Street Talk: Simon Chau
Dr. Simon Chau is the founder of Greenwoods Raw Cafe, the first fully raw restaurant in Hong Kong. He tells Adrienne Chum about his experience as a raw vegan.
HK Magazine: How did you get involved in vegetarianism and raw veganism?
Dr. Simon Chau: I became a vegetarian 30 years ago. There was no real reason, just a kind of calling. I was in England, working on my doctorate, and one day I thought, “I don’t need meat, so maybe I should try giving it up.”
HK: Was it hard to give up all that food?
SC: Giving up meat was no problem. Giving up milk and eggs was far more difficult, because they are everywhere. I founded the Hong Kong Vegetarian Society 20 years ago, but since then realized there’s a better way, and that is to eat raw. To eat raw means you don’t eat anything heated above 41°C: that means no noodles, rice, cappuccino or tiramisu. Four years ago I decided to go totally raw, and never looked back. My life totally transformed.
HK: What kinds of things happen to you when you go raw?
SC: If you successfully go raw, all kinds of health problems can improve. I’ve seen successful raw foodists sometimes look 30 years younger than their age! You are full of energy, and you need to sleep much less. Also you feel very light and happy every day, with a sense of fulfillment.
HK: How long does it take for the effects to manifest?
SC: It depends on so many factors, like how positive you are and how much rest you have. If you sleep late or don’t exercise it defeats the purpose. And it also depends on your health in the first place: whether you have support, medical advice or guidance. Typically it takes years to complete the transition.
HK: What is the most difficult thing about maintaining this lifestyle?
SC: There are physical challenges, for example the process of detoxification and your cravings: I miss cheese, yogurt, milk tea and bread! Also I don’t take caffeine, MSG or salt—all these are stimulants without which you can feel a little low. Then there is social pressure: people ask you all kinds of questions.
HK: What food do you miss most?
SC: Indian curry. We are selling a version of it which is not totally raw, because it is made up of several ingredients. It is possible to eventually make a totally raw curry.
HK: Why did you decide to open the restaurant?
SC: We are a non-profit business. We only opened to provide a place where people could try raw food and hopefully begin to eat greener, more holistically and spiritually. What I discovered is that when you change your diet you change your thinking. And when that happens, you change your habits and your fate. By influencing the eating habits of people, I think we are contributing to the wellbeing of the nation. That’s our aspiration.
Want to try out a raw meal? Visit Greenwoods Raw Cafe, 13/F, 2 Carnarvon Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui, 3428-2416, www.greenwoodshk.org.