organic Fresno: https://www.facebook.com/OrganicFresno
To follow Ta-Raw on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MakeLoveintheKitchen