This is Dr. Altman. I am in Rawtopia with Omar. He is the owner and the master chef here. I have something very special for you because we were in the office the other day and he was telling me all about his purpose in life. He has an amazing story and I think you guys can all benefit from his history, his story and maybe a little journey on finding your own purpose. Maybe if you want to just tell people a little about what we were talking about in the office last week and how you ended up in the restaurant business. I think it’s a fascinating story because you’ve been all over the world and you have a story unlike anybody else I’ve ever heard. Maybe if you want to just refresh people like who you are, how you got into the restaurant business, and really just your story and how you ended up in Salt Lake.
Thanks for having me on this podcast. It’s an honor. Anyway, we were talking about purpose. Purpose is something incredibly important. I feel like we’re all destined to do something that we’re sent here to do. I’m originally from Lebanon. I’m Lebanese. But my parents met in Ghana, West Africa, and got married there. I was born and raised in West Africa, Ghana, and then Nigeria. Of course, we traveled a lot. We’ve went all over the world when I was a kid, traveling, living in different places, because they like to explore. But for the most part, I did live in Nigeria. Then at the age of 11, I went to Lebanon to learn the language and the culture. When I was 16, visiting my dad in Nigeria, I told him that I wanted some more opportunity. I don’t want to be in third world countries. I felt like I’m destined for more things than just owning his factory, and running his business, and doing what he does.
That’s pretty unusual, because at a young age like that, most people are just playing soccer and baseball. They’re not really thinking about greatness or destiny. Did you have some inspiration at that age? That’s really young.
Growing up, my mother introduced me to meditation when I was very young. I was in love with meditation. I remember I would read books about it. I would close my eyes and journey in myself. I feel like meditation really helped me personally. I was always spiritual growing up. I always prayed because I just believed in prayer. I felt like every time I prayed, it manifested. Also, I felt like I’m a little different.
Were you asking the universe just in general for things, or for inspiration?
Not really. No, I didn’t know what that inspiration meant. When you’re a kid you don’t understand inspiration, you just do things. You’re just full of action and ambition. You don’t really understand what those concepts are when it comes to new age philosophy, having intention and vision and all the intelligent things like tools we need in life to accomplish our goals and dreams. I felt like I wanted adventure. I wanted to explore the world. I’d been to America before. I just had this dream that I would go to America. I just loved the fact that, I felt like I would much rather be in a cleaner environment. Living in Nigeria and living in Lebanon, it’s chaotic. I needed some more, you would say, order. I felt like America had everything under control. It’s not chaotic. They have laws and orders. I like that. But back then, I didn’t understand that either, but I just felt like, you watch Hollywood movies and you see clean grasses and trimmed trees. It’s paved roads and it’s really nice. I want to go there.
It’s like the American dream.
I have actually been to America. I remember Utah very clearly. My aunt lived here. I remember when I was 6 years old, I came to Utah. We used to go fishing. The rivers were amazing and the lakes. My uncle had a boat. It was a fun time. I really enjoyed Utah. I remember a lot of times I would close my eyes and I would see the rivers here.
You were back in West Africa?
Yes, I was in Nigeria. We went to Lebanon. We got the Visas. We came to America. My father of course agreed with me. He said, “You’re very smart to think like that. I’m going to send you and your mom and your sister and your brother, because we don’t want to lose you.” They believe America is the “sin world”. It’s where everyone can do whatever they want. He was scared to lose me in that conglomeration of people.
They’re like your chaperones?
Yes. “All of you are going to go there so that you’re contained. You have family, and you’re not going to be lost amidst the chaos of America,” new-aged culture that they don’t quite understand because Lebanese people are very cultured. They’re very conservative.
Is it more formal? Does it follow the rules for specific…?
I come from the Druze tribe. Yes, we’re supposed to marry within our tribe.
When you got here, did you come to Utah? Did you go to school here?
Yes, I came to Utah. My senior year of high school was here, because I had one year more to go. I went to school here at Granger High School in West Valley City. It was a shock for me. That’s when I remember feeling extremely lost. I was like what did I do in my life? How did I leave Lebanon and come to this country because it was not what I expected at all.
How was it different?
