Contributing Monkie Sarma Melngailis
Published on February 19, 2009
Photographer: Erica Michelsen
About 1 month ago Welikeitraw.com asked their readers if they had any questions for restaurant owner + chef + entrepreneur and guest blogger, Sarma Melngailis. Today, on her 36th birthday, we excited to bring you Sarma’s answers. But, before we do that, we’d like to take a moment to say: Happy Birthday Sarma! Thank you for everything you’d done for the raw food community. Your work is an inspiration and your friendship is always appreciated. Here’s to changing the game! Much Love from Anthony, Shannon, Philip and Dhrumil.
Andie asks: “What’s your favorite/least favorite parts to your job? is it overall enjoyable or do you ever get really stressed out? plus, what’s your favorite snack?”
Sarma: My favorite parts to my job? First, it feels weird to even call it a “job.” It’s just me, it’s what I do, it’s what I am, and I wouldn’t do anything else. But that’s exactly one of the best parts… having all the certainty imaginable about what I’m doing. Another favorite part is getting to work with ridiculously lovely talented people. And I love meeting new people at the restaurant and making people happy. I love when new dishes, desserts, ice creams or cookies are developed at the restaurant. I love finding really cool new products to add to the oneluckyduck site. Except… right now we have a huge backlog of things I want to add to our inventory and we can’t yet add them. So, this brings me to a less favorite part of what I do. It would have to be that I still feel that my hands are somewhat tied. This will change soon, but for now it’s challenging. I want to do so many things and not being able to do them can feel frustrating, but I’m working on that! I would love more space and resources. Sometimes I wish I could forget about it all for a while. That part is hard. Building a big business is maybe a little bit like having kids. You can’t put them back, or walk away from them. And you wouldn’t ever want to, because it’s so great and you love them (it) with all your heart and they are a part of you. But, still… sometimes my soul longs to do something mindless and without weight and responsibility. My work and home are combined into one, so there isn’t much separation, which is okay. But I really do want to take a true vacation one of these days. No laptop, no blackberry. Some of my favorite parts of what I do are also the hardest parts. Being in charge is great. But sometimes I don’t want it all to come back to me, and I wish I could just defer to someone else and go take a nap instead. Sometimes I actually do this. I have good support all around me—that’s really nice too. People I love and trust who know the overall vision, so if I need to take a mental break and run off, I can in fact sometimes do that. I should do that. Hmmmm.
I do get very stressed out sometimes and that’s also not easy. I love to focus on building things and creating things rather than just sorting out problems or responding to everything that appears before me all day long, which is a lot. I would like to delegate more. A lot comes back to resources… more resources would be amazing. Overall, I love knowing that I’m doing what I’m meant to be doing and there is nothing else for me… that’s a good feeling. Not to mention, every day I think how lucky I am not to have to squeeze into a suit every day and then squeeze into a subway car like a sardine, and then be confined in an artificially ventilated cubicle or office all day and have to do what someone else tells me to do. Sometimes working from your pajamas is really nice. And being able to work in the garden at Pure Food and Wine is insanely nice.
My favorite snack? Right now I’ve been noshing on frozen green juice. I take the bottled “Jolly Greens” juice from our juice bar, add a few extra drops of stevia, and pour it into ice cube trays. So good. And our new coconut chewy fruit bars. Yum. Those will be up on the oneluckyduck.com site soon.
Debbiedoesraw asks: “Hi Sarma. I loved your first book but are you going to write one solo? Please say yes!”
Sarma: YES!!! It’s all written and done, with the publisher. It was hard. I only submitted the final manuscript a full year past the original deadline. Oh well. I’m excited though! It’ll be great… the food photos are so beautiful.
Lee asks: “Are you really raw or are you just pretending for the money?”
Sarma: For the money? I’m still waiting on that part! I left behind a money career long ago so it’s not about that. But that part will be good, looking forward to it. I’ve never claimed to be 100% raw. I’m VERY raw. I’m probably almost all raw, almost every day. Mostly raw, most of the time? Whatever it is, it works for me!
Deborah asks: “Sarma, Deborah here. The good folks at your restaurant tell me that you are working on a new book. You are such a genius, we’d love to know when the next addition will be available. Thanks! (And how’s the toe?? Your own pee, really?)”
Sarma: New book will be out in 2009. It takes a LONG time to print, apparently. Toe is great! Thanks for asking. The one that I broke still hurts but now at least I can walk fast again. The other toe that was stung by a bee… well, that one’s fine too. I’m sure because I soaked it in pee. Most people know said that if you get stung by a jelly fish, you want someone to pee on you really quick. So, follows it would be good for a bee sting too. Right? Plus, it’s nice and warm.
Miin asks: “How does one go about applying for a job at purefoodandwine? my best friend is moving to nyc and has a lot of service experience from Australia.. he would love to work in a raw food, loving environment.”
