A South African woman, Prashantha Lachanna, is making waves internationally after her small, raw-food, vegan restaurant in Taiwan’s city of Tapei was selected as one of the eight most innovative plant-based restaurants in the world by New York luxury lifestyle and travel magazine, Electrify.
The restaurant, Nakedfood, has been listed alongside iconic Michelin star restaurants like Nix and world-renowned Gracias Madre in the US, Tanya’s out of London and Kopp’s in Berlin.
“I would say what makes us different from other plant based restaurants is that we focus more on conceptual artistic designs and playing with familiar ingredients in a very new way. So we use a lot of techniques that reflect our personality because we want to break that perception of healthy food being not appealing to look at and unsatisfying to your palette,” said Lachanna.
Vegan food, or food that is free from animal products, is not a new concept but what does raw food entail?
“Raw food is any food that’s whole, unprocessed, unrefined. There are no additives and no chemicals and no preservatives. We are just working with what nature gave us. The purest, simplest, cleanest, whole ingredients and the technical definition of raw food is that it’s any food that’s not heated above 45 degrees, so 45 degrees is the temperature at which food remains raw,” she said.
As a pioneer in her field, she was faced with many challenges, especially when it came to promoting a unique culinary experience and not merely mimicking familiar dishes.
“So the trends that happen in the US and the UK and Australia and South Africa, whatever trends are happening with plant based foods 20 years ago are only happening now in Taiwan. So a lot of what is served in Taiwan, what’s popular in Taiwan with plant based diets is vegan burgers, Sweet potato fries, Budda balls, Quinau balls, just really relatable everyday Joes kind of stuff. There’s a lot of vegan restaurants out there, and I admire and respect a lot of them, but for some of them vegan whipped cream, vegan burgers, vegan fries, is it really reflecting plant based magnificence or is it just mimicking something that we can’t have anymore.”
Instead, she chose to use Nakedfood to push the boundaries and promote raw foods and what she describes as plant-based magnificence.
She moved to Taiwan fourteen years ago but her journey towards Nakedfood began in 2011, when she started experimenting with raw food in her own diet, starting with a fermented sprout drink that she brewed from home.
She attributes her success to a premise that works.
“I could stand in front of a room of people and talk my head off, but honestly when you put a bit of food in your mouth and you have that visceral experience then we’re in business. So now I’ve learnt to just let the wisdom of the food speak and it has spoken to such an extent that it is becoming successful. Now we’re finally at a stage where we’re getting returning customers, people are telling their friends
As for her future plans, South Africans may soon be able to visit a Nakedfood restaurant much closer to home.
“This is my home base and I’d love to take this brand to other parts of the world. And I get a lot of invitations to open in other parts of the world so I would love to franchise this brand.”
Until then, she will continue to pour her heart and soul into her existing business, and hopes to continue to see South African excellence in all corners of the world.