It’s a weird culture. I want to say conservative and not and you have more Mormonism which is very conservative. But then in high school, I remember people swearing in the hallways and acting crazy. Then they would come knocking on my door, wearing missionary suit’s telling me about Jesus Christ and about Mormonism. I would be a little shocked by that, like, “Wait, you were just swearing across the hall the other day, and here you are in my door telling me about your gospel and acting like you just love Jesus Christ and you’re following His work.” I don’t know. I was confused and I’m not raised Christian. I did go to Christian school when I was in Lebanon so I know all about the bible. It was very interesting for me. Then how people viewed things here was also incredibly interesting. Not a lot of people are well-traveled. I would say I’m from Lebanon and no one would know where that is. I would say I lived in Nigeria. No one would know where that is. To me, it was very interesting.
Then I remember people dress really bad. In Lebanon, people dress really good. Even an electrician dresses really good. Here I remember people were going with their pajamas and teddy bears to high school, which in Lebanon, that’s a big no, no, no. We have rules and regulations in school on how to dress. Then I remember seeing men, like gothics, having black nail polish and black lipsticks. That was a little scary for me. I didn’t understand it. I thought: “Are these what they call Satan worshippers, or what?” I didn’t know. I’m from a small town in Lebanon, from a village. In Nigeria, we also lived in a small community. I was blown away by the difference of culture here. You had Mormons, Mexicans – all kinds of people. It was very interesting but I was very scared, I remember.
Once you got through the system, I know you went to a University. You did stuff with geophysics for a few years, didn’t you?
I studied for 5 years, and then graduated, and got a job in Tooele Army Depot doing some groundwater analysis that was contaminated, mapping that. Then I was working with a PhD guy from Berkeley who was a part the US Army Corps of Engineers. He got me a job in Monterey, California, working with Parsons Corporation. From there, I was working with Ordinance, finding where the Ordinance were after the military practice their test bombs. I would be the one going in there and finding where they are and pulling them out so that it could be habitable again. From there, I was sent to Kaho’olawe Island Reserve in Maui.
Most people have never been there because I don’t think you can actually go there, can you?
You can’t. No, it’s an island reserve for the US military. But they have given it back to the Hawaiian people, but it’s under construction right now.
You were doing geophysics and you’re working in Maui, then how on earth did you get in to the restaurant business? That’s a big jump.
Trust me, I never ever imagined myself owning a restaurant or being a chef at all. That’s far from my reality, to be honest with you. But I feel like something happened in Kaho’olawe. This is where I’ll start sounding weird maybe to people. But I believe that…
That’s why I want to interview you because you have a really good perspective in life. I just want people to hear a little bit about it.
Something happened when I was working on the Island of Kaho’olawe. I think being on a place where not a lot of people have been to, and it’s surrounded by the ocean, and being Hawaii in general, it gave me this feeling of, “Wait a minute. I feel like I’m in Africa again.” I feel like I’m in Nigeria again because Nigeria is by the ocean and we always went to the ocean. It was really good childhood memory for me. Being around all the fruit that I remember, like mangoes and papayas, and seeing tropical environment again after being in America for 5 years or 7 years.
I felt like something about the energy of that place started awakening me. I don’t know how to explain it. But it’s like I started feeling more connected to nature. I was so attracted to hippies and I didn’t understand why. I’m an engineer. I’m very serious. I would go to the beach and I would see these hippies and I’d be like, “Look how they’re living. They’re just having fun, playing drums, playing music, swimming on the beach.” I remember talking about it to someone.
What year is this?
That was like 2004 or late 2003. I remember going to work and telling everyone about these people. They have these weird hairs. They call them dreadlocks. They’re hippies. What do they think about them? I’ve never seen people like that before. Of course people at my work would be like, these are absolute riffraff. They’re dirty. They’re scroungers, things that were very negative. I remember feeling really hurt because I felt like they were actually good people. I’ve spoken to a few of them and they’re all about love. I said, “What’s wrong with that?” I feel like just because they don’t wear a suit and tie and look like you, why are they so bad?
I started going to the beach and communicating with all these people. I remember I met a beautiful girl that told me she was from Israel. She was telling me how she did a movie about the peace between Israelis and Palestinians. I was so fascinated. I went and saw it in college. I was just so impressed by her.
