Chef and entrepreneur Anna Harouvis likes to keep it raw. "My father was born on the Greek isle of Ikaria, which is known as one of the healthiest places on earth because of the raw culture," explains Harouvis. "So my life path was laid out in front of me."
The Lakewood native's inspiration for cooking healthy began early at the hands of her yia yia (Greek for grandmother). "Growing up in a big Greek family, we connect memorable life experiences over a meal," she says. "My yia yia had a second kitchen in the basement to bake her own breads and desserts. Everything was fresh and healthy."
Meanwhile, her father Gregory "Leroy" Harouvis owned the London Bar & Grill on Public Square, which provided a different sort of motivation. "He never wanted me to go into the restaurant business; he knew the toll it takes on your body and the long hours needed," says Harouvis. She tried selling stocks and bonds. "This was not for me. I needed to do something that I was comfortable with, and food is something I can easily relate to."
With that in mind, she decided to turn her part-time waitressing gig at downtown's Mardi Gras Deli into a career move. "In 1995, and after years of saving, I told the owner that I wanted to buy it or I was going to move onto a new opportunity," she explains. "So he sold me the deli. I found myself managing seven employees and having excellent sales, but I made a lot of textbook mistakes because I was only 24."
When the lease ended at Mardi Gras, a new opportunity arose just across the street in the IMG building, when she was asked to run the lobby cafe. "They wanted me to create a cafe that embraced organic, local and fresh," she says. Opening in 2001, Good To Go Café is a quick-serve eatery that serves healthful salads, house-made soups, wraps and sandwiches, including gluten-free options.
Building on her "raw and organic" foundation, Harouvis developed her own line of kale chips, a healthy dessert line, and an aggressive catering initiative.
"I loved educating people that raw isn't just a salad or sushi," she says. "I taught a raw class at Tri-C, and I did some dishes for some of the Indians players." Some among her high-profile clientele requested that the chef create a raw juice cleanse program. "The word just started to spread about my juice cleanse and it took off from there."
The launch of the juice line, named Anna In The Raw, has taken the business owner to the next level. "You don't have to be a professional athlete to juice," she says. "It gives your body a break from all the processed foods we eat all day."
The 100-percent raw, gluten-free and vegan juice line features multiple antioxidant purging juices. Customers drink six bottles a day for three, five or seven days. Made from fresh fruits and produce from the West Side Market, juices like Hercules are loaded with kale, while Athena is packed with organic cashews, agave nectar and vanilla. "I have battled weight issues my whole life, and these juices make me feel young, happy and help drop the weight," explains Harouvis.
Enjoying high demand at Good To Go Cafe and with her juice cleanse, Harouvis is eyeing expansion. "I am working on getting the bar codes and labeling so I am ready for retail stores in the next few months."
Down the road, Harouvis hopes to open a full-service raw restaurant and bar. "I want to keep inspiring people to try a different cuisine. Everything that you will eat and drink will be 100-percent gluten free."