in the raw

WHAT: Planet Raw Organic, Vegan and Vegetarian Restaurant

WHERE: 260 Golf Club Road, Pleasant Hill

HOURS: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Saturday; closed Sunday

INFORMATION: Call 925-849-4500; visit www.planetrawwalnutcreek.com.

PLEASANT HILL — Sisters Carol Brotman and Valerie Brotman-Loe have worked side by side in the kitchen almost since childhood.

Raised in Chicago and Las Vegas, the sisters grew up around the herbs, spices and rich sauces that were part of the Italian cuisine served in their father's Italian restaurant.

"We have been cooking and chopping garlic our whole lives," said Brotman-Loe.

While they garnered daily experience in the restaurant business, the siblings didn't particularly care for the heavy, meat dishes. Instead, a love of animals and the environment inspired the siblings to turn to a vegetarian lifestyle and the rest, as they say, is history — Planet Raw history, that is.

"We combined Mom's healthy, homemade style of cuisine with Dad's herbs and spices," said Brotman-Loe. "We've always wanted to open a healthy, vegetarian restaurant in Contra Costa County."

Taking the lead from their brother, Juliano, whose reputation earned him a place in the pantheon of the vegetarian raw food movement by catering to such celebrities as Cybill Shepherd and Lisa Marie Presley, the Brotman sisters opened a Pleasant Hill branch of their brother's popular Santa Monica restaurant.


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While preparing raw food is complex and labor-intensive, the concept behind opening an organic, vegan, raw food restaurant in Central County is simple. They wanted to introduce a healthy way of eating in a family-oriented community, said Brotman-Loe.

Generally speaking, raw food mainly consists of fresh, organic fruits, vegetables and nuts that are not cooked. In fact, heat is used only sparingly and only to the most minimal degree possible.

Raw food's benefits are numerous since food is consumed with the nutrients and enzymes still intact, said Brotman-Loe.

While the sisters, Pleasant Hill residents in their late 30s, are both certified raw food chefs, Carol Brotman spent a decade mastering Juliano's culinary expertise. As executive chef, she runs the Planet Raw kitchen, said her sister.

"She was Juliano's protégé," said Brotman-Loe.

"He taught me everything I know," said Brotman, who is cleaving young coconuts for the fresh coconut beverages they serve.

The menu includes seawitch soup, a light Japanese seaweed broth with seaweed, avocado and cilantro; and toasted eel sushi, mock salmon walnut pumpkin pate with crunchy kale chips.

For dessert, there is Planet Raw's version of banana cream pie — slices of banana and whipped vanilla-bean custard cream atop a flaky buckwheat crust.

While customers can order off the menu, Brotman said she's always creating and inventing new dishes, depending on what seasonal fruits and vegetables are available at the local farmers markets.

Since its opening just a couple of months ago, Planet Raw has already drawn a steady stream of customers with its proximity to Diablo Valley College, which is across the street, said Brotman-Loe.

"There are people who are in the know, and there are people who are really curious," said Brotman. "How often does a new cuisine come along?"

Jamie Clapp, a graduate student at John F. Kennedy University, lives within walking distance from Planet Raw. Clapp said she comes into the restaurant frequently and has even purchased Juliano's cookbook, "Raw: The Un-Cook Book."

"We're so brainwashed into believing we have to cook our food," said Clapp, a vegan for three years who said her diet is now 95 percent raw. "Food eaten in (its) natural state is so powerful. Basically, raw food is energy, and people haven't quite caught up to it yet."

There are plans to add a retail component to the business, as well as offering raw food "uncooking" classes taught by Brotman so the public can incorporate raw food into their daily lives, she said.

"My sister is a talented raw food chef and an amazing teacher," said Brotman-Loe. "She gets more and more creative the longer we're in business."

The sisters continually tout the benefits of raw food — a person's stamina and energy improve with the consumption of food in its most natural state, they said.

"You're so in tune with life — your senses are at their peak," said Brotman-Loe.

"You know how they say, 'You are what you eat?'" Brotman said. "People come here to be energized. This is more than a restaurant — it's a movement."

in the raw
WHAT: Planet Raw Organic, Vegan and Vegetarian Restaurant
WHERE: 260 Golf Club Road, Pleasant Hill
HOURS: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Saturday; closed Sunday
INFORMATION: Call 925-849-4500; visit www.planetrawwalnutcreek.com.