That’s not very important, but that’s the energy that I started being attracted to. I started realizing also what they were eating. We’re generalizing about hippies. The hippies, at least, that I’ve met were eating food that was more natural. They were eating greens and nuts and seeds. I was just looking at them going, wow. In Lebanon, we eat a lot vegetables, nuts and seeds. I was so intrigued by that and I asked them, I was like “Can I get a book about this?” To educate myself more about it.
You didn’t have any background in natural foods or anything at that time.
No, I was eating Burger King and fast food. I didn’t know anything. I really didn’t. Then I remember I got a book called A Diet for a New America by John Robbins. I started reading it. I remember I was just fascinated. I didn’t realize anything about the food industry, about the chemicalization of food, how the GMO is working around all the growers and commercial growers and about the pesticides, larvicides, insecticides, chemical fertilizers, the importantance of top soil and how the top soil is being diminished and how important the top soil is for the future generations to come.
I was actually really shocked. I remember researching more about commercial growers and seeing planes flying over fields and spraying, then also all the Mexican workers that they are paying low wages and being around these toxic wastes. Their children are being born deformed because of the chemicals that they’re spraying. Further on I’m like, wait a minute: and so all this run-off water is going to the ocean. The ocean is where we’re dumping a lot of our chemicals and wastes. Fifty-percent of the coral reefs are dying now. That’s the biodiversity of the ocean. I don’t know if you understand biology but we’re evolved from the ocean. How sacred the ocean is to me and to understand, wow this is not right. Then the rain forest: fifty percent of the world’s rainforests are being cut down.
It’s very intense for me. But it’s like the planet is so sacred to me. It really is. I felt like, what am I doing working as a geophysicist, working for a company. I’m doing environmental work, great, but it doesn’t feel good to me. I feel like I’m not living my passion. I remember thinking–working as a geophysicist at work–thinking, God, in ten years if I’m still doing this I’m going to commit suicide. I cannot see myself doing this for a long time. I don’t understand this. This is not something I want to do just for money. I couldn’t do it. My goal was to go back into geophysics, get my Masters. Then go back into working in oilfields in Saudi Arabia because I spoke Arabic. Then I could make so much money. Then I realized: wait a minute–it’s not about money here.
I was born in a wealthy family. My eyes are filled with wealth. I don’t need wealth anymore. It’s like Buddha. He came from a very, very wealthy family. His father was a king. He wanted to find out why people are suffering. He went out to the world in absolute poverty and lived amongst the people in absolute poverty and found nirvana. I find it very beautiful to step into the wilderness and learn from the trees and nature and from people and try to find your way through that. That’s when I was so intrigued by raw food. I remember I got a book about raw food and I started eating a ton of raw food. I remember how my body felt, how my spirit felt, how I sweat out all these toxic wastes from my body. I can feel it. I remember looking into the mirror going, “Oh my God, I look like I’m 17 years old again.”
I remember feeling so young and I’m looking at my skin. I’m looking at my stomach. I’m looking at all these areas where I remember I started developing some fat, acne and all kinds of weird things in my body and pain at the age of 23. I’m like, this is not right. When I started eating raw food, I just felt literally like I was 16, better than I was at 16, even. I remember when I was younger, I always had stomach aches. All of a sudden, this food is cleaning me. A miracle happened where as I was making this food, I feel like I’ve been doing raw food my whole life. My dreams started becoming really vivid. I started seeing things happening. My dreams would tell me what was going on in my life. It was very interesting. I was like all of a sudden tapped in a way that I’ve never ever felt.
Were you doing anything else at the time? Or just raw food?
Raw food, yes, I started eating a ton of raw food. Meditation, I started meditating too. I was meditating a lot. The discipline that it takes to eat only raw food in itself is a spiritual journey because I realize how addicted I am to processed foods and sugar. They make them addicting on purpose.
That’s why I want to talk to you because I want people to maybe be more inspired to eat better because it helps everything in their life go better and health is very important.
Absolutely! When I started eating raw food, I remember all my friends thinking, this guy has gone berserk. He’s lost it. I remember all the people that I worked with looking at me and started saying, you’re turning like a hippie. You’re turning weird. You’re going to waste your life away. It was bad. My mom and sister, they all thought I was absolutely nuts, too. But then I came back to Salt Lake City because the project ended in Hawaii. My dad had cancer. I started taking care of my dad. Because he was in Africa, he went to Lebanon and had surgery there and came to live with us here so we can take care of him. I remember feeling like I was going to heal him with raw food but he didn’t want anything to do with raw food.
