Chef's Choice: Natasha Kwan of Frida's Deli
|The exterior and interior (cozy -- for now) of Frida's Deli in University City.|
Her career in marketing involved multiple business relationships with restaurant and night- club owners, and her business travel (frequently with a generous meal allowance) allowed her to sample restaurants across the country and to shape her idea of what a vegetarian, vegan and raw-food restaurant could be.
What Frida's Deli is not, it becomes clear either in conversation with Kwan or simply by visiting the restaurant, is a spot for moralizing or hectoring.
"I don't tell anyone what to eat," she says. "By God, we have a ton of meat eaters here. If you want to eat meat, try to eat leaner meat. Try to get rid of the fats."
"Our customer base is older that a lot of people would think," she continues. "The older generation, they're becoming vegan because their doctors are saying, 'You have no choice, you have to cut out the animal products.' So they're going for the whole foods. They're eating sensibly.
"They're always thanking us. They're always telling us how much weight they've lost."
Kwan offers more tangible proof of Frida's success: The restaurant will soon expand into the two retail bays immediately north of its University City location. The closer of the two bays will combine with the original space to afford a larger dining room and -- crucially, considering that Frida's current prep table is only four feet long -- a larger kitchen. In the third retail bay Kwan plans to establish aeroponic and hydroponic gardens.
With the larger menu Kwan expects to introduce a larger menu, with cheese plates and other, more "shareable" dishes. The restaurant will also apply for a liquor license.
Kwan has no doubt that in only nine months her dream restaurant has already outgrown its space. "Some days, it's nonstop from 11 to 7. We couldn't keep up. It was insane. It just would not stop.
"I am so glad. I am so blessed with that."