Today is our lucky Friday for the “People” series. I am happy to interview one of the pioneers of the 90’s gourmet raw living cuisine movement and chef I admire, Brian James Lucas, who also is known as Chef BeLive.
Brian infuses his raw vegan recipes with a lot of heart and personal style, he is indeed a culinary artist. If you have ever read the title of one of his recipes, that alone is enough to send you into a hunger spell, just imagine tasting his creations.
Currently, Brian is working on opening a raw restaurant in the Los Angeles area, that will offer raw vegan cuisine sure to tantalize our taste buds. He is soon to be the author of his first raw recipe book, and you can find his Mom’s Stuffed Bells recipe, a recipe he recreated raw, featured in Carol Alt’s raw food book, The Raw 50.
Aside from planning the restaurant and book, Brian encourages, educates, and helps people maintain a healthy lifestyle through his work as a consultant, personal and private chef services, menu and product developer, and a teacher who teaches beginning, intermediate, and advance raw vegan food prep courses.
In this interview, Brian shares with us how he discovered raw food, who are his mentors, who has inspired him, his most difficult situation in his career as a chef, and more.
Enjoy the Interview…
Ingrid Weithers-Barati: When did you first discover raw food?
Brian James Lucas aka Chef BeLive: I first discovered it in 1991 but I didn’t realize it until 1996. Previously, before 1991, for my whole life, I thought I was allergic to many vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds because at that point ever since I could remember, if I ate any melons, cucumbers, avocados, walnuts, almonds, bananas and some others in their raw form, my cheeks and throat puffed up in hives immediately. It felt as if I has itchy scales all over inside my mouth and down my throat.
In 1991, I was living off the grid in Humboldt County, Ca., ie. solar power and not hooked in to the regular system. My friends I was living with were organic farmers and I remember the day so vividly. One of them asked me, “Want to try my organic watermelon?” I had never heard this term, but immediately I said. “No Thanks!”. Watermelon was one of the worse ones when it came to allergic reactions. He said “Come on, it’s Organic.” and then proceeded to explain what organic was. I felt an overwhelming protective energy around me so I grabbed a piece and put in my mouth.
I had tasted in many years earlier and knew I liked it, so as soon as I bit in to it I was amazed because I wasn’t breaking out. I remember eating so much of that watermelon. Then I convinced one of my friends to drive me to the closest health food store, which was 1 hour drive one way. I bought every single fruit, vegetable, nut and seed in it’s raw organic form that I had basically never eaten and tried them. I cried because of how happy I was to discover that I could eat these. It’s also when I realized I was VERY sensitive and allergic to chemicals and/or pesticides. At that moment, I started my predominantly organic lifestyle and eating more raw fruits and vegetables. I had no idea about raw living food at that point. It wasn’t until 1996 in San Francisco, that I learned about raw living foods.
My kids mom Whitney had told me a little about Viktorus and Ann Wigmore and how she read their books in the 80’s and had worked with Evan when he first started Rejuvenative Foods in Santa Cruz but she didn’t really explain much about the whole concept. Then, when Juliano and Vitya opened their restaurant Raw Living Foods we would drive past it and Whitney would try to get me to go but I wouldn’t because I pictured oranges and apples on the table and thought I could do this at home. Finally a couple months later she convinced me to go in.
After my first meal I was hooked. I couldn’t believe that you could actually eat a gourmet meal and it be all raw. I remember walking out of the restaurant and turning down the sidewalk feeling like I was floating, full of energy. At that moment I became all raw vegan for almost 2 years. After, I experimented for 8 years eventually finding that a predominantly vegan, mostly raw lifestyle was best for me.
Ingrid Weithers-Barati: Has creating with food always been a big part of your life?
Brian James Lucas aka Chef BeLive: Well, in a sense because I always loved watching and eating both my grandma’s and moms food. I didn’t really know of my gift until many years later.
Ingrid Weithers-Barati: When did you realize you wanted to become a raw vegan chef?
Brian James Lucas aka Chef BeLive: The day I bought Juliano’s restaurant, and realized the creator bestowed me with a gift that I can barely explain.
Ingrid Weithers-Barati: What one word would you use to describe yourself?
Brian James Lucas aka Chef BeLive: Blessed
Ingrid Weithers-Barati: What people or events have most influenced you as a chef and life in general?
Brian James Lucas aka Chef BeLive: Grateful Dead, Adoré Michelle Levitt, Zivu Lucas(my son), Inanna Lucas(my daughter) Whitney Mckinney, Juliano, Lou Corona, Jeremy Saffron. To explain this, my answer would be longer than the first question you asked so I will leave it at that.
