Why eating raw food can change your life

Customers eat at Omar’s Rawtopia, a restaurant located on 2148 Highland Drive where all the food is organic, gluten free and vegan. “Our mission is to feed its customers nutrient-rich organic foods,” said Omar Abou-Ismail, the restaurant’s owner. “This is designed to affect body, mind and soul.” Photo by Meghan Mendez.

Customers eat at Omar’s Rawtopia, a restaurant located on 2148 Highland Drive where all the food is organic, gluten free and vegan. “Our mission is to feed its customers nutrient-rich organic foods,” said Omar Abou-Ismail, the restaurant’s owner. “This is designed to affect body, mind and soul.” Photo by Meghan Mendez.

Omar’s Rawtopia is a raw, vegan, gluten-free and organic restaurant committed to supporting sustainable agricultural practices, and only one of a few plant-based restaurants in Salt Lake City.

Westminster College student Zoey Gray, a vegan, said she believes in the importance of eating only plant-based foods as a healthy addition to any lifestyle.

“The food [at Omar’s Rawtopia] is incredible,” Gray said. “It is so flavorful, and you just feel really good eating it because it is wholesome and nutritious, but also so delicious.”

Gray said she enjoys Omar’s because everything is tasty, but it’s also organic, gluten free and vegan—which meets Gray’s strict dietary lifestyle.

“One really delicious thing I had there was sushi,” Gray said. “But it was not made with rice because you have to cook rice. It was made with crushed up macadamia nuts and this really delicious vegetable center. It had this basil thai sauce on it. It was not your average sushi, but it was incredible.”

Gray said she recommends new customers seek out Omar Abou-Ismail, Rawtopia’s owner, as an essential part of their visit.

“The experience was mental and physical because of the ambience and the setting of Rawtopia,” Gray said. “The owner is a really cool, quirky, spiritual guy who comes out and talks to customers. He asks them how their meal was. He also dives into other conversations with them.”

Abou-Ismail established Rawtopia in July 2005 with the mission of supporting sustainable and organic agricultural practices.

“Our mission is to feed its customers nutrient-rich organic foods,” Abou-Ismail said. “This is designed to affect body, mind and soul. All of the food is organic, gluten free and vegan.”  

Omar’s Rawtopia, located on 2148 Highland Drive, serves exclusively organic, gluten free and vegan foods. “The food itself is incredible,” said Zoey Gray, a vegan student at Westminster College. “It is so flavorful, and you just feel really good eating it because it is wholesome and nutritious but also so delicious." Photo by Meghan Mendez.

Omar’s Rawtopia, located on 2148 Highland Drive, serves exclusively organic, gluten free and vegan foods. “The food itself is incredible,” said Zoey Gray, a vegan student at Westminster College. “It is so flavorful, and you just feel really good eating it because it is wholesome and nutritious but also so delicious." Photo by Meghan Mendez.

The many benefits of raw food include preserving the enzymes, vitamins, and minerals that could be destroyed by heat, according to Abou-Ismail.   

Abou-Ismail is originally from Lebanon but grew up traveling between Nigeria, Ghana, West Africa and Lebanon. In 1996, Abou-Ismail came to Utah, where his grandma lived, to continue his studies of geophysics at the University of Utah.

After he graduated in 2002, he worked as a contracted engineer for the government in California and Hawaii. It wasn’t until he moved to Hawaii that he said he learned about the raw, vegan movement.

“When I was in Hawaii, I started learning about raw food and healthy eating,” Abou-Ismail said. “The environmental consequences and how we humans have taken food and put GMOs [ genetically modified organisms] in it and over-processed it with chemicals is wrong.”

From there, Abou-Ismail said he read books and meditated to find his true passion—vegan and raw food.

In 2004, Abou-Ismail’s father was diagnosed with cancer and came to Utah from Nigeria. Three months later, he died.

“When my father passed away, I knew my dream was that I wanted to open a restaurant and serve raw food,” Abou-Ismail said.

Abou-Ismail said he believes in raw food because it saved his life and he feels different now that he eats raw food. Although he is now living his dream of owning a plant-based restaurant, it hasn’t all been easy.

“Opening the restaurant has been difficult,” Abou-Ismail said. “Everything I serve is organic, but I am dedicated to supporting healthy habits on this planet so that we can have a safe place for the future generation to come.”

Omar’s Rawtopia will be moving to a bigger location in Olympus Cove on Feb. 1.

Customers at Omar’s Rawtopia, located on 2148 Highland Drive, enjoy nutrient rich organic foods. The restaurant is committed to supporting sustainable and organic agricultural practices, according to the owner, Omar Abou-Ismail. Photo by Meghan Mendez.

Customers at Omar’s Rawtopia, located on 2148 Highland Drive, enjoy nutrient rich organic foods. The restaurant is committed to supporting sustainable and organic agricultural practices, according to the owner, Omar Abou-Ismail. Photo by Meghan Mendez.