Then I realized, some people just don’t think like that and don’t care about food and don’t relate food to their illnesses, or to their psychological thinking. Does that make sense?
Yes, we see it all time. I often warn people: “Your friends will think you’re weird,” which I always thought it was weird, because you should want to be healthy. It’s weird for me to try to convince people to be healthy and to eat better food. But that actually does happen and people don’t realize that people will look at you like you’re a crazy person because you eat actual raw food or just cleaner, healthier food.
The other thing is organic. It’s not just about raw food. It’s about supporting a sustainable environment and not supporting things that are using chemicals and pesticides and GMO product. We have been given the seeds from ancient times to cultivate it, to grow it, to tend the soil, to create compost, to create more soil. The health of the planet is related to the health of your body. Native Americans believe that earth is my body; water, my blood; air, my breath; and fire, my spirit. They feel like their bodies are replicas of the planet earth. Even if you zoom into yourselves and to your blood structures, you’ll realize that there’s proton, electron and neutron which is something similar that is happening if you zoom out into the galaxy and see the sun and the moon and the earth and the planets. There is an incredible relationship we have to our environment. To be disconnected from that, to me, it blows me away. I don’t understand it.
Do you think health is too hard for people?
No, I think it’s just a mindset. I don’t think it’s hard at all. Actually what’s hard about feeling good?
It’s not, but it seems to be a challenge because either there’s a lack of knowledge, or a lack of desire.
Definitely a lack of knowledge and, unfortunately, I realized I was blessed coming from a Lebanese family and coming from a tradition that makes food. My mom is a chef, too. She works for a really popular restaurant called Maza. We come from the mountains in Lebanon and we’re from Druze tribe. We have been living in the mountains for a long time. They came in the mountains because they were being attacked by Islam and Christians. So they hid in the mountains and they learned how to forage for wild food and how to preserve food during the winter because it’s really cold in the winter. They learned how to do all this.
Being in Utah, I know Mormons have a similar view where they also learned how to forage and learn from the Native Americans how to get herbs and heal from those herbs that grow in the wild. Also, it gets really cold in the winter, so how to preserve food for them to last them in the winter. Of course, they preserve food for the end of days. But for me, it’s just about getting in the summer harvesting enough food to help you survive during the winter. In the summer, it’s always going to be prosperous. That’s why I dry a lot of fruit in the summer as I forage for a lot of foods. I make a lot of ointments for my skin or for using camphor, nettle, or dandelion. There’s so much wild fruit growing here–burdock, yellow dock. It’s pretty incredible.
Did you learn that on your own or did somebody take you under their wing and show you?
No, I just started learning it on my own. I started going out in nature, hiking, getting books about wild food and learning what they are. I started getting into a lot of indigenous cultures like Native American cultures and sweat lodges and learning how they use the sage, how they used to buckle, how they use cedar wood, how they use juniper berries, how they use opal and frankincense and different things that they pray with. Their prayers and their forms of prayers involved nature and using the elements of nature and the fragrances. It’s divine. I really got into all that as well.
Then with raw food, in my restaurant, a lot of the things I do are very similar to what we do in Lebanon. Tabbouli, instead of using bulgur wheat, I use hemp seeds. Hemp seeds are a very sustainable product. It’s not marijuana. Hemp is different. It’s the male plant. It actually grows wild in North American. People have used it a lot to create clothing, to create ropes during World War 1 and 2. It grows, really, literally, wild and it’s such a sustainable crop. But it’s been made illegal, unfortunately. Now we have to get it from Canada and other countries. However, it is native to North America.
Are there any simple steps people listening could take to just start getting healthier right now?
Absolutely! I don’t condone veganism, although I think veganism would be a healthy start to cleanse your body. In the future, if you would like to drink milk that is raw, unpasteurized, and from grassland cows, that’s no problem because of how greens have been so GMOed and altered and hybridized. It’s not the real thing that we’ve had in ancient times. Meat – hunting is a different energy than supporting an animal factory farm, which is horrendous, not just for the environment, but also on the animals. It’s very harsh and it’s senseless. I believe animals are sacred creatures. Even in ancient times, people that hunted paid reverence to the animals that gave their lives to them and supported their families. They used everything in the animal. In today’s world, we don’t really see things like that.
