It happened the way these things tend to happen. When Valerie Mantzoros was 20 she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. They said she would be in a wheelchair by the time she was 30. She went to a homeopath who suggested she try going dairy-free, gluten-free and sugar-free. She did, also cutting out processed food and meat. Over time, she got better and symptoms disappeared.
Her girlfriend, Cindy Toda, was an omnivore but, up for the challenge, she decided to try cooking for Mantzoros. It became a hobby, resulting in dinner parties and eventually a gluten-free and dairy-free cookie company in California.
They talked about opening a restaurant, because frankly it was hard to eat out with so many “frees” in your diet. They moved to Florida and in February 2016 opened Love Food Central in a space that has ping-ponged between retail and food service.
With the growing number of raw, vegan and vegetarian restaurants in downtown St. Petersburg (Leafy Greens Cafe, Cider Press Cafe, Meze 119), the dining public seems to have wised up to a couple of facts. Raw food costs a lot to make, frequently involving outlandish transmogrifications like turning a slurry of raw macadamia nuts into cheese, and thus it can come with a healthy price tag. And because raw and vegan food can be labor intensive, it doesn’t always yield a speedy dining experience.