MaxWell Eaton recently opened the health-conscious cafe Max Well New Orleans (6101 Magazine St., 504-301-0510; www.maxwellneworleans.com). The shop sells fresh juices, soups, snacks and build-your-own salads and organic rice bowls topped with different proteins. Eaton spoke with Gambit about the new cafe.
How have you seen the healthy eating focus and restaurant landscape shift in New Orleans in recent years?
Eaton: It's something that I've been working on and thinking about for a long time. (In) New Orleans — a city with 1,500 restaurants — the majority of them (serve) traditional New Orleans cuisine. [What] started making me think things were changing is that you started seeing cultured yogurt popping up and then these little boutique shops with cold-pressed juices, and places like Satsuma (Cafe). The cafe scenes were the first ones where I saw healthier food. So much of New Orleans is its own introspective, inward-looking culture, where we're looking at our own traditions, and I love that. As a producer, you want to break the mold and hope that the consumer will respond, and I think that there's been enough change in this city that it's being receptive.
I had health problems and started experimenting with different diets and tried cutting some things out. I started looking at systems of eating that were going to produce results for myself. I used myself as a test subject and researched on my own what types of clean foods and styles of food would enable me to be as healthy as I could be. I wanted something more inclusive and more comprehensive than just juices or a place that just sells smoothies and protein powders. I wanted something more consistent rather than a quick fix.
What can people do to mitigate what they've done to their bodies over the holidays?
E: Not everybody is a health fanatic, and maybe some people only go to the gym once a week. It's like getting a massage or going to the gym — I'm not expecting you to do this every day. But I like to think that people could start by eating clean for a day. You can get a response relative to what you're putting in (your body). I always say that the cleanest thing people can do is have a couple of fresh juices and a salad. If you really want to do a cleansing thing, the juices are certainly known for that.
Purple cabbage is one of those overlooked and highly impactful vegetables. One of the things we do is a fresh green juice that has purple cabbage, and that has this particular type of antioxidant called a nitric oxide in it. It helps your blood with oxygen absorption, so it really helps to clean your bloodstream.
What are some of the health fallacies and misconceptions you've encountered?
E: I think one thing people overlook is the acid content in foods, and what it takes for your body to digest really heavy fats. Cranberry juice is one they say clears your blood out, but it's also really high in acid and can disrupt your stomach.
For me, the hangover cure in my twenties was always a fried (food) po-boy, but it's actually one of the worst things you can do. It might feel good when it hits that spot emotionally, but especially if you're coming off of a binge, the acid content in your stomach is really high, so putting a lot of carbs and fat to try and cure your hangover is really just going to extend that process. You want to go with foods that you can digest real quick, like root juices such as carrot and beet juices. You can't beat a good legume. Lentils are forever going to be healing food. So lentils and a fresh juice that has live enzymes in it, that is what will really calm your stomach. That's what actually works.