I definitely would say stay away from meat and stay away from dairy and focus on eating a lot of fresh foods like making salads and juicing and fortifying your body with cleansing foods and cleaning out your cells and your tissues through the chlorophyll content that exists in these vegetables. Vegetables, you’ll be surprised: they give you life. They have life and they give you life. Yes, you’re killing them, too, but on a much smaller scale than what you think of an animal would be like. It’s very cleansing. Chlorophyll has a lot of benefits. You could research it and also the amounts of minerals especially if it’s grown in sustainable environments and in an organic environment where the amount of nutrients are a lot more than the commercial crops because of the organic soil that yields a lot of minerals in the vegetables.
Eating fruit seasonally, I mean a lot of people, when they start wanting to be eating more raw food, they go get a bunch of seedless watermelon, seedless grapes and a bunch of foods that are not in season and are totally hybridized. There’s no seed in them. It’s totally sugar and it’s really, really toxic because it creates an overgrowth of candida and yeast infections and bacterial growths because of the high amounts of sugar. That’s why–if you notice I am saying you need to eat a lot of greens, a lot of bitters, do a lot of cleansing things just at least for one month–just do greens. Don’t even do fruit. Then eventually, you start eating fruit seasonally.
In Utah you could, in the summer time. We have an abundance of fruit. But we also have wild berries. Not only in Utah but, for example, in fall, we have pomegranates growing in St. George and in California. We have persimmons, and things like that are actually very tasty and should be eaten. That’s seasonal as well, even though you live in Utah. I believe in the early spring, you have like bit more berries coming in from Washington. Then you have more fruits starting to become available, like cherries. Even though they are in high sugar, it’s just in season. It’s good for you because of the nutrients involved with cherries. Then during the summer, you have a ton of fruits. In the late fall, you have a ton of apples. I only eat apples in the fall.
It’s learning how to navigate through that. When it does come in abundance, you can actually dry it or freeze it, then use it in the wintertime when you want to make yourself smoothies with greens. You could use that. There’s a lot of ways. You could make treats for yourself. A lot of people are so used to buying packaged food, which is really high in sugars, like brown rice sugar. People are like, “Oh, but it’s protein.” No, it’s a lot of sugar. It’s almost more sugars than proteins. They use a lot of things that you don’t understand what they are. I believe in making foods for yourselves, unless you really know the company and the integrity of the company, which a lot of times, you don’t. What they claim on their packages is not being enforced by any law force or anything to make sure that these are the things that they’re doing.
For me, it’s very simple. Getting a dehydrator is crucial, a good Excalibur Dehydrator. They’re the best. Taking simple things like walnuts. Walnuts grow here. Taking things, like for example, pears or apples or something that is growing there. Using flaxseeds because they’re high in omega 3, 6, and 9, and chia seeds and then putting all that in a food processor with the fruit and then drying it. This lasts pretty much forever. It could get rancid if you don’t vacuum seal it. But it will last forever if you preserve it right. You can put a little bit of honey in it because honey is the oldest preservative. They found honey in Egypt, and in the Mayan cultures back in ancient times. Honey doesn’t go bad and it’s a super food.
I love taking dandelions and wrapping them up and I put hemp seeds with that and red onions. I mix that with lemon juice and olive oil and sea salt. Then I put that on a cabbage with avocado on top and eat it like a taco. That’s delicious and that’s wild. We do need bitters because bitters help our liver and kidneys. I like to put some nettle with that too because it’s so good for you and anti-inflammatory as well. Then you could take, for example, camphor and soak that in olive oil under the sun and then make little tinctures of it. In the winter time, if you have an injury, you can put that on your injury or something bruised in your body.
I think people forget a lot of those things.
Then, being clean allows you to be aware and be connected to everything around you – the energy and the force. A lot of people think of God as someone out there in Heaven. That we need to pray and be good people to earn our place in heaven. Everything around us is so disconnected, like we’re not connected to the trees. We’re not connected to the plants. We’re not connected to each other. It’s very interesting to me. I feel like God to me is not a noun. It’s a verb. It’s an action. It’s a force. It’s a living force that exists in us and in everything around us constantly in the present moment.
