A month before her 22-year-old son died of celiac disease, Naomi Hendrix started a 30-day raw food challenge. She was to eat nothing but raw, plant-based meals for a month. As she mourned in the early days after her son’s death, her diet is what helped save her. In addition to eating nourishing food to help heal her stressed body, she would rhythmically soak, dehydrate, and roll nuts to create space for her healing. She recognized her own symptoms of a digestive disorder and stayed on the path of a plant-based diet.
It’s been thirteen years and Chef Naomi never stopped that 30-day challenge. Her wife, Rio, joined her on the journey and in addition to both of them eliminating their health issues, Rio lost eighty-five pounds and Naomi lost forty in the first year of their new diet.
Well over a decade later, Chef Naomi’s restaurant, Raw Fresno, is undoubtedly a local icon impacting lives. The restaurant recently passed a significant milestone of over 1000 sales for the month. There have been months in the 800’s and 900’s but cracking 1000 is yet another signifier that her popular, easygoing restaurant is thriving in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley in California.
Her journey has taken from her losing her son, to becoming a certified food healing specialist, to teaching immune nutrition and health classes at her local Whole Foods Market, to expanding her Raw Fresno food truck (named Minerva), to a thriving brick and mortar restaurant. She’s realizing her goal of feeding her community high quality, fresh living foods.
Turning tragedy into an inspired movement isn’t always easy. After finding what she describes as the “perfect” food truck on Craigslist for just $3000, the Living Light graduate invited customers to write on the walls of Minerva, a blessing, a prayer, or anything they wanted as a way to share their good “ju-ju.” She was going to need all the good “ju-ju” she could muster.
As the business started to grow, she decided to take Minerva to the next level by utilizing the services of a metal fabricator. A surprise $35,000 bill left Chef Naomi in tears with no clear path to paying and her dreams in doubt. She persevered and attended every farmers’ market and event in Fresno that she could. One of her customers even loaned her $15,000 and eventually, she was able to pay off her truck.
Her business now includes Minerva, a restaurant, vending machines, subscription-based meal deliveries, regular attendance at local farmers’ markets and events, and a contract with a Fresno call center providing grab and go meals to over 300 employees. When out-of-towners visit her restaurant they’re so blown away by her food they regularly ask when she will be opening a franchise in their town.
Part of her inspiration was the realization that her son didn’t have a place to eat fresh, healthy food. She feels if he did have access that maybe, just maybe, he would still be alive. She’s taken adversity and used it to power her mission of feeding and inspiring wellness in the community where she was born and raised. Through her classes and preparing high-quality meals she’s taught moms how to prepare food for their children, she’s fed friends and family and has become a beacon of health and wellness in Fresno.
After signing up for an online program from Living Light and attending a roadshow hosted by the Institute in Las Vegas she was finally able to attend live classes in Fort Bragg. During this time, Naomi realized she found “her people.” In addition to surrounding herself with those at Living Light and learning valuable skills, she connected with the founders of Cafe Gratitude, read books such as I Am Grateful, and made a conscious effort to align herself with others that were of like-mind and who were just as passionate as she was about creating healthy, delicious food.
She explains, “What was really hard, in the beginning, was that family and friends shamed me because I didn’t want to eat the food they were eating. They shamed me and thought I was weird. The irony is those same people that thought I was a kook are the same ones that eat one of my meals and say, ‘Wow this is really delicious!” They’re the ones encouraging me to expand beyond a food truck to a restaurant and beyond. Now some of them are sick and their doctor says they need to change their diets – so they come to me asking for help.”
“Stay true to what is real,” she says. “Stay true to nature. Stay connected to those that feed your dreams and persevere. So many people give up but the time is now to take action and help grow this wellness movement across the globe. I was living a vegan lifestyle when it wasn’t popular. I had to wait for the curve and now people see the big picture and they love what I’m doing. Society’s awareness has reached a tipping point. Plant-based lifestyles are being recognized as a pathway to optimal health and prosperity.”
We’re proud to support Chef Naomi and are inspired by her story and message of staying connected and serving others. If Chef Naomi’s story resonates with you, please contact us. Learn how you can join our family of chefs. You can gain the skills and connect with people that will help you make a genuine difference in the lives of your family, community, and the world.