Ingrid Weithers-Barati: I intended to ask you “If you were to open a new restaurant, where would it be”, but I am aware that you plan to open a raw restaurant and that the desired location is Beverly Hills, California. Will this be your first restaurant venture and how are those plans coming along?
Brian James Lucas aka Chef BeLive: I bought Juliano’s restaurant in San Francisco in 1998 and called my restaurant Organica: the Living Cuisine, it lasted a year. Juliano hadn’t been doing well when I took it over and it plain and simply was ahead of it’s time. As far as the new venture, I am creating it with Adoré, and our beautiful Kabbalist friends Baruch and Maya. We are scouting locations and meeting with potential investors now, and it is coming along wonderfully. I can’t talk about the name or details but I’ve already designed the menu and most of the kitchen. It’s so exciting!
Ingrid Weithers-Barati: Are you also working on writing a raw recipe book?
Brian James Lucas aka Chef BeLive: I currently have Orgasm of the Taste Buds which is a teaser version of my future first book. It has 30 recipes that will be a part of the 130+ recipes in the first book. My first book will most likely have a different title, still undecided. I have over 2000 recipes and can create 20 new ones a day with the proper ingredients, time and setting to make them. “Thank you Creator for the gifts you give us!”
Ingrid Weithers-Barati: When I’m logged onto Facebook, every now and then I get a delicious glimpse of a lovely raw dish or read mouth-watering titles of the raw recipes you made. Where do you find inspiration as a chef?
Brian James Lucas aka Chef BeLive: Once again, I give props to the Divine Creative Energy of the Universe that I tap in to, and I have a sophisticated palate to assist the channeling.
Ingrid Weithers-Barati: Do you have a signature recipe?
Brian James Lucas aka Chef BeLive: Nacho, Ranch & BBQ Kale Chips, Matzo Ball Soup, Spaghetti with Strawberry Marinara, Mock Chicken Nuggets, bunches of Exotic Pleasure Wraps, Lasagna, Pad Thai, Coconut Soup. I better stop here.
Ingrid Weithers-Barati: You’re a culinary artist, but when you want to make something simple, quick, and delicious, what do you make?
Brian James Lucas aka Chef BeLive: Super food Green Smoothie
Ingrid Weithers-Barati: What was the most difficult situation you’ve had to handle so far in your career as a chef? What did you learn from the experience?
Brian James Lucas aka Chef BeLive: Making a bunch of food for an inner city youth, Obama event with limited funds and equipment. I managed it though and it turned out perfect. I learned to make sure the client has a budget and that it takes care of the other challenges.
Ingrid Weithers-Barati: Do you have any mentors?
Brian James Lucas aka Chef BeLive: Adoré & as far as raw goes… Lou Corona, Viktorus, Vitya, Juliano and Jeremy Saffron.
Ingrid Weithers-Barati: Any chefs that you particularly admire/respect?
Brian James Lucas aka Chef BeLive: Ito, Sarma, Rawsheed, Angelina, Jeffrey Elaina, Chad, Roxanne, Ani, Juliano, Matthew, Mehmet, Rachael and Gil.
Ingrid Weithers-Barati: Where and what was your most memorable raw meal?
Brian James Lucas aka Chef BeLive: The one that sticks out in my mind right now is the meal I made for Adoré when she came home from tour with the Bellydance Superstars and New York. It was our anniversary and I recreated our first meal. The only reason it was more memorable than our first was because we had a dehydrator so I was able to warm up the Lasagna. The menu was Lasagna, Rainbow Salad with Creamy Italian Dressing with a Durian Coconut Drink that I call Our Fathers Milk. Truly memorable.
Ingrid Weithers-Barati: What is your favorite part of being a raw chef?
Brian James Lucas aka Chef BeLive: Tantalizing peoples taste buds in the healthiest way possible.
Ingrid Weithers-Barati: What would you be if you weren’t a chef?
Brian James Lucas aka Chef BeLive: I am a musician, writer and producer too. I’m focusing on the chef part for a while.
Ingrid Weithers-Barati: What’s the one thing about you few people know?
Brian James Lucas aka Chef BeLive: That I am actually a woman, JK! I am in touch with my feminine side though, Thank Goddess!
Ingrid Weithers-Barati: Any words of advice or anything else you’d like to share?
Brian James Lucas aka Chef BeLive: “Stay True, See Through!”
Ingrid Weithers-Barati: Brian, thank you for all you do and for the wonderful recipes and inspiration you share.
Brian James Lucas aka Chef BeLive: Thank you dear, bless you in every way, shape and form.