HOW DO YOU LIKE YOUR FOOD? IF you’re dining at Delights of the Garden in Atlanta, there is just one answer to that question—and it isn’t rare, medium or well-done. It’s raw. While other restaurants have moved on from the heavy sauces and overcooked entrées of traditional menus and embraced the spare, al dente philosophy of nouvelle cuisine, the chefs at Delights of the Garden have gone a step further: They don’t cook at all.
Instead of stoves, the Delights restaurants (there are two of them, six miles apart) rely on food processors, blenders and a lot of ingenuity. The result is such un-Southern vegetarian dishes as nori rolls (sheets of seaweed wrapped around marinated bulgur), nut “meatballs” and a veggie salad made from grated carrots, eggless mayonnaise, onions, celery seed and dill weed.
“I believe that the food we get from nature is already prepared once it leaves the sun,” says Delights senior partner Anu KMT, 25. He was a sophomore at Morehouse College when, inspired by such African-American health gurus as comedian Dick Gregory, he became a vegetarian. Then he moved on to totally raw, a regimen that nine of his dorm mates eventually adopted too. (Three of the 10, who all live together in a seven-bedroom house near Morehouse, now call themselves KMT, the name of their fraternity.)
“All of us were graduated with honors,” says Anu KMT, “and had plenty of options. But we wanted to go into business for ourselves. We felt it was necessary for black men to create something good for themselves, instead of running in someone else’s rat race.”
Hoping that their distinctive diet would appeal to a wider public, the 10 decided to go into the food business, pooling their assets and drawing cash advances from their credit cards to get the first restaurant started in January. (The second opened in July; a third is scheduled to open next week in Washington.)
Delights of the Garden is winning converts. “I grew up in the South where we cook broccoli until it’s olive green and squash until it’s beige,” says diner Trish Land. “I didn’t know how food would taste totally uncooked, but it’s great.”