Sarma: One must audition, much like one does for American Idol. We sit on a panel and harshly judge your talents. Not really. Your friend should just send a resume and letter… to my attention is fine, I can pass it along to the appropriate manager. Through regular snail mail, or you can always find my email through Dhrumil or the restaurant. And we are for sure a loving environment. I should mention that one time someone dropped a resume for me with a box of raw chocolates, along with a lovely letter. In the end, she was offered a job. Chocolate helps.
Mueller asks: “What are your current favorite dishes on your menu? What would be an average days food intake for you? Do you workout at all and if so what’s your routine? What hobbies or activities do you enjoy partaking in or around NYC? What’s the name of your EFT woman? P.S.How the heck do you make your ice cream so good? It should be criminal.”
Sarma: Right now there’s a new okra dish on special. It’s like fried okra, but of course, not fried. If anyone remembers the ‘fried calamari’ we had years ago, it’s similar, but much more flavorful. Also, I am in love with the squash blossoms, those won’t be around too much longer. The cheesecake with figs and buckwheat honey ice cream is lovely. OH, how could I almost forget! We have new chocolate chip cookies in the juice bar, YUM and oreo ice cream by the pint, and the true geniuses are in the kitchen. My average day food intake is hard to imagine… I don’t have much of an average. So far today, I had about a quart of green juice and I ate half of an S&M salad that I had left over in my fridge from yesterday. Yesterday I had a lot of green juice, and then the first half of that salad. Then I had a business meeting at the restaurant, so I ate small bites of a lot of different food off the menu. And I drank a few white light tinis. I do work out, or at least I try. I used to go to a trainer, then I stopped when I was pushing to finish the book. I’ll start going back. His name is Lamont, at New York Sports Club. He’s the coolest. In the meantime, I work out in weird ways trying to fit little things in here and there. I have a rebounder at home (a mini trampoline). And yes, we sell them on oneluckyduck.com. I love my rebounder. It’s in the middle of my apartment. Sometimes I check out what’s on TV or put on good music and propel myself up and down and hope my assistant doesn’t walk in and see me. But it always helps my mood and it’s pretty serious fun, and really good for you. Since I broke my toe a few weeks ago, so I haven’t been able to walk around much in the city. I love long iPod walks. So now I’m getting back to doing that finally, without the limp. If I have a meeting in midtown, I’ll try to walk up and walk back. Or just go out and walk. I like walking by new restaurants that have opened up to check out their menus and peek inside. Then I know if I want to go back to try it sometime. I don’t go out much, but I do love restaurants and yes, not raw. It doesn’t happen too much. I don’t really have any hobbies. If I can find time, it’s good to spend it with people I love. And my EFT lady can be found at roadtoemotionalfreedom.com. She’s cool. I’m going to see her this afternoon! And glad you like the ice cream. We infuse it with secret good energy.
Andthroughcreation asks: “How long did it take you to open up Pure, taking into consideration floor plans, menus, business loans and such?”
Sarma: It took a full year.
Ben asks: “Since raw restaurants are becoming easy to find in major US cities, what do you think is the next big thing that’s coming with raw food?”
Sarma: I think raw food will continue to be more and more available, and that’s a pretty big thing.
3amchef asks: “I am a professionally trained chef and yoga teacher. Any suggestions on how to start a private raw chef for catering & parties? Any suggestions about how to create a successful raw blog? Any suggestions for starting a healthy raw business? (food, products, spa, consultations etc..) How do you come up with ideas for a cookbook? As a new author how do you go about getting published? Thank you for any ideas.”
Sarma: That’s a loaded question! I’m never sure how to answer these questions. It’s kind of like asking how to find a husband, or buy a house, or get pregnant. Um. Well. There’s a lot to it, or it can be very simple. I’m going to have to pass on this one… too much of it depends on your individual circumstances, where you live, who you know, what resources you have or don’t have. Just follow your heart. Look for the clues that come your way, talk to people around you. I can’t answer this question without knowing any specifics. Wish I could help more!!
Nimisha asks: “What do you visualize 5 years from now for your self as well as the raw movement? Any plans to open franchises in other cities? What are some of the cool things that your readers don’t know yet about you?”
Sarma: Pure Food and Wine opened four years ago, and it was five years ago that I first found raw food. It’s a much different “raw” world out there now than it was then, so it will keep getting more “raw” at an accelerated pace, and I plan to be a big part of that acceleration. Yes, we’ll do things in other cities. What cool things do people not know about me? I pretty much put it all out there, and probably too much… so I’m not sure what else I could say, or if any of it is cool in the first place. I get very personal in the upcoming book. I’ve probably struggled a lot more with food issues than most people know. Though, that doesn’t really qualify as cool either. Also, I find people often assume I’m living some kind of high life of fabulousness, and I’m working on that, but it’s not like that at all. Though I do get to meet and know some pretty interesting people sometimes, which is cool overall, but not a good thing to talk about. I’m trying really hard to think of something cool and not coming up with anything yet. Hmmmm.
Sarma post often about living a raw food lifestyle at Welikeitraw.com, an amazing source for the raw foodie.