Interview with raw, vegan Chef Sati Faulks

Chef Sati Faulks conducts a cookery class for healthy breakfast at the ‘Comptoir 102’ restaurant in Dubai. Satish Kumar / The National
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Have you always been into health food?

Growing up, I ate really well. My family were wild musicians and hippies and so we always ate that type of food. I started in a professional restaurant when I was 17. It was all vegan. Completely vegan. We also did raw as well.

How did you end up in Paris?

I went to Paris two years ago. I went for a photography project. It wasn’t for cooking, but I was excited to see the food scene. I started doing consulting in Paris. When I got there, this kind of food just started to hit Paris.

What’s the difference between cold-press juicing and regular juicing?

When you do regular juicing, it kind of mashes and spins really fast and that process kills some of the nutrients and enzymes. If you look at a glass of cold pressed juice — which is pressed hydraulically between two metal plates, with no heat — it’s a much more gentle process and you take more of the juice away. The juice has more live enzymes and it will last a bit longer as well, because it’s more alive. It has more nutrients. With the cold press, the nutrients can go to your blood stream within 20 minutes.

What is a raw, vegan diet and what makes it beneficial?

For sure, we’re omnivores. We eat meat and vegetables both in life. But we’ve gone too far. We’ve gone wrong. We’ve pushed too hard with the whole meat scene. In nature, we wouldn’t be eating three different kinds of animals every single day. We would naturally be eating more vegetables, more plants, more sustainable. Aside from the health benefits, vegan eating is also going to be more sustainable. Right now, I think that’s an issue that’s coming up and I think that’s something that we all need to consider. We’re one community. A vegan or vegetarian diet is much more sustainable compared to cows for example. In Hawaii on the big island, tons of the land has been destroyed because of cow farms. To feed these animals, you need corn and soy. Corn and soy are completely unsustainable for land.

Don’t we need more protein than what plants provide?

Nutritionally, you can get everything you need from these plants. All of our recipes, all of our juices, we’ve worked extremely hard for a long time with natural therapists, nutritionists, to get these completely balanced. An easy way to start is to make protein smoothies using sprouts. Sprouting is soaking grains or seeds or beans in water. You do it overnight and then you soak again. You’re sprouting the plant so it’s coming back to life. A sprout will come out of it. By doing so, you multiply tremendously the amount of nutrients that are in it. So if you want a real protein shake, we’ll use a pea protein — sprouted proteins. You can also use quinoa, spirulina, broccoli, spinach, tons of vegetables. It’s just thinking a little bit different about it and what protein is.

What makes a healthy breakfast and why is it so important?

For one, you just feel better. Your body can just process the stuff much better. If you eat [sausage] and eggs for breakfast, you’re going to feel a bit more sluggish than if you had a smoothie that is completely blended or if you had a juice. For one, you don’t have to chew them so it’s already condensing the process and making it a smoother, easier process for your body. Your body has to work and it takes time — especially for meat and eggs. [Juices or smoothies] are just going to make you feel better. It’s going to change your whole day.

It’s really nice in the morning to start with some kind of juice or tea. Even just warm water in lemon juice because it starts our system working again. When you’ve been sleeping, everything’s been dormant so it’s waking your body up in a gentle way, getting it ready for the day and ready to digest some food. I really enjoy starting my day with smoothies or I do raw muesli and almond milk.

What should every smoothie contain?

It depends on the person. Some people are going to need less of something, some are going to need more. People need to try things and see what works best for their body and see how they feel. For me, I really like a richer smoothie so I do almond butter, banana, some kind of greens and apples. That’s a base. That’s all.

You can do simple smoothies. To get creaminess, you can either put bananas to make it extremely creamy or you can use almond butter, which is really nice. You’ll get full from these, especially if you add chia seeds. Chia seeds will fill you up for the whole day. You should soak them if you eat them whole, they’re hard seeds. I prefer blending them a bit too. Some people don’t digest seeds so well. You can just soak them in water. You can do all this stuff the night before.

Can you use the whole fruit — core, seeds and all?

