#3: Elizabeth Petty & Francisco Hernandez

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This episode features something completely different. Elizabeth’s Gone Raw is a Friday-night-only prix fixe raw plant-based restaurant in Washington DC. I talk to Elizabeth Petty, the owner, and chef Francisco Hernandez, sitting in the Federalist-era townhouse that houses the space.

“Any time you have a combination of passion and philosophy in food, something magical happens”

Elizabeth’s Gone Raw started 5-6 years ago, after Elizabeth had a serious health issue that prompted her to start eating raw, plant-based food. She opens up about that journey, and how it encouraged her to open up the restaurant, initially with a menu created by chef Thomas Berry, to share this way of eating to people who might never have tried it before. Their menu has always featured only raw (nothing’s heated above 115°F) vegan food, most of their produce is organic, and they feature a carefully-curated cocktail and wine selection including biodynamic wines, overseen by sommelier Phil Heyser.

“People used to come in and say ‘I eat meat’ almost like they felt guilty and I had to say ‘It's OK, you don’t have to confess to me, I just want you to have a beautiful evening!”

Over the years the food has continually been innovated, after Thomas, by Jonathan Seningen, who brought new ideas and techniques, but it has now evolved and been taken to a whole new level by chef Francisco, who is kind of a mad scientist (but patient and careful at the same time) in the kitchen, as you’ll hear. 

Francisco is a chef who is just amazingly warm and open and happy to explain everything in his dishes, and he’s experimenting and developing some really really cool techniques with raw food, most of which I’ve never even heard of before. You’ll really feel like there’s a huge amount to learn from this guy — he’s finding out things about food that literally no one else is doing, which is extremely cool and unique. 

“More than being healthy, it’s delicious. And that’s how you get people’s attention”

Elizabeth also talks about the realities of running a plant-based restaurant in a city that is normally known for traditional cuisine, and the reactions of customers who have never tried anything like their food. I left our conversation fascinated by the story and the fact that the pair are continuing to evolve this food and push it as far as it can go. 

If you are in DC on a Friday, make sure you book a table at Elizabeth’s Gone Raw and taste some of these creations. This episode will leave you motivated, intrigued, and above all impressed. 

Elizabeth and Francisco show that things that might initially seem like setbacks (like a serious health problem) can turn into inspiration for a brand new journey. And things that seem like limitations (such as only serving raw food) can foster massive creative leaps. Listen and be inspired.

Topics we discuss:

The pair are open and honest, and really open up about what it’s like to work together, and share what makes them successful. In addition, Francisco shares some fascinating techniques from his kitchen.

  • What “raw” food really means, and what is special about it

  • How passion keeps you going through the hard times

  • Developing and refining a dish over several weeks

  • The importance of having access to the best ingredients

  • The importance of organization in the kitchen

  • How simple communication in the kitchen works wonders

  • Drawing inspiration from ingredients, not just other chefs

  • Being inspired about cooking for people, not just to serve yourself

  • Experimentation and embracing ‘failure’ in the kitchen

  • A technique for heating tomatoes under 115°F for long periods, without fermenting or spoiling

  • How to use garlic and onions in raw food without overwhelming

  • Adventures and disasters with Silver Queen Corn 

  • Keeping the color with raw spinach without blanching

  • Making and aging hazelnut, macadamia and cashew cheese for a month

  • Freezing carrots in marinade to make soup

People and topics mentioned

Find Elizabeth’s Gone Raw online:

Page includes photos by Foster Wiley

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