Chef Spotlight – Chef Jake Wood at Raleigh Raw Juice Bar & Café

Raleigh Raw Juice Bar & Café was initially started as just Raleigh Raw in 2013 by Sherif Fouad.  Sherif, originally from NYC, moved down to North Carolina and soon realized what a challenge it was to find healthy food fast.  He says, “You either had to compromise your own time to make these foods at home or you sacrificed purchasing a quick meal that didn’t reach your personal standards of being healthy.”  Sherif has had extensive experience with chronic diseases, as it has touched many of those in his personal life.  Ready to tackle these issues head on, Sherif decided to set about making waves in the food industry in his new home of Raleigh.  This started with an extensive line of raw, cold-pressed juices using only organic, unprocessed ingredients.

Raleigh Raw Juice Bar and Cafe - Rock Steady Juice

Raleigh Raw Juice Bar and Cafe – Rock Steady Juice

Sherif’s partner, Leslie Woods, came on soon after Raleigh Raw started to help take their line of juices to another level.  As a co-owner, Leslie runs the business’ daily operations including the juicing schedule and running the café.  Leslie and Sherif work in tandem to keep Raleigh Raw thriving and relevant in the bustling food scene of downtown Raleigh.

This led to implementing a line of raw, cold-pressed juices that was distributed to Triangle residents through a delivery program they still have today.  Their playful names (Kale Me Maybe, Rock Steady, Morning Glory) give a fun way for consumers to dip their toes into the raw juice experience without being overwhelmed if it’s their first time drinking raw juice.  Ever thirsty for more juice and an even more accessible way to reach their customers, plans were set in motion to launch a café to include foods to complement the raw juices.

Raleigh Raw Juice Bar and Cafe - Chef Jake

Raleigh Raw Juice Bar and Cafe – Chef Jake

Fast forward 3 years and one Kickstarter later, Raleigh Raw settled into a storefront location off Hargett Street.  They officially opened in April under their expanded name, Raleigh Raw Juice Bar & Café.  However, don’t let the name “café” throw you off.  Their food is anything but ordinary.  From fresh seaweed salads and coconut ceviche to rotating poke options, Raleigh Raw Juice Bar & Café is mixing things up to keep it fresh, raw and simple.  They even have local DJ’s come in on Saturdays to play a set and get customers in the groove.

The idea of a poke bar came to Chef Jake Wood and his Sous Chef, Kevin Ruiz, one night while watching one of their favorite food programs.  A lightbulb went off for them and they realized this would be an amazing thing to bring to Raleigh to not only create a niche market, but also as it follows along the same food philosophy of Raleigh Raw.

Chef Jake has extensive experience working with fresh seafood.  He previously worked as the Head Sushi Chef with Cowfish.  Chef Jake credits this time to where he “learned a passion for properly fabricating fish and treating the fish with respect and honoring its sacrifice.”  When the opportunity came along to work with Raleigh Raw, Chef Jake continues, “I was excited to get on board to help develop a menu that emphasized how much we care about what people put in their bodies.  We want this to be an innovative concept for people to experience unprocessed, unfiltered, raw food in an accessible format.”

Raleigh Raw Juice Bar and Cafe - Coconut Ceviche

Raleigh Raw Juice Bar and Cafe – Coconut Ceviche

Before Chef Jake headed back to the kitchen to prepare the goodies, he treated me to one of his favorite juices, Rock Steady ($9.00).  This cold-pressed wonder includes the juice of beets, carrots, cucumbers, apples, celery, parsley, lemon and ginger.  This got my taste buds going with the sweet beet flavor kicked up with a bite of lemon and ginger.  So refreshing.  I predict I will be partaking in many more Rock Steady’s in future visits.

I could eat the coconut ceviche ($7.00) as a side for any meal.  I love citrus and it has the absolute perfect amount of lime juice squeezed on top to make your cheeks pucker.  The raw, tender coconut is deliciously mild with a bite from both the red onion and cilantro.

Raleigh Raw Juice Bar and Cafe - Seaweed Salad

Raleigh Raw Juice Bar and Cafe – Seaweed Salad

The seaweed salad ($6.00) is earthy and savory from the addition of both the sesame seeds and sesame oil. The chili peppers and vinegar add a fresh pop of flavor to this festive side dish.  If you aren’t a seaweed fan to begin with or have never tried it before, I would order another side, as this salad is decidedly strong in flavors.

The Action Bronson ($12.00) is an ode to the American rapper and former chef from NYC.  This vegetarian poke option features golden beets tossed with house made tamari, sesame oil, maui onion, grated ginger, scallions and cilantro.  As with the other poke bowls, it’s served over steamed ponlai rice with grass fed butter.

Raleigh Raw Juice Bar and Cafe - Action Bronson

Raleigh Raw Juice Bar and Cafe – Action Bronson

The Hustle ($12.00) is a Raleigh Raw classic.  This features big eye tuna that’s been flown in less than 24 hours after being caught with at least a 3+ sushi grade.  Nothing but the best goes into these energizing poke bowls.  The tuna is prepared with house made tamari, sambal, green chives, pearl onion, spiralized beets, grated ginger and a bit of seaweed salad served over steamed ponlai rice with grass fed butter.  Imagine your favorite spicy tuna roll on steroids.  This is undoubtedly the better version in a hands-free, chopsticks encouraged format.

Faroe Monch ($12.00) is another top-notch choice with nothing held back.  Faroe Island salmon is flown in from Nova Scotia where they utilize aquaculture techniques Raleigh Raw is proud to showcase.  This is treated with house made tamari, sambal, shallots, cucumber, daikon radish, green chives and seaweed salad served over steamed ponlai rice with grass fed butter.  All the items Chefs Jake and Kevin prepared were outstanding, but this was my absolute favorite.  The salmon is so buttery it literally melts in your mouth.

Raleigh Raw Juice Bar and Cafe - Faroe Island Salmon

Raleigh Raw Juice Bar and Cafe – Faroe Island Salmon

True to innovation and their company mission, even the menu for Raleigh Raw Juice Bar & Café changed within the first few weeks of opening.  Sherif says, “We pay meticulous attention to details in making sure we make a statement with our product.  We catch ourselves when we stray from our standard of quality and quickly adapt to change.  We constantly keep each other in check with feedback from both the staff and consumers.”

Only a month into the launch of their flagship location, only good vibes are on the horizon for Raleigh Raw Juice Bar & Café.  They’ve already been received well by the community and neighboring businesses.  Be sure to swing by to partake in a raw juice, hot beverage or poke bowl that has been consciously crafted by Raleigh Raw Juice Bar & Café to satisfy both your body and mind.

 

NoteFrom time to time we’re invited out to try a restaurant or to taste new menu items. This meal is usually comped, as one item on this visit was. We’re under no obligation to write a positive review or any review at all when we’re invited out to try a place.  Every review you see on our site will be an honest review of the place whether or not the restaurant provided us with the meal at their cost.


Tessa Nguyen is a chef and registered dietitian working in the Triangle area. She is an alumna of Johnson & Wales University and Meredith College. When Tessa isn’t traveling and discovering new food spots, she teaches culinary nutrition cooking classes at Duke and works as a consultant in the health and wellness industry. You can follow her on Instagram or Twitter @ChefTessaRD.

One comment to “Chef Spotlight – Chef Jake Wood at Raleigh Raw Juice Bar & Café”
  1. Jake is an amazing chef and has worked endless hours to accomplish his goals and prepare foods that others do not offer. His presentation is so detailed and he leaves nothing but tasty pallet and satisfified customers that return time and again.A major plus for Raleigh Raw’

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