Andy Ozgur, 38, literally lives his livelihood. A sign in his vegan restaurant Andy's Pure Food, in Rye, proclaims, "Let food be your medicine." Ozgur credits a diet that is vegan (no animal or dairy), "live" (raw or lightly steamed), and organic for successfully treating health issues two years ago. This diet is a way of life for him and defines everything he serves.
A sunny Friday at lunchtime shows how popular vegan and vegetarian have become. All fifteen seats are taken and the take-out line stretches to the door. A cheerful serving area displays 37 vegetable dishes on white platters to choose from to fill plastic take-out containers. Colorful menu boards offer a large variety of sandwiches, salads, soups, smoothies and juices, all made fresh.
"Andy's," as it's called, serves 100-150 people a day.
One customer walks up and says, "Andy."
Ozgur's exclaims, "Ryan! How are you doing?"
Ryan Crozier turned two years old today.
"Ryan eats here three or four times a week with his dad and me," says his mother, Jen Crozier, of Rye. "It's fast and healthy."
Ryan is vegetarian. His parents eat meat "not very often."
Another Andy's customer, Lasana Fisher, a vegan for five years and a body builder and trainer, drives from Mount Vernon four times a week and finds the food "fresh and delicious."
Ozgur's customers reflect a national trend that put three vegan cookbooks on The New York Times Bestsellers list in the advice category last year: Alicia Silverstone's The Kind Diet (Rodale) which was recently #1 for hardcover; Skinny Bitch, by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin (Running Press), 134 weeks for paperback; "Oprah" chef Tal Ronnen's The Conscious Cook (Melcher).
There's only one other vegan Westchester restaurant—Jolo's Kitchen in New Rochelle, which is also organic. But Andy's is the only destination that's vegan, organic and raw.
Fruit and Vegetable Trade Route
At a window table, Ozgur sips a Green Monster juice, remembering that he and his family were farmers in Eskisehir, a Turkish village. In 1993, at 20 years old, he left for the U.S.
"It's a big country, you know? A country of fortune," he said.
Landing in Brooklyn, Ozgur lived rent-free in exchange for cleaning a building from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. Then he worked twelve hours at a vegetable market.
"In one year I saved $11,000."
He opened his own vegetable market in Brooklyn and Staten Island, selling fruit and vegetables "because I come from a farm--I know how to take care of them."
In 2001 he sold them and opened gourmet markets: Zeytinia in Croton-on-Hudson, and Amish Market in Hyde Park.
A Change in Choice
"Then I started having health and digestive problems, and was always tired," he says. A friend told him to drink more water, to stop eating meat, and eat more raw vegetables.
"You get protein with fresh nut milk, quinoa, avocado, and fresh greens."
Ozgur began juicing. "After two months, my problems were gone," he says. "I said to myself, if it works for me, it can work for everybody, right?"
He sold everything and opened Andy's Pure Food in September 2008.
"I believe that sooner or later people will realize that the biggest health problem we have is commercial and processed food," Ozgur says.
A Mission That's Healthy and Delicious
At Andy's, the salad station is the draw, offering Turkish inspired vegetable dishes—"mostly my mother's recipes," says Ozgur, a newlywed who lives in Larchmont.
Quinoa salad is popular, made from a spinach-related seed, with cilantro, almonds and celery. There are collard greens stuffed with brown rice and currants; butternut squash with almonds, at a price of $7.95 a pound.
Winning a best-in-Westchester award in 2009 is the "Energizing Smoothie" (pineapple, strawberry, banana, goji juice); 18-ounces, $7.95.
Juices (16 ounces, $7.95) are made on the spot. Green Monster outsells everything in the eatery. It's an insiders order, not on the menu, and part of Ozgur's cleansing programs. "It's the equivalent of 3 pounds of vegetables," says Ozgur, and contains kale, spinach, parsley, romaine lettuce, lemon juice, celery, cucumber, apple, and ginger.
More Ventures Ahead
Requests for Ozgur's cleanses come from 12 Westchester and Connecticut towns, and growing. Ozgur plans to open an Andy's in all of them.
Finishing his Green Monster, Ozgur said, "I'm thinking of opening in Scarsdale or Greenwich as soon as we can."
"We're going to make healthy, fresh food available and affordable to everyone," he said. "We're all going to find out that food is our medicine--you are what you eat, drink, and think."
Andy's Pure Food, 46 Purchase Street, Rye, N.Y. Open Monday thru Sunday. Hours: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Delivery and takeout. Casual dress. Visa, Master Card, Discover. Phone: 914-967-2332. www.andyspurefood.com