Interview with the raw foodist chef Elena Dal Forno

1) Raw Foodist, Vegan and Certified Gourmet Raw Chef. Tell us about your journey. How did this passion come about? You’re the first female chef to deal with these issues. How does that make you feel? The journey started out from ethics, first of all. Five years ago, I saw a documentary called “Earthlings”. It was narrated by Joaquin Phoenix, a strict vegan, and it spoke about animal exploitation for the benefit of man. After watching it, for an hour and forty minutes, I decided to completely overhaul my life. I became vegan straight away, raw foodist after a day! I listened to my body which, after years of toxicity, finally rebelled and asked me to look after it. From here came a rebirth, first of all my passion for food that is healthy, ethical, dynamic, vibrant, healing and respectful. I chose to give love from my hands and then, after a month on salads, I discovered that there was a raw food movement that had been making extraordinary progress in terms of culinary concepts, and so I decided to go to America to study from the best in the world, the chef Matthew Kenney. In his Academy, I learned how you can make absolutely anything from natural ingredients. I was the first woman in Italy and in fact that was important. After me came many other female colleagues who have followed this path and I’m happy about that. Some have told me that I’ve changed their lives and I can say that my life has been worth living just for this fact.

2) Today, “vegan and raw foodist” are two concepts that we often hear mentioned, sometimes even without much knowledge of the facts, but what does eating a raw vegan diet actually mean? Can we call it a real diet?
We can call it a real lifestyle. The word diet is not part of my vocabulary and I hate it. Diets are restrictive, depressing and they don’t work! Better to adopt a personal food journey and keep it stable, forever. That way, there’s no risk of piling on unnecessary pounds, especially if you allow your body to look after itself naturally. Being raw vegan means banishing any type of animal-derived food from the table and mainly, let’s say 80-90% of the time, eating raw fruit and vegetables. Then we add in flax, pumpkin, sunflower, hemp and chia seeds, as well as nuts such as almonds and walnuts, which are a real cure-all for our bodies and brains. A raw foodist doesn’t eat any food brought to temperatures higher than 42 degrees. Beyond this level, the food begins to change and disintegrate, and all its vital elements are destroyed. 
3) So how do you bring these types of foods to the table? Forgive me for asking, but many people want to know... is the food as tasty as traditional cuisine?
I would say that the food is even tastier! First of all because we get back to the true taste of things, without cooking or altering the nature of the food. Raw broccoli, raw cauliflower, raw pepper – they all have colours and flavours that cooking alters completely. We help ourselves “cook” with the use of a dehydrator, a tool that brings the food up to, but not over, 42 degrees, so we are able to make pizza, pasta, bread, biscuits, cakes... in short, everything. We don’t have to do without anything, not even desserts. But you have to try it to believe it!

4) You must have so many recipes to suggest... but if I asked you to think about a colour on the table, which recipe would you describe to us, inspired by this colour? I really love red and green, and so one of my favourite dishes is beetroot ravioli with basil pesto and ginger guacamole. Simply slice a beetroot thinly to create the “dough” for the ravioli. Allow the slices to marinate on the side in oil, salt and pepper. In the meantime, make a pesto using basil, oil, spinach, almonds (or cashew nuts), salt, oil and pepper. Then make a guacamole using an avocado, lime juice, diced onions and tomatoes. Season with salt and generous grated ginger. Garnish with rocket sprouts, knife-cut pistachios and a sauce made from peppers or oranges, created by blending a handful of cashew nuts with yellow peppers or oranges.