Culinary Q&A: Vegan restaurant opens on Merritt Island
If you want to eat healthy, Kimberle Smith is the go-to gal for pointers.
As president of Healthy Planet of Brevard, the Merritt Island resident directs an organization dedicated to plant-based living for the health of both people and animals.
Smith will also be opening a restaurant in mid-April.
Question: What is your history, Kim?
Smith: I grew up in Dearborn, Michigan. In 1988, I came to Florida for a one-week vacation and stayed. I lived in Palm Beach County for the better part of 10 years.
Q: How did you become interested in a healthy lifestyle?
Smith: I spent nine months in California on a temporary assignment. At the end of the assignment, I rewarded myself with a three-week spa stay. I thought I was going to someplace like The Golden Door or Canyon Ranch.
The Optimum Health Institute was far cry from either. It’s a living food center where I learned about raw foods and colon hydrotherapy, and it changed my life forever. I knew I wanted to share what I learned. I came home and enrolled in massage school so that I could become a colon hydrotherapist and started dreaming about the day I’d open a raw food restaurant.
I have been a licensed massage therapist/colon hydrotherapist since 1994. Last year, I moved from the chiropractic office I shared for nine years and opened my own office. It’s two minutes from the restaurant, so I can be there when I’m needed and still see my clients. I feel like the luckiest person in the world.
Q: How did you get into the food industry?
Smith: I spent many years in the food service industry as a waitress and bartender.
In 1998, an old friend and former employer from Michigan called to ask me to oversee the development of a property he purchased in Cocoa. I worked on that project for 18 months and also started part-time work in a little raw food restaurant called Living Greens. Living Greens closed, and I opened the first A-Live & Healthy in the same building.
It was not an auspicious beginning. The economy tanked in March, and I broke my arm in April. I had to close. It’s been over five years, and people continue to ask when I’m going to reopen my restaurant. At the end of 2014, we signed the lease on a space for the new A-Live & Healthy Café.
We’re planning a soft opening for April 15 and a grand opening sometime later. It’s at the Home Depot Plaza in Merritt Island.
The menu will include fresh, organic salads, wraps, smoothies and juices, raw vegan pizza and nori rolls, raw chocolate pudding, warm vegetable soup and vegan chili. In addition to the eat-in café, we will be an organic produce market and offer grab-and-go meals and dehydrated snack foods like kale chips and spicy pumpkin seeds.
Q: What’s happening with Health Planet of Brevard?
Smith: I’ve been involved for about 17 years. Healthy Planet is growing by leaps and bounds, and we’re expanding our activities to include more fun events. In December, we made veggie costumes and marched in the Merritt Island Chrismas parade. Traditionallly, we have hosted two major picnics each year, Independence from Meat in the summer and Turkey-Free Thanksgiving in the fall.
On Oct. 11, we will be holding the first Space Coast Veg-fest in Riverfront Park in Cocoa Village.
Another new project is in partnership with the Central Brevard Sharing Center. On the fourth Saturday of the month, a team of Healthy Planet volunteers prepares a vegan lunch for the Sharing Center.
Q: Signature dish?
Smith: Depends on who you ask. It might be the raw pizza or the raw chocolate pudding or the sunny pate or the broccoli salad.
Q: In your opinion, what is the biggest problem with eating out these days?
Smith: For us it’s the lack of organic and vegan options, although, that is changing. HPoB does its best to spread the word, and encourage local restaurants, by bringing 30 to 60 vegans in for a dining out, to add vegan options. I understand that Taste of India has added a new vegan section to its menu. Yay! And Red Ginger in the Melbourne mall also has a separate vegetarian menu, but you have to ask for it.
Q: What can’t you do without in the kitchen?
Smith: My salad spinner.
Maria Sonnenberg is a freelance writer based in Melbourne. Know of a chef or restaurant we should feature? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
A-Live & Healthy Café
Where: 85 E. Merritt Ave., Merritt Island, between the Home Depot and Bikram Yoga
Web: A-LiveandHealthy.com and also on Facebook at ALiveandHealthyCafe