Thursday, July 16, 2015

Chef Chat: Seedz Cafe's Cara Moon Schloss on Tunisia and Teen Romance

Posted By on Thu, Jul 16, 2015 at 6:00 AM

Cara Moon Schloss | Photo by Mabel Suen
  • Cara Moon Schloss | Photo by Mabel Suen

Cara Moon Schloss of Seedz Café (6344 South Rosebury; 314-725-7333) traces her interest to healthy eating back to a teenage romance. "I had a boyfriend whose mom had M.S.," she recalls. "You know how people come into your life at that age -- especially boys."

See Also: First Look: Seedz Cafe Offers Organic Vegan Food and Drinks in DeMun

Schloss immediately connected with her boyfriend's mother. "She was really into healing herself naturally," Schloss explains. "She was into a macrobiotic diet, eating natural foods. She even took us to Sedona. Since then, I've always been into it. My family thought I was cuckoo."

If Schloss' family thought her interest in natural foods and healing was strange, they must have been dumbstruck by her next move. "I was working at [the now-closed Loop restaurant] the Red Sea, surrounded by so many different people from the Middle East and the Mediterranean," Schloss explains. "I was just bartending and bored, so I decided one day to move to Tunisia."

Schloss embarked on a two-and-a-half year adventure to North Africa, where she learned about what it means to eat locally in a culture vastly different from her own. "I would go to the markets every day and look for food," she recalls. "I lived with a family that didn't speak any English. It was really hard -- at the time there were things that I really hated, but I look back and can now see how it was inspiring."

Schloss left Tunisia to travel through Europe, where a meal in Lake Como, Italy changed her life. "It was the first experience I'd ever had where I loved the food so much I had to meet the chef," she says. "From then on, everywhere I went I had to seek out the best people doing the best stuff."

When Schloss returned to the United States, she and her partner Monty Gralnick planned to open a vegan restaurant exactly like what they are currently doing at Seedz Café. "It was five or seven years ago and everyone kept telling us not to do it," Schloss says. "They kept saying that St. Louis wasn't ready for it, that it wouldn't work."

Schloss and Gralnick headed to California where Schloss worked as a buyer for Whole Foods. Eventually, the pair realized that it was time to come home. "We were ready, and we knew that St. Louis was ready," she says.

The success of Seedz, which opened last February in the DeMun neighborhood, has proven them correct.

"We have all sorts of people coming in," Schloss says. "A lot of times it's women who drag in their husbands, but they end up enjoying themselves. Sometimes we see a groups of businessmen come in. Maybe one wants to eat healthy and the rest of the group pooh-poohs everything. I encourage them to try something and they end up coming back."

Schloss thinks Seedz's success comes from its non-judgmental attitude. "We're here to support people living healthy lifestyles," she explains. "We're not going to say that you have to eat vegan or that meat eaters are awful. That's not what we are about at all."

Schloss took a break from Seedz Café to share her thoughts on the local food scene, her world travels, and why she resembles a jalepeño.

What is one thing people don't know about you that you wish they did? I lived in North Africa for two-and-a-half years and learned how to cook traditional Tunisian Cuisine. I also traveled to France, Italy, Australia and the Caribbean having a food lover's dream!

What daily ritual is non-negotiable for you? My daily ritual is drinking jasmine green tea in the morning and taking a bubble bath at night ... no exceptions!

If you could have any superpower, what would it be? Having super speed; able to do many things at one time. Wait, is that two?

What is the most positive trend in food, wine or cocktails that you've noticed in St. Louis over the past year? More local, more organic, non-GMO and environmental sustainability.

Who is your St. Louis food crush? Fork & Stix.

Who's the one person to watch right now in the St. Louis dining scene? There are so many people to watch in the St. Louis food scene, but I'm watching the people in my kitchen. They care and are passionate about living a healthy lifestyle and making the most delicious and nutritious food they can every single day. I am so impressed.

Which ingredient is most representative of your personality? Jalapeño, because I'm spicy.

If someone asked you to describe the current state of St. Louis' culinary climate, what would you say? Hot!

Name an ingredient never allowed in your kitchen. MEAT!

What is your after-work hangout? My front porch swing or, when I'm feeling super special, Bar Les Freres.

What's your food or beverage guilty pleasure? Single Village organic mezcal.

What would be your last meal on earth? Fresh baby greens from my garden with steamed beets I pick myself, garnished with chopped mint, parsley and edible flowers, and for dessert, dark chocolate.

Follow Cheryl Baehr on Twitter at @CherylABaehr. E-mail the author at Cheryl.Baehr@RiverfrontTimes.com.


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