Tulsa World | article online
by Cary Aspinwall
Sun pours in through the cascade of glass surrounding 105 Degrees in Oklahoma City, and the kitchen smells of fresh herbs, spices, fruits and vegetables.
A cook slices vibrant gold beets paper thin and seasons them with olive oil, salt and pepper. Others prepare eggplant chips, sesame seed crackers and crack fresh coconuts. A carton of Medjool dates is hauled to the juice bar, where a stack of fresh pineapples sits next to a bottle of agave syrup.
The kitchen at the restaurant a few blocks northeast of Penn Square Mall is hustling, bustling — but no one is searing, sauteeing, frying or grilling anything.
The restaurant's name — 105 Degrees — is a nod to the belief that it's the optimum temperature for preparing "living" cuisine — raw food.
Nothing is heated far above that temperature, because devotees of raw cuisine say it reduces the health benefits and nutrients of food.
They sprout, dehydrate, puree and soak. Those seasoned beets will be "cooked" in a thermal emulsion circulator at a very low temperature. The hottest thing in their kitchen is the commercial dishwasher.
The usual suspects on restaurant menus in Oklahoma — chicken, fries, steaks, chicken-fried steaks — are not here.
105 Degrees is a raw, vegan restaurant in the middle of cattle country, and on a Thursday afternoon when other restaurants are mostly empty — it's hopping.
Which answers the question that its director, well-known raw cuisine chef Matthew Kenney, had to answer for months when he decided to join the 105 Degrees team.
The waving wheatgrass
Cynthia Beavers made a name for herself by shipping her eye-catching raw vegan cuisine all over the country.
"We have customers in New York and California and everywhere in between," she said.
And her Pure Cafe, 3711 S. Harvard Ave., is scheduled to open its dining room to Tulsa on Oct. 23.
Her restaurant has been in the planning stages for a while, but Tulsa wasn't somewhere she ever thought her business would thrive.
"When I started, I really didn't think Tulsa was the place," she said.
Beavers started eating raw food in 1998, when she was working as a real estate agent in Dallas. She's always been into health food, but she started hosting raw food potlucks and it led to her career as a raw food chef. She moved home to
Tulsa to be near family and realized she could ship her meals all over from Oklahoma.
"What I found out when I moved here is that there is a huge group of local people interested in raw food and healthy eating," she said. "And raw food is the purest, healthiest food you can put in your body."
Restaurants can make the cuisine more accessible to diners because the work is done for them.
"You can do it at home, it's just time consuming. It takes 24 hours to make a pizza crust in the dehydrator," she said. "All of us want to be healthier, but we lead busy lives. And it's just so easy to pick up a pizza on the way home."
But her sprouted crust pizza is much healthier — full of vitamins and minerals, not grease and cholesterol, she said.
"If you put the right food in your body it will do exactly what it needs to do," she said.
Having two raw cuisine restaurants opening this fall may be a sign that the state's diet is headed in a healthier direction, she said.
"Oklahoma is going to be the leading raw food capital of the United States."
Kenney is the chef behind some of New York's hippest restaurants of the past decade, was one of Food and Wine's "Ten Best New Chefs" and a two-time James Beard nominee — but had never been to Oklahoma when Dara Prentice approached him with the idea for a raw restaurant in her hometown.
Prentice, an Oklahoma City lawyer who started eating an all-raw diet about three years ago, said 105 Degrees is the marriage of her lifelong interest in good health with a love of the recreation of creating food.
"At first, it took a lot of explaining what truly is a basic concept — but it's foreign to a lot of people in our current food environment," Prentice said.
Meaning, at either end of the Turner Turnpike at the same time she was opening her restaurant, Oklahomans were gearing up to gorge on fried cheese curds, corn dogs and turkey legs at both state fairs.
But that didn't stop her from cold-calling Kenney at one of his restaurants in Florida to ask if he'd work with her on plans for a raw restaurant, school and store in Oklahoma.
"You're from Idaho?'" said the hostess who answered Prentice's phone call.
She eventually sold Kenney on the idea, and now they're selling Oklahoma City diners on Kenney's gourmet raw fare, such as red sweet pepper wrappers filled with Sicilian almond puree, avocado and basil; portobello mushroom piccata and creamy mashed potatoes
"The locals, our patrons, have embraced us as beacons of light and health," Prentice said. "Even the skeptics — the meat and potato guys — have told us it's one of the most flavorful, delicious meals they've eaten."
The restaurant attracted several talented chefs to work in its kitchen, including chef de cuisine Geoffrey van Glabbeek, a veteran of Tulsa favorites such as Biga, Bodean, Stonehorse Café, the Palace Cafe and Lava Noshery.