I can tell you, I’m very inspired. I don’t know if people listening to this can tell that. But you have a lot of energy and passion. You might want to listen to Omar, because most people need some more energy. Is there anything that inspires you? Are there people that inspire you?
Love, I think love is the key to creation, compassion. Gandhi, Martin Luther King inspires me. Anyone that is in integrity inspires me with their selves in the realm of goodness–and wanting to good things in our world, and live sustainability, and take care of our planet, and take care of people—inspires me. Native cultures inspire me, from the Amazonian jungles to the Arabian deserts, to the bushman in Africa, to the indigenous tribes of Australia, to the native Indians in Canada. These people inspire me a lot, because they live in harmony with nature and they haven’t cemented nature around them and created paradigms of money and greed and war.
Is there anything you’re grateful for?
I’m grateful for America for providing me the opportunity to be who I am. I’m also grateful for people that have the energy of love in them and the capability of changing our world. I’m inspired by children and their innocence and their ability to be so joyous and happy and playful. I feel like that’s a big part of it.
A lot of adults aren’t like that anymore.
I know. I’m afraid that the adults are basically brainwashing their children to be more like them. Eventually, they lose their inspiration in life and their joy. The parents want their kids to follow their paths, which is not necessarily their children’s path or their path in life. That’s what creates a lot of confusion in people. They find it hard to find who they are.
Do you have any advice for people on how to either find their purpose, or get in touch with who they are, or their purpose?
I feel like it’s about being present and it’s about cleansing their bodies. Being present with themselves and their feelings and their emotions, and being present to their thoughts, and being present to what they’re eating. I think once you’re clean in your diet, then you have the ability to… I really suggest getting books like Dane Waire. Getting books like Eckhart Tolle, Deepak Chopra, Oprah or different people that talk about life in a beautiful way. There’s a really good book called Siddhartha by Herman Hess, which is very inspirational. I feel like it’s so important to understand our thought patterns and the way our belief system works, to really start understanding and mastering your mind. I think that’s very important.
The mind is the key to joy and happiness. How we navigate through our minds is very important. Learning how not to get caught up in our minds, and stepping behind our mind with the master mind, and being with the observer rather than being caught in the intensity of our thought patterns, but learning how to get out of that and being with, actually, God that is witnessing life through our eyes.
I think people maybe can get in touch with that with meditation if they just let it happen. I don’t think there’s an intentional way to do that.
Even meditation, you can be caught up in your thinkology, but learning how to be okay with that and just breathing, and then eventually the thoughts will bubble up and disappear. New thoughts will come and just being okay with that. Learning how to really breathe and being conscious of your breath. That’s the bottom line. It’s like plugging into the inside world which everything is one in the inside world, I believe. When we open our eyes, everything is so different. But it’s all a reflection of ourselves anyway.
Everything for you is pretty upbeat, pretty happy. You’ve got tons of energy. Were there any dark days growing up or opening your restaurant, confusions?
Of course, we constantly are faced with challenges. The key to facing those challenges is viewing them as challenges and not as problems, and letting that be a way for you to conquer that and become a winner. A lot of times, we have to fail in life to become successful. Failure is okay. Life is okay. When bad things happen, bad things happen, not to take that personally, and it’s all perfect for our growth.
I think God gives me challenges so I need to learn a lesson.
Yeah, every challenge, even pain in our body, or broken bones, or accidents – is all part of the great gifts that we’re given to awaken and to grow even more and become better people. I don’t know about you but I know for me, deep sadness and pain have allowed me to create amazing art.
I didn’t know you’re an artist. Do you have any in the restaurant?
I use water color paints. No, I have them at home. They’re still not framed. But a lot of my paintings, I gave to my sister because she was the one who gave me the money to start my restaurant. I started this restaurant on $5,000 in a little hole in a back of Herbs for Health shop back in 2005 in the old Sugar House mall. I remember everyone was literally unhappy about I was doing. They thought I was absolutely crazy.
Even your family?
Yes, everyone. They’re like “What are you doing having a raw food restaurant? No one needs raw food. Maybe a coffee shop or a Lebanese restaurant or something that people are more familiar with. But a raw food restaurant? You must have gone mad.” Also, I was buying all organic food and it was extremely expensive. They’re like he’s going to shut his doors for sure. I’d never really gotten any support. But when I started making the food and people started eating, they realized, you know what? This is actually really good for us. They felt different.
