The ex-chef, who goes by the name Johnny Raw Appleseed, made various claims as to the ingredients served by the small Greenville Avenue raw food restaurant, asserting that many were not “raw” or “organic” as advertised. Further, Appleseed alleged that owner Dee Pisarro owed various workers “large amounts of money” and had “verbally abused” staffers and restaurant guests.
Without a clear answer as to whether or not that strike ever actually happened, we wondered if Appleseed’s email may have been just a bunch of sour grapes.
Then again, with a second Bliss soon to open in Preston Center, we wanted to get the lowdown on the situation before we shelled out for another pricey plate of trendy raw health food.
In a conversation Sunday, Pisarro denied owing Appleseed any back wages and explained that the chef had been terminated in 2009 “in the beginning stages of Bliss” after failing to perform her duties at the restaurant. “She is a very radical, out-there kind of person,” says Pisarro, who went on to deny that Appleseed’s strike ever even happened.
Personal beliefs aside, however, Appleseed’s claim that Bliss customers were mislead with regard to the food comes down to a concrete issue. Either it’s raw and organic, or it’s not, right? Well, sort of.
As to the former, Pisarro speculated, “[Appleseed] may be talking about some problems with almonds. A lot of raw foodists have questions about almonds. We are a raw food restaurant; I’m not selling anything that’s processed. She has a lot of issues with a lot of things that she doesn’t consider ‘raw’.”
Those pasteurized almonds are just the tip of the iceberg, however, according to Miranda Martinez. The raw food expert and raw pastry chef had been an employee of Bliss since its opening day – until she quit the restaurant Saturday due to “ethical principals”. Martinez notes that several other ingredients at Bliss are not technically raw, such as chocolate powder, tahini and olives.
Martinez also had issues with the restaurant’s frequent use of conventionally-grown produce. Pisarro, though, denies misleading customers on this subject. ““I have never claimed that my food has been 100% organic,” she says. “There are certain things that we can get organic and there are certain items that we cannot get organic.”
As for Saturday’s call to action, in stark contrast to Pisarro’s denial, Martinez says that three employees from the kitchen at Bliss quit over the weekend and that their resignations constituted the “strike”. She explained that, while she and the other two employees who quit “usually got paid”, they left in a show of support for “several employees who had not been paid for their work or had only been paid partially for their work.”
Finally, in one of the more bizarre allegations in her email, Appleseed claimed that Pisarro taunted vegetarian staff members with tales of butchering animals and insulted their mission by also selling hot dogs in other venues. Says the Bliss owner, “I’m no longer a butcher, but I do have permits through the City of Dallas [for hot dog carts]. They knew that I wasn’t a vegan/vegetarian, nor have I ever claimed to be. Johnny Raw Appleseed worked the Gay Pride Parade on one of my hot dog stands, selling hot dogs herself.”
We can see both sides in this raw food fight for the moment, and we’ll keep you posted on further developments. For now, however, Pisarro assures us that Bliss Raw Café on Greenville Avenue is well-staffed and open for business. The new Preston Center location will open within the next one to two weeks, and leases for two more Bliss Cafés in Houston have already been signed.