by nevin martell | February 23, 2015 | Food & Drink
Breast cancer survivor Elizabeth Petty shares her passion for healthy and delicious food every Friday night at vegan favorite Elizabeth’s Gone Raw.
The oysters Rockefeller at Elizabeth’s Gone Raw pairs spinach and mushrooms with coconut, Pernod, and shallots.
Sometimes life’s greatest obstacles turn into the most rewarding experiences. In the spring of 2009, Elizabeth Petty, owner of The Catering Company of Washington, was diagnosed with breast cancer. “I was blindsided,” she says. “My first reaction was this amazing fear.”
After undergoing a bilateral mastectomy and her first chemotherapy treatment, she came across a copy of Kris Carr’s crazy Sexy cancer tips. “I sat down in the store for a couple of hours and read the whole book,” says Petty.
Elizabeth Petty’s cancer diagnosis has inspired the health-conscious outlook she is now sharing with her guests.
Inspired by the cancer survivor’s journey and advice, Petty excised sugar, gluten, and meat from her diet. She began drinking large amounts of green juices and eating only raw foods. (Depending on whom you ask, raw cuisine’s ingredients should not be exposed to temperatures above 104 or 118 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure that all their enzymes remain intact.) Six months later, she felt transformed, full of energy. During a restorative session at Hippocrates Health Institute, a nutritional and wellness center in West Palm Beach, she began considering her future. “I was at a pivotal point,” she says. “Do I go back and continue to serve meat, knowing what it can potentially do to people? Then I realized I didn’t have to give anything up.”
Petty decided to use her company’s tasting room for a monthly raw vegan dinner, while continuing to offer an omnivorous catering menu. After nearly half a year of intensive research and extensive taste testing, Elizabeth’s Gone Raw debuted in July 2010. The goal was to create a fine dining experience. “We wanted to defy the stereotypes of raw and vegan cuisine,” says Petty, who had low expectations for her high-minded concept. “I didn’t think anyone would come. Or people would come once and then never come again. I was wrong.”
Beet and apple ravioli, a pasta alternative at Elizabeth’s Gone Raw.
The dinners were a hit, quickly building a fervent following. Ultimately they became a weekly event on Friday evenings. To take the cuisine to the next level, Sax vet Jonathan Seningen was brought in as executive chef in mid-2012. Before he served a single meal, he traveled to raw chef Matthew Kenney’s culinary academy in California for a rigorous training program.
Seningen strives to continually challenge himself, so he crafts a completely new menu every Friday. Many dishes evoke familiar favorites, but their presentation is equal parts creativity and surprise. “Bone marrow” is actually young coconut meat, “ravioli” are formed with razor-thin slices of beets and apples pocketing mashed apples and macadamia nuts, and “risotto” is made with green papaya, morel mushrooms, and a creamy nut sauce. “You get the aroma, the warmth, and the texture,” says Petty of the latter dish. “You wonder why you would eat regular risotto again. Not only does this version taste good, but it’s so good for you.”
The restaurant’s elegant dining room.
Petty sees her weekly dinners as part of a larger movement. “Although I don’t think anything more than a small percentage of the population will be raw vegan, people will be more conscious of what they put in their bodies,” she says. “They may still eat meat, but they will ask questions about how it was raised and where it came from. Even that small amount of change in a society has an enormous impact.”
For her own part, the 55-year-old “raw revolutionary” is feeling fantastic. This May marks the sixth anniversary of her cancer diagnosis, and there’s no sign of the disease’s return. “Don’t take cancer as a death sentence,” Petty says. “See it as an opportunity to figure out what’s going wrong with you physiologically, emotionally, and spiritually. Cancer is really your body saying, ‘Hey, get things in balance and heal yourself.’” She did it—one bite at a time—and now she wants to give her guests a taste of that cuisine. 1341 L St. NW, 202-347-8040
photography by jonathan timmes