Diana von Cranach is a Cordon Bleu trained chef who hated every minute of having to follow the rules, and forged her own culinary path in Asia, inspired by her love of Asian flavours. She’s an internationally acclaimed raw food chef, cookbook author, health cuisine consultant, and boutique resort owner in Bali, where she’s lived for many years and is known for her mastery of raw cuisine. Diana’s exquisitely delicious and artistic raw and health cuisine can be found on menus at luxury COMO resorts and other top resorts around the world, and her line of organic cooking products is sold in health stores in Bali.
When I met Diana in Bangkok, I was eating an enormous Wagyu beef burger when I was supposed to be eating her raw food. And she caught me in this heinous act. My mea culpa moment happened at the Metropolitan Hotel Bangkok’s organic health restaurant Glow, where she was the visiting chef showcasing her raw cuisine during the hotel’s Wellness Month. To compound my dietary crimes, I was also nursing a generous side dish of crispy sweet potato fries that accompanied the juicy beef burger.
I’d already devoured a few delicious samples of Diana’s beautiful raw dishes but since it was very light food, and I am a hearty eater, my dining companion and I had both ordered the protein and carb reinforcements to fill our tummies. We were horrified when Diana suddenly appeared from the inner depths of the kitchen, glided over to our table and kindly sat down to chat with us, being a gracious host. She seemed equally horrified to see the array of red meat and deep fried potatoes on our table. She couldn’t take her eyes off our rude burgers and glared at them as if she was trying to kill them with her eyes.
Diana said she didn’t mind that we were eating meat even though it’s terrible for you. We cringed while apologizing profusely and tried to remove the incriminating evidence by eating it as fast as possible.
Aside from that, Diana has such an interesting and creative life, and I had a lovely time chatting with her about her fascinating life, raw food, why it’s good for you, and her work and projects.
What is raw food? Is it vegetarian food?
Raw food is a type of cuisine using raw or dehydrated ingredients to replace cooked food and mimics the textures and flavours of normal cooked meals. For example, raw food cuisine uses chopped nuts, seeds and raw vegetables to replace cooked bread, rice, meat and pasta. Raw food is not vegan or vegetarian because those use cooked food. And it’s not simply eating a plate of fresh fruit or raw salad. Raw food is a type of cuisine that creates a whole meal with complete nutrition and flavour.
Why eat raw?
Cooking food at high temperature kills the natural enzymes and nutrients in the food. Raw food gives you more energy than cooked food because the food is still living and therefore the enzymes are still intact and goes straight into your system. For health-conscious people and yoga practitioners this is ideal because it gives you so much energy as well as making you feel light and clean. And all the raw fibre in the vegetables and fruits keeps you regular!
What are some raw foods that give the most energy?
Anything green, coconut oil, chlorophyll. But everyone is different so if you’re considering raw food you need to experiment with what works for you. Your body will tell you if you’re eating too much of the wrong thing, such as getting too gassy or bloated.
Do you eat raw food all the time?
My diet is 60% raw food. It’s good to eat as much raw as you can, but not too extreme. It’s okay to eat cooked food, but not deep fried or processed. I never eat anything that’s advertised on TV! When you eat raw food you feel light and bouncy! I’m over 65 now and I have more energy than the kids in the kitchen! Your senses change too – you have better sense of smell and taste. You also get heightened awareness. . After two years of eating raw food I didn’t need my glasses anymore!
How did you get started as a raw food chef?
I’ve had many careers – Egyptologist, interior designer, food consultant – but I’ve always been interested in food. I grew up in England and from a young age my parents took me to the best restaurants around Europe, so I knew what really good food was. However I’ started being a vegetarian early on because I hated the terrible food at school. I was Cordon Bleu trained in Paris and I hated all the heavy sauces they made us make!
In 2005 I started creating raw food dinners for COMO hotels and resorts in Bali, Bangkok, and London and then working as a food consultant for luxury resorts like Six Senses, Alila, helping them develop raw, vegan and vegetarian menus for their hotels.
More hotels and resorts are becoming health conscious and asking for more raw and vegetarian food because vegetarian food is so boring – the same old baked eggplant dish – . I use lots of flavor in my cooking and only do Asian cuisine.
What makes your raw food cuisine different from others in the market?
I’m the only one that specializes in Southeast Asian raw food cuisine. Most other raw food restaurants or cookbooks in the market offer American raw food cuisine, using western dishes like spaghetti made of raw squash with nut meatballs or nut and grain burgers.
I live in Bali and have lived in Indonesia for over 30 years. I create only Asian dishes using fresh local Asian ingredients like and herbs to make dishes like raw spring rolls with vegetables and tropical flower petals; green risotto using chopped nuts, veggies and avocado; green mango and raw papaya salad, along with dips and chili sauces using Japanese mirin, palm sugar, fresh herbs – so my dishes are full of flavour.
My food has lots of the original taste of cooked dishes. I love Asian food and use all fresh local ingredients from the places I travel. I love Lao food and they have so many things fresh from the forest when I go to Luang Prabang. I use coconut oil, palm sugar, green papaya, and lots of herbs. One of my recipes is a 15-herb salad.
Do you create your own recipes? How many have you done so far?
I always create all my own recipes. I don’t even know how many, since I always create new recipes for every event. I travel to different hotels around the world doing raw food events for them. For a hotel event like the raw food programs that I do for COMO resorts, I create about 30 recipes per event, and there are dozens in my cookbook “Rawfully Good – Living Flavours of Southeast Asia”. I must have done thousands of recipes by now.
People think raw food is hard to make, that it’s time consuming and you need to buy expensive dehydrator machines. Is that true?
It’s not hard to make. You don’t need to buy a special dehydrator machine. You only need a good blender and you can dehydrate things in the oven at very low temperature. It’s also easy in Asia because you have lots of fruit – you drink the fresh juice and then use the pulp to dehydrate in the oven and make crackers.
Raw food chef, author, food consultant, resort owner – you are a super-active, creative lady. What’s next for you?
I’m developing raw and vegan inflight meals for an airline. I’m doing a vegan cook book next because some people find raw food too hard to digest. More people are becoming vegan because good vegetarian food is hard to find, and it’s so heavy – it uses so much cheese and dairy and carbs. Cheese is so bad for you.
I also own a travel agency called Well-Kept Secrets specializing in unique travel that organizes a trip called Following in the Footsteps of Ganesha. It’s a 15-day trip that takes you through Bangkok, Nepal, Bali, Java, visiting all the sacred Ganesha temples and of course food adventures. It’s business class flights and five-star luxury all the way, staying at top hotels (including my villa resort, Puri Ganesha in Bali), and secret colonial hideaway hotels in Java. It’s fantastic!