It depends on your equipment. If you have a good blender or a Vitamix machine, you can use the whole thing. If your blender isn’t great, just core and seed the apples, scrape out the vanilla beans and make it easier to break down. I sometimes do whole oranges for the bitterness. You can dehydrate oranges to make chips. I like the zest. Even a watermelon — the rind is more nutritious than the inside. With juicing, we use the pulp as well. I really believe in zero waste policy. With the pulp, we end up making crackers, galette (flat, crusty cakes), soup — you can make all kinds of stuff with the pulp of the juice. You’re still getting the fibre in just another way.

What do you say to people who complain that eating this way just takes too much time?

They should do a little bit. Make a little effort. Man up. Do some preparation in the evening. Have it ready in the fridge and just process a little bit in the morning. It’s just organisation. It’s the same with exercising. Once you get into the routine, it feels good. You feel better. It’s just having a little more value for your life and committing to something. It doesn’t have to be so hard. I think it’s hard to initiate change. If you have a partner you’re doing it with, that helps as well. Once you start doing it, once you taste this, you go back to the other stuff and it’s not as amazing.

Are you a strict vegan?

No. I do eat meat. I’ve done vegan. I’ve done raw. I’ve tried different things. My preferred diet actually is foraged foods. For work, I only make raw, vegan food. But I do eat meat. It’s balance. You see what works for you. I eat most things if they’re good quality. I like game. I like fish. I’m not so into red meat or chicken. I appreciate good food. If you’re incorporating [raw, vegan food] into your life, it will make all the other food you eat seem even better. It’s going to make everything better and help you digest that stuff better. If you eat meat, at least eat it with fermented food or veggies. We should be eating fermented foods with everything we eat.

Why?

Fermentation creates bacteria. We’re mostly made of bacteria. It helps us break down all these enzymes and turn them into the nutrients we need. It helps things pass. Also, with the health scene, there are a lot of things that aren’t good. There’s hype around them. I’m more into whole ingredients. I’m not really into agave. It comes from a cactus. Agave juice is kind of like fibreglass. As a plant, I don’t like it. Your body doesn’t process it as a normal sugar. It stores in your liver and turns into belly fat.

What do you use for sweeteners?

For sweeteners, I’m into dates. Personally, I like honey, but for vegan food, we don’t use honey. I sweeten with dates and apples. If you dehydrate any fruit, it will turn into sugar. You can dry it out, blend it again and it’s powdered sugar.

At the workshop, you severely injured yourself when the knife hit your arm instead of a coconut. How are you doing?

I heal really well. This is the worst injury I’ve ever had and I’ve been injured many times. I’m going to be OK. It’s going to take some weeks to heal. I partially cut a tendon. I just barely cut an artery. I’m already feeling pretty good. I’m used to pain. I’ve been doing natural [painkillers]. I’ve been making turmeric drinks with pepper. I’ve been drinking that a lot, a lot of water and juicing a lot. Replenishing my blood.

How do you think this will effect your career as a chef?

It’s going to have no effect. I’ve been cooking every day with just one hand. I’m using my elbow. I’m so stubborn. Everyone’s trying to help me, but I want to do everything myself. I think I’ll be fine.

What’s your next project?

I have a partner in Dubai and we’re going to open a cold-press juice shop. We’re going to be based in Paris and Dubai. We’ve been working on it for months now. We’re hoping to open at the end of this year or early next year. We’re looking to open in Dubai close to Beach Road in Jumeirah 1, but we plan to open several shops.

We’re going to do cold pressed juices, fresh smoothies, and also raw foods, mostly takeaway but it’s also going to be a space where you can come and get to know the people. We’re doing juice cleanses. Our staff is going to be really well informed.

What are your thoughts on the time you’ve spent with Comptoir 102?

The team at Comptoir 102 is amazing. There is so much heart and love and soul that goes into that space. It’s fantastic. Chef Ammar is really sweet and inspired. He is really talented, really excited and he really wants to learn. All that energy goes into the food.

sjohnson@thenational.ae