Durham's Food for Life Supreme offers soul food with a healthy spin | Food Feature | Indy Week
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Durham's Food for Life Supreme offers soul food with a healthy spin 

Healthy eating at Food For Life Supreme is more than good carbs, good fats and useful calories: It is a foundation for upbeat, abundant life and connectedness among neighborhoods; it is food as both art and medicine.

An endeavor launched by the University of the Art and Logistics of Civilization based in Kansas City, Kan., Food For Life Supreme now has restaurants in eight cities carrying out its mission of revolutionizing the unhealthy eating habits that often plague inner-city communities.

The Durham restaurant, run by Juan Delarosa and Marti Collins, opened in November 2007 in a former Pizza Hut that's been renovated and repainted in bright colors. It started as a takeout joint but Delarosa and Collins plan to expand it to a dine-in cafe.

The two do everything in the shop—cook, clean, bookkeep. Collins makes the healthy cookies and some of the bread; Delarosa is the fry daddy and the baker of Supreme Bread, which is sliced into Texas toast-sized slabs. They use unsaturated fats in condiments and some soy products, and they avoid refined sugars.

So what kind of food is it exactly? When you look at the takeout menu, you might think of it as more or less a sandwich shop. But look closer: preservative-free, house-made whole wheat bread, vegetarian white bean soup, Cuban "burgers" made with salmon filets. Only olive oil and corn oil are used for dressings, condiments and frying.

The simple to-go menu (which will expand with the cafe) offers three entrees, salads and sandwiches (ranging from $5-$12), most featuring fish. Sides ($3) are healthy spins on the usual suspects: fries (including a batter-dipped carrot version), green beans, macaroni and cheese, mustard greens. There's homemade lemonade and spring water bottled under the FFLS label. Fresh oatmeal-raisin and chocolate chip cookies beckon from behind the counter.

This wholesome menu, which draws a clientele of holistic healers, diabetics, concerned parents and curious pedestrians, adds up to what Food for Life Supreme's teachings call "transitional foods": comfortable and familiar dishes prepared in healthier and health-boosting ways. Recipes are based on practices found in the cookbook Food for Life Supreme: Transitional Recipes for Food Combining and Blood Typing Cookbook, which focuses on this aspect even more pointedly than the cafes. Collins explains this as the theory that addresses how some foods act as a slow poison with certain blood types, bringing on illness gradually.

"I'm an O-type," she says, "so I shouldn't eat lentils."

This foundation in the idea of food as medicine that heals and prevents illness is also rooted in the belief that beautiful, delicious meals served in an inspiring atmosphere are food for the soul. Such attitude also shows up in the aesthetic surroundings, joyful and vibrant in primary colors. There is a commitment, already happening in other locations, to showing original art by local artists.

Food for Life Supreme cafes, stores and takeout shops are also designed to attract youth and develop the productive habits "that our young people are so desperately in need of," says a corporate brochure.

As the Durham restaurant expands from takeout to full service cafe, it will be staffed by students-in-training from the Food for Life Supreme Classroom of Culinary Arts, deployed, as manager-cooks and mentors Delarosa and Collins once were, to do field work. The commitment to corralling youthful energy in such a positive way also shows up in the plans for an afterschool program that will bring Durham school kids in to roll up their sleeves and see how it's done.

Food For Life Supreme serves lunch and dinner at 1106 Chapel Hill St., Durham, 419-8888, www.foodforlifesupreme.com.

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