Kye's, an answer to healthy fast food

I have been very interested in this idea of healthy fast food and I think Kye's in Santa Monica is onto something. The menu features so many tasty items that are either prepared in the to-go case or take less than 5 minutes to make. Not only is the food absolutely delicious, but the owner Jeanne has an extensive background in Oriental Medicine, and you can see the influence on her menu. You will find a tonic herbal drink that has jujube, longan, goji berry, licorice root and american ginseng in it, which is full of health benefits and it's absolutely delicious! What's nice is that when you come here you don't have to worry about consuming any artificial colors or sweeteners. Jeanne has made a point to sell clean and affordable food.  

Jeanne is humble and doesn't want to tell people what to eat. She wants to give people that option if they choose to. You can be sure to be free from any health food snobbery or any sort of attitude in her restaurant. She even told me that she also didn't look to hire individuals who are extremely health conscious. What's has happened is that her employees end up eating the food at Kye's they have all experienced significant improvements in their health (better bowel movements being one of the most common). Her restaurant is functional, affordable, clean, healthy and delicious. I don't think we can get much better than that.

Q+A with Jeanne Cheng, the owner of Kye's Montana 

Q: What inspired you to open Kye’s?

A: Feeding my son and husband.  I had the idea for the food and thought it should be in the world and was in need, given all the dietary sensitivities people and children are having these days.

Q: What is your background in Chinese medicine and how do you apply that you your restaurant and to food?

A: I spent 2 years studying in Shanghai China and finished up my education here.  I pretty much apply everything I've ever learned to the restaurant and the food.  There are tonic foods incorporated into the menu and all of my training in everything I've ever studied (health, healing, ayurveda, the vedas, taoism, personal development, spiritual psychology, molecular biology...) and all of my life experiences, can be seen and felt from the food to the decor to the culture and vibe to the way the business is run. 

Q: How did you learn how to cook?

A: Cooking with my mom at an early age.

Q: How did you come up with the famous Kyerito?

A: Applying an asian food "fan tuan" (rice roll) to global flavors.  Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans have been wrapping food inside rice for a long time, I just took the idea in a different direction using different ingredients and expanded it.

Q: I am obsessed with your herbal tonic water. What are some of its health benefits?

A:  It tonifies qi and blood, aides digestion, benefits the immune system, soothes the liver, supports Spleen, Stomach, Lungs, kidneys and heart.  It contains tons of antioxidants and vitamins and minerals.

Q: I heard that agave isn't good for you, what's your take on it?

A: My take on food is everything in moderation.  Sweeteners in general are not good for you and it is best to choose whole foods that are naturally sweet when you want something sweet.  That being said, when choosing a sweetener, I tend towards more natural whole sweeteners like raw honey, grade B maple syrup, raw agave, sucanat, palm sugar, date sugar.  The agave plant has many beneficial uses and agave sweetener has been used by native cultures for a long time.  It is low glycemic and has nutrients with health benefits, but is really high in fructose which can contribute to weight gain and health problems depending on your physiology.  I believe it is still way better for you than refined processed sweeteners.  I use it in moderation when I need a sweetener that doesn't have a strong flavor.  When evaluating what something is doing in your body, you have to take into consideration what you are eating the it with.

Q: What's the most nutritious food item on the menu?

A: Hard to say, depends on what a person needs.  There are many nutrient dense items on the menu.

Q: Do you recommend soaking rice before eating it? What's the nutritional difference in different kinds of rice? 

A: White rice versus Brown rice // Brown rice is a whole grain.  White rice goes through one more process to remove the hull (bran and germ).  The bran contains most of the vitamins and minerals and the germ contains essential oils, so brown rice is thought to be more nutritious.  The bran does contain phytic acid, an anti-nutrient, which interferes with the absorption of minerals and it contains arsenic, which is toxic.  The essential oils in the germ go rancid in about 6 months, so it is very important to make sure your brown rice hasn’t been sitting around, otherwise it becomes carcinogenic. Brown rice is also high in fiber.  Fiber is important for the Western diet because it is highly processed.  Asian diets consist of a lot of vegetables, fruits, and nuts so don’t need the added fiber.  Chinese and Ayurvedic medicines both advocate for white rice because it is considered easier to digest and generally speaking, those cultures have less problems with obesity.  White rice is thought of as empty calories.  It’s pure starch and quick energy with a high glycemic index, which is great for athletes and isn’t a problem when it is eaten with vegetables, proteins, and fats.  It can be a problem if you have blood sugar issues like diabetes or if you are trying to lose weight.  Rice also contains protein, but it is incomplete protein.  

It's always good to soak rice, or any grain, before cooking.  It makes it more digestible and in the case of brown rice, can neutralize the phytic acid.  Red rice and black rice have many antioxidants and are rich in essential vitamins and minerals. 

Q: What is on your personal daily menu? 

A: I try and eat a variety of foods every day and eat everything in moderation.  I make sure I eat protein and vegetables every meal and snack on fruits and nuts.  I LOVE rice and my husband keeps trying to get me to go paleo with him, but I'm asian and feel that genetically speaking, I do better on rice and probably have a high metabolism due to my people having a rice based diet.  Everyone is different.

Q: What is your food philosophy?

A: KyeChi- clean quality whole foods that are nutrient dense to give our body everything it needs to function optimally and delicious food that is enjoyable and pleasurable and satisfies our heart and soul.  Everything in moderation.  Everyone is different and we have to figure out what works best for us as individuals.  

Q: What are 5 things that are always in your medicine cabinet?

A: Guna Flu, Traumeel, Yu Nan Bai Yao, calendula cream, D-Hist

Q: What is the simplest way to improve your health?

A: Eat well, exercise, meditate, and do things you enjoy (which will have a positive impact on your daily attitude)

Q: What are some foods you never eat?

A: Refined sugar and refined wheat flour

Q: How do you interest people, especially kids, in eating healthier foods?

A: Make them taste good.

Q: What are some of your favorite cookbooks?

A: To be honest, I've never used one.

Q: What is your grand vision for Kye's?

A: World domination, just kidding, sort of...  I believe our food has many applications and can provide a quick and healthy option for a lot of like minded eaters.  

I would like Kye's to be a brand customers naturally recognize as being good for them, because they love our food and feel really good after eating it, and if they have chronic health issues, that they feel better when they eat our food.