The Story of Avo
Written by Eleanor Haddad of NashWell
When friends and business partners Susannah Herring and Jess Rice discuss their upcoming venture – an eatery called Avo – their excitement is as genuine as it is contagious. Sporting a novel menu, inventive design and a hip new locale, Avo will charm local diners into rethinking what, where, and how they eat. Of this, they are confident.
Herring and Rice are pioneering a new dining experience that will make “eating healthy” in Nashville en vogue like never before. Avo (as in AVOcado) will be the first raw food gourmet restaurant in town. In Avo’s case, the food will be natural, plant-based and delicious.
Avo opens today – Friday, July 10, in C1TYBLOX – the initial phase of the oneC1TY office, residential and retail project at the Connector and Charlotte Avenue behind Centennial Park. C1TYBLOX is incubating and accelerating businesses focused on active, healthy living during construction of the larger oneC1TY community. Echoing oneC1TY’s sustainable narrative, C1TYBLOX is comprised shipping containers repurposed and arranged to house dynamic retailers, outdoor events and original restaurants like Avo.
Avo’s food is prepared under the direction of Rice, the café’s chef de cuisine. She leads a team of culinary artists – some with a passion for raw food and others enticed by the inventive use of limited ingredients. “We could use boxed bread crumbs to beef something up, but we won’t,” explains Rice when talking about the care and attention that goes into Avo’s menu items. “We are so aware of the unique properties of each raw ingredient we’re using – why you get certain things from one farm and other things from another farm. When you are that aware of ingredients, it brings your food to the next level.”
In her former career, Rice worked in public relations and marketing. She was drawn to experiment with raw food in response to the toll late nights spent networking and long days sitting at a desk eventually took on her health. She experienced life-changing results.
Gradually, she began helping others do the same and decided to pursue formal training as a raw foods detox coach. Leaving her sedentary office job, Rice focused on her business, My Poor Tired Liver, fulltime, supplying local eateries with healthy, raw foods and teaching cooking classes. Most recently, she completed culinary training and raw food certification from celebrated chef Matthew Kenney in Santa Monica, California.
Rice’s business partner and Avo co-owner, Herring, is the owner of the Hot Yoga Plus studios, a growing chain originating in Nashville. Herring pivoted from a career in private equity by combining her love of yoga with her knack for seeing business opportunity in details others miss. Sights, sounds, even smells are critical components in creating a powerful customer experience, and this mindful approach is evident in her ventures.
With Avo, Herring has turned her investment eye to another love, food. An interest in the health benefits of raw and vegan cuisine prompted her to put her money where her mouth is… at Avo.
“Selfishly, I want to eat Avo’s food,” she laughs. “I plan to eat there every single day.”
Avo is the sort of restaurant Herring and Rice have been searching for as patrons for some time. While heart-healthy vegan dishes are easier than they once were to find in local eateries, raw food isn’t. Only recently beginning to be recognized in mainstream society, raw food still carries some mystique.
“The premise of raw food theory is that we are the only species that cooks our food, which destroys its natural enzymes,” explains Joshua Rosenthal, founder of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in his book, Integrative Nutrition. “Raw food is cleansing, healing, and refreshing to the body, and is especially good for people who have eaten a lot of meat and processed food.”
Raw diets are based on unprocessed and uncooked plant foods, with 118 degrees being the highest temperature a plant food can be warmed without harming essential enzymes and other nutrients.
Avo’s menu is not the stuff of celery sticks and apple slices one might associate with “healthy” food. Contemporary, airy decor will complement dishes that will have broad appeal to patrons, whether they be “raw” devotees or not.
“Jess is able to manipulate raw food to give you what you crave,” Herring marvels. Avo’s menu will feature rich soups, Asian dishes, and lasagna that can satisfy an appetite for heartier fare, but without the guilt – or gluten – thanks to what Herring calls Rice’s skill in “manipulating food,” in ways that preserve natural nutritional benefits while coaxing complex flavor from the simplest ingredients.
For diners seeking to nourish their bodies while indulging their taste buds, Avo may be just what the doctor ordered. A diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables affords powerful protection against disease, says Joel Fuhrman, MD, author of Eat to Live: The Revolutionary Formula for Fast and Sustained Weight Loss. “A wide variety of wholesome plant-based foods is the only real anti-cancer strategy.”
Other benefits of plant-based eating include a decrease in the odds of developing osteoporosis and dementia, as well as protection against type-2 diabetes and heart disease. As we search for the proverbial “fountain of youth,” perhaps we need look no further than local farms, CSA’s (community-supported agriculture), and area restaurants featuring nutrient-rich vibrant plant-based offerings, like Avo.
The pair anticipates that Avo will fill a void in Nashville that many are unaware exists but that they will be receptive to nonetheless. “Nashville diners have become very adventurous,” Herring says. “We’re recognized as an up and coming food town. That means more new restaurants offering new and different experiences. It’s invigorating.”
Rice cites mindfulness as a primary theme in what motivates her unconventional style of food preparation. “It’s that self-awareness of realizing how you feel after a meal. I think people will have a meal at Avo and leave feeling light and energetic, which may be a new experience for many,” she says.
In addition to echoing oneC1TY’s focus on mindfulness, the two partners also share oneC1TY’s desire to support local agriculture. Rice says that she’s always shopped at farmers’ markets, and not just for the produce, “but also to support the local economy and for the camaraderie and support that you find when you do business with smaller business people because you like how they work.”
That’s what Herring and Rice hope diners discover, in addition to some fantastic nourishing fare, when visiting Avo – camaraderie and support to appreciate a healthier and more mindful way of life.