After having such a wonderful dining experience at Quintessence, I was of course intrigued by the story behind the raw food eatery. I was fortunate enough to speak with Mun Chan, one of the co-founders of Quintessence, and get to hear her story and how she got involved in the raw vegan lifestyle. Read on to hear how Mun found healing through the raw vegan lifestyle, how this movement has changed over the 16 years, and what advice she has for New Yorkers.

First, can you tell us about yourself and your journey to the raw food world?

Back in 1996, my health was going downhill fast, I had a compromised immune system, severe sustainbloating, and thyroid issues. I tried almost everything; Western medicine, Chinese herbal tincture, acupuncture, but nothing was helping. In 1997, I was introduced to raw food by a colleague of mine in the garment industry. I was so fascinated by the healing concept of this raw vegan diet that I started researching and reading everything about it. One day I came across a Live food recipe book written by David Jubb, who is also a holistic healer. He put me on a 2-week cleansing program ingesting only raw vegan organic liquid foods, which cleansed my liver and gall-bladder.

Raw Food

That was the turning point of my health. After the fast, I noticed my complexion looked amazing, I had tons of energy as if I was back in my youth again. After a few of these fasts, something incredible happened! My “incurable” asthma was completely cured. Gradually, I, and my partner, adopted more and more raw dishes into our daily diet, eventually we were eating 3 meals of raw food. The cleanse and the raw diet had completely turned our health around.

How did this healing journey turn into a restaurant venture?

Once I turned my health around, through a raw food diet, my partner and I got more and more involved with the growing raw food community. We attended lectures, presentations, parties, potlucks. With such a vibrant and growing community, we saw a need for a raw food eatery. We also had felt it would be a good way for us to feed ourselves a steady diet of topnotch foods. Meanwhile, my colleagues were so fascinated with what I brought for lunch that they began to order from me. In a short time, I was bringing 2 big bags of food to everyone in my department. We found that not only raw vegan foods are healing, but the foods that my partner and I made were amazingly delicious and unique. We were actually asked by my colleagues to open a restaurant. This is how the idea was born.

In three words, how would you describe the mission of Quintessence?

Delicious, Healing, Sustainable

What were some of the challenges of starting Quintessence, or a restaurant in general?

When my partner and I started Quintessence, we had almost no capital. Most of our start up money came from family, and the re-finance of my apartment. Even then, we only had enough money to purchase raw material, we literally built our restaurant with our bare hands.

How have you seen the raw/vegan food movement change in New York since the start of Quintessence in 1999!?

When we first started in 1999, almost no one had heard of raw food. As far as we know, we were the ONLY raw food eatery in New York State. Most people at the time thought of raw food as boring and bland, like eating carrot sticks and bird seeds. But when Quintessence was born, we changed this myth completely by serving not only delicious, beautifully plated meals, but also our food was so creative and innovative to the point that a lot of our customers thought they were eating cooked food, like burger, Indian malai kofta, falafels, and even our coconut cream! Shortly after we opened, less than a year, many well known raw food gurus, restaurant owners and chefs who were interested in raw foods flocked to our restaurant to taste our food and asked for the list of ingredients. Within a couple of years, we were no longer the only raw food restaurant, other raw food eateries were popping up and vegetarian restaurants added raw dishes on their menu to cater for the demands. Gradually these smaller raw food eateries were bought by bigger companies who not only opened more branches, but also invested a lot of money on educating the consumers, which made this movement as big as today.

How and why has Quintessence changed over the years?

Quintessence had been maintaining the same style pretty much until just last year. We realized that we needed a fresh new look to keep up with the market trends. We also changed our menu to a tapas style. We like the idea of tapas because it matched our philosophy of not over eating. We found our old way of plating (big plate of food, which by the way, is very American) caused people to over-eat, as well as waste the food they couldn’t finish. This big plate style also didn’t allow our customers to taste other a variety of dishes or to fit in a dessert.

Quintessence - Raw Food Quintessence - Raw Food

Why is Raw/Vegan/Plant Based food important to you?

Why Raw? Foods prepared at low temperatures are loaded with living enzymes and probiotics. Consuming these foods has been proven to contribute to detoxification, cellular healing, and even reverse aging. Also heat-sensitive vitamins and other nutrients remain unaffected and intact. Raw Living Vegan foods are the best healing and rejuvenating agents we know of today.

Why Vegan? Meat and dairy protein requires digestive enzymes to breakdown these complex protein chains into usable amino acids. Aging comes from the depletion of enzymes in our body. Plant based proteins, like chia seeds, contains all 9 essential readily usable amino acids. In addition, much of the protein in cooked food is destroyed and therefore useless. When our body is not getting enough useful protein from our diet, our body craves for more protein foods. Can you see this is a vicious cycle?

We also use organic and 99% gluten-free ingredients, sprouted grains, nuts and seeds, and filtered water to prepare all our foods. You can read why these are important to you here on our website, under “why Q?”

How would you describe your personal food philosophy?

Many “health conscious” people are caught in the web of their particular dietary regime. They become so attached to the labels of “vegetarian”, “vegan”, “raw” etc…that they lost the ability to listen to what their body is telling them. The health of the physical body is very dependent on the health of the emotional body. We all have hidden emotional wounds. These emotional wounds create energy blockages in the body, which over time manifest as “dis-ease”. Re-connecting to our physical body is the crucial first step in the healing process because it is the gateway to re-connect to our emotions, which allow our deep emotional wounds to surface. As those emotional wounds begin to surface, authentic emotional healing can take place. This then allows true, authentic and sustainable healing of the body. This healing also creates a miraculous opportunity to be present, to get in touch with the Who and What we really are – Spiritual Beings with infinite Power, Love, and Wisdom.

What has been the greatest reward, so far, of running Quintessence?

I love it when my customers share with me how eating our food has changed their health and their life for the better!

If you could give advice to our readers on how to live a healthier lifestyle in NYC, what would you say?

Definitely eat as much organic foods as possible for your body, do yoga for your mind and spirit…oh and take frequent trips to the country to get away from the pollution, the hustle, the high vibration of the city, and fill yourself up with fresh clean air, slow down your pacing, and “see” the beauty of nature. If you really cannot, central park is an alternative.

Quintessence – website
East Village
263 East 10th Street (bet. Ave A & 1st Ave)
New York, NY 10009

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About The Author

Profile photo of Julie
Healthy Eater

Southern girl at heart, minus the fried food. Fresh on the NY food scene, hungry for a healthy way to live in this food capital.