Look just past the well-known fast-food vendors in Royal Oak Shopping Centre, and you’ll find a vegan paradise.
Rawthenic Eatery quietly celebrated its one-year anniversary last week, and business is strong.
Anyone who stopped in on that Thursday would have noticed owner Bill Hadikin, the 43-year-old owner from Qualicum Beach, preparing made-to-order wraps on a flatbread of soaked grains and seeds, laden with fresh veggies and spreads. Hadikin visits his Royal Oak store once a week, otherwise he’s tending to his other two shops in Qualicum and Courtenay.
A fourth operation could be on the horizon, he says.
“People come in people thinking I’m an extremist, but I’m just trying to be a healthy eater,” Hadikin says.
Rawthentic’s cafe-style store offers a cast of main dishes including pasta with zucchini noodles and a full menu of juices, protein smoothies and green drinks (with fibre). All sauces, spreads and juices are prepared or pressed from scratch.
Hadikin’s journey to raw foods was a long time coming. He had been serving at The Keg and other restaurants when he first made a commitment to health 12 years ago. His partner at the time had been to a seminar extolling the virtues of raw food. Though she immediately embarked on a raw food diet, he didn’t. Instead, he set out to eat the same way as always, but renewed his dedication to exercising with a minimum of four workouts per week.
“I was disciplined, I stuck to it,” he says.
At the nine-month mark, however, Hadikin endured a sobering moment.
“I had just scored a bunch of goals for my hockey team and after the game the heaviest guy on my team told me, ‘Hey Bill, for a (big) guy you’re pretty good,’” Hadikin recalls.
He took a long look in the mirror.
“My wife had lost 50 pounds and I had lost about 10 pounds,” he says.
Hadikin joined his wife and dropped 55 pounds off his 230-pound frame. About five years into his new diet, the former top level rugby player enjoyed the best hockey tournament of his life at 37 years old.
“It was the best shape I was ever in. My body heals so much faster now. I had left rugby because I thought I was old, I was getting injured often, but really, I just wasn’t eating a proper diet,” he says.
Among the many adventures that come with opening up one of the more unique food establishments in the region is when customers – some who have misconceptions about raw and vegan food – want an education.
“I don’t preach, I’m not a preachy guy,” Hadikin says. “It started out so we could have a healthy family. And you don’t have to eat raw food all the time, it’s something you ease into and learn about.”
Rawthentic’s customer base is comprised of vegans and non-vegans, mostly between the ages of 25 to 40, though there is a contingent aged 40 to 55.
Hadikin now targets a raw food diet about 80-per-cent of the time, and doesn’t stress if it drops off.
“The key is making a smoothie to start the day, then you’re one third there, but don’t worry about being 100 per cent. Start slow and work your way up,” he says.
Rawthentic Eatery is located at 108 – 4440 West Saanich Rd.