I grow a lot of my marjoram and thyme and herbs, and I dry them myself. I also support other local organic farms. I buy a lot of their herbs and then I dry it and then I package it, put it in glass jars and use it to spice my food. I also like the tomatoes. For the tomato sauce, I basically support a lot of farmers that grow heirloom tomatoes, and I buy over a thousand pounds of tomatoes in the summer time and I dry it all. I use it throughout the winter to make my tomato sauce so it can contain the flavors of real tomatoes from heirloom tomatoes. It’s very difficult in winter time to get heirloom tomatoes.
Everything I do here is from scratch. We do dandelion salad as well with hemp seeds, which is very incredibly nourishing. We use a lot of flaxseeds and chia seeds in all of our food, and Irish moss for mineralization purposes. We have products here that also help assist with adding more nutrition value to your diets, like minerals and vitamins and protein. We use only local honey to sweeten our food with, or 100% maple syrup from farms in Vermont, that is very high in minerals as well. For me, the key is minerals–because of the over- growing of food, our soils are deficient of minerals. That’s why foraging also for wild food is important to me, because it contains a lot of minerals in wild food that our bodies need that we’re deficient of.
The only way to really get it–I mean, you go get a pill, but I don’t believe everything is absorbable that way. I believe things come to us more naturally and easily through live foods, through eating out of nature straight, rather than taking that and processing it and then eating it, which is still good, but not as good as eating it straight from the land.
That’s why they’re called supplements. They’re not meant for your normal staples. They’re just to help to fill in the gaps. One of our biggest challenges is probably the under 30 crowd. About 30 years old, they start to wake up and pay more attention to health, nutrition, their bodies. If you could back up in time, do you have some advice for people right around 30-year old or just slightly under?
I started my business when I was 25 but I was definitely incredibly ignorant until maybe after 30, I would say. I started waking up to a lot of things. My advice would be, for people that are in their 30s or later 20s or a little bit later 30s, that are awakening: I feel like it’s very important to follow your gut. Challenge yourself. It’s okay to be uncomfortable. Actually, I want you to be uncomfortable, because it’s only through being uncomfortable you can really change and grow. If you’re comfortable, you’re never going to get the courage to do anything in your life.
That’s like the pain to remain the same has got to be greater. Otherwise, people won’t change.
I think we’re living in an age of comfort where we have our jobs; we go to the grocery store, we buy our potato chips, or whatever we’re addicted to, and processed foods; we go home and watch TV; we don’t read enough; we don’t meditate enough; we don’t exercise enough. All of these things are very crucial for our growth. But we’re comfortable, so it’s fine. Then we started getting fat and we get even more comfortable in it. When we try to work out, it’s hard. We’re like, I’d rather go to the couch and sit down and watch TV right now because I’m exhausted. I believe being uncomfortable could be very rewarding. Exercising is actually the key to creating endorphins in your brain, so you’re happy. I believe in eating right, working out right, and having a practice–like a discipline practice, like a yogi or a priest or someone that pays attention to God and creates a disciplinary way of worship. Create an altar in your house for Goddess or God; have flowers that represent Goddess and have statues of things that remind you of sacred and compassion and things like that, so that when you enter your home, you actually enter a space of healing all the time and protection.
You always want to understand that there’s a lot of chaos in this world. I believe that I always see myself as a star. I surround myself with this bright light to protect myself. To protect yourself from the outside world and also to continue healing, and you don’t want to pick up… A lot of people are empathic. They start picking up people’s energies and weird things. Then they start feeling crazy. I believe it’s very important to energetically understand who you are as a person and as a being, and create those safe boundaries around you and always create that sacred place for you to pray and discipline yourself to work out, to do yoga, to meditate, to have that practice every day so that you’re able to feel good and centered.
The energy is a critical component that people often don’t really get to until later on in their health’s journeys. I see that in the office, because in modern technology, there are all kinds of energy problems. There’s more chaos in the world. There’s more frustration in the world. People don’t realize that that actually affects them. If you could start over, what would be the first thing that you would do like if you move to a new town? What would be the first thing that you would do?
Personally, I would see how I could get connected to a community. I cannot be alone in life. I don’t believe we are designed to be alone. I believe that we need to surround ourselves with healthy people in order for us to be healthy. I guess who you’re surrounded by is extremely important.
That’s one of my next questions. Who do you surround yourself with now that gives you that support?
I surround myself…it’s so funny you asked that question, but I’d love to answer that question. I surround myself with people like psychotherapists and therapists. I surround myself with people that own their own businesses and have a strong mind. I surround myself with people that are engaged in spiritual practices like sweat lodges or things that further my spiritual growth. I surround myself with people that love nature. I surround myself with people that are not addicted to substance. I believe that the less we are addicted to things, the more our ability to spiritually grow is prevalent, absolutely.
Is there still maybe a lesson you have to learn?
Absolutely! Everything I spoke about is my journey. I’m still learning. I still have my addictions with caffeine sometimes. I feel like I’m also in the same journey as everyone else, and that we must keep refining ourselves constantly to keep on growing. I’m constantly learning how to engage in community, how to engage in sustainability, how to engage in more action and non-words. More like doing things like reaching out to schools and to educational facilities so that we’re able to go in there and really change lives, and allow new inspirations to sprout in children.
You’re very well read. You’re very well spoken. Do you have a book that you would buy again? If there was one book that you would recommend, or you would just run out and go buy it again because you read it multiple times a year?
I would like to say, again, Siddhartha by Herman Hess. I would also like to mention Kahlil Gibran. He wrote a book called The Prophet. It’s actually mandatory for every Lebanese high school to have that book read, and also for some private schools. It’s a very, very powerful book and it helps awaken spirituality in people. Kahlil Gibran is a magnificent writer. I think, The Power of Intention by Wayne Dyer, that’s a very powerful book as well. There are a lot of books out there. Maybe what I said right now would make sense and you would go get that. But maybe someone else would tell you, “Hey there’s this really good book you should read. It is called so and so. You should get it.”
There’s a really good book called The Prosperity Paradigm. It’s really good. It talks about instead of have, be, do, you should be, do and have. Be happy, do the things that you need to do to get where you need to be, and then have what you desire. But the important thing is to be happy first…be yourself…be present.
How would you define success?
Success is in your mind. Success is how you live your life. That’s success to me. Are you working out? Are you doing meditation? It’s not in material things. Success is in the richness of your soul, and the depth of yourself, and the connection you have for yourself, and what you do to your community–how you treat your parents, how you treat your neighbors, how your treat your friends. That’s all part of success.
How would you define wellness?
Wellness, I would define it in healthy brain attitude. It’s an attitude. It’s a healthy body. It’s a healthy soul. It’s learning how to integrate three things: mind, body, and soul.
That’s so funny, because the last podcast, we mentioned those very same things. If you guys want to learn more, go back one podcast and we’ll talk about it. I have one last thing. In your restaurant, you guys make amazing food. So far, everything I’ve had is great. What tools do you have that you use to cook with?
I have a dehydrator. I have a garlic peeler. I have a lemon juicer, because we juice our own lemons here from scratch. I have a food processor. I have a K Tec blender and Vita mixer. I have some really good knives and a really good cutting board.
I didn’t realize there were levels in cutting boards. Is that size, is it the material? What’s a really good chopping board?
Of course, you got to have a good cutting board to be able to chop all your vegetables. It’s the size. It’s the material. A wooden one or a bamboo one is great, as long as you can oil it and take care of it. Sometimes, even that goes bad. Sometimes we get the plastic ones too, unfortunately, but those are the ones that don’t warp so much. I’ve gone through so many boards, and it’s pricey. I keep on getting them. But for my personal home, I would definitely suggest a bamboo cutting board or a wooden cutting board, for sure. I like a big one; I like big boards. Not just small ones, because then you can take your freedom in chopping a bunch of things all at once. Then a refrigerator, of course, and an ice cream maker, and a gelato machine.
I appreciate you taking the time. My spirit and my hunger are now satisfied, so I appreciate that. I hope you guys learned something. If you would get a chance to come down to Rawtopia, we are in Sugar House, Utah. It’s 2148 Highland Drive. What’s the website? Any other places I can find you?
It’s omarsrawtopia.com or rawtopia.com. I’m also on Google, on Yelp, on Instagram, and Facebook. Facebook and Instagram are at Omar’s Rawtopia. My name is Omar Abou-Ismail.
Thank you very much I appreciate it and you guys have a great day.
Blessings, thank you!