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Meet Yulia Zhukovska of Raw.Now in Santa Monica

Today we’d like to introduce you to Yulia Zhukovska.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Yulia. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
In the 90s, soon after the USSR crashed, my parents opened a restaurant called Paradise in Zolotonosha, my hometown in Ukraine. This was a period of extreme economic instability, as Ukraine transitioned from communism to capitalism. No one knew how to run a business so you had to figure things out on the fly. But we stayed strong and pushed through.

We had to wear a lot of hats. For example, Paradise turned into a bar at night and sometimes things would get heated up. Dad would have to go down there in the middle of the night and be the bouncer. Mom was both accountant and chef and I would pitch in as much as I could between my studies. My favorite part of the whole thing was getting a chance to create recipes with my mom. She taught me which ingredients go well together and how to make a dish really stand out. She even allowed me to create a few of my own dishes and put them on the menu. I’d get so happy when they worked out! I remember spying on the guests — watching how they would react to the first bite.

I left Zolotonosha when I was 17 and moved to Kyiv, where I got my Master’s degree. After graduating, I worked at luxury hotels across the world. Even though I’d change cities and jobs, certain things would remain the same: I always loved cooking and I always loved sweets. That’s my confession. I have a big sweet tooth. Like starting the day with a chocolate bar kind of sweet tooth. Tastes great in the moment, but when the sugar crash comes it takes your mood and energy along with it. I knew I needed to make a change, but wasn’t willing to give up sweets all together. Problem is all the healthy sweets that I tried either tasted bad or had a bunch of refined sugar. So I embarked on my journey to “healthify” desserts.

I took tons of plant-based cooking classes and spent months experimenting in the kitchen, testing recipes on my family and friends. I was that little girl in her parent’s restaurant again, watching their faces when they took their first bite. Because that’s why I do what I do. To see the joy on people’s faces when they discover that something so delicious is also incredibly healthy. It’s empowering to create sweets that are life-giving. I felt so compelled to share my products with the community that I’ve created Raw.Now. Plant-based desserts with zero refined sugar. We offer high-end catering and delivery.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Having a booth at the Farmers’ Market sounds like a lot of fun. But the truth is, it takes a lot of work. Applications, certifications, permits, special equipment, packaging, the website — the list goes on. And once you get into the market, the real work begins. Cooking into the night, waking up before sunrise and hauling all my products and supplies to the market. I have to credit my fiancee for being my personal donkey (his term!). Weather is also a factor. On windy days you’re worried about your tent blowing away. Holding the canopy with one hand and doing tastings with another is now a skill I can add to my resume.

Along the way people challenge your sanity. Not everybody will believe it is going to work out. Not everybody will support you. They don’t take you seriously at the beginning because your product hasn’t proved itself. But you just have to keep going! Because it’s all worth it once you get your loyal customers who come back every week just for your product.

Alright – so let’s talk about Raw.Now – what should we know?
I believe that what we eat should energize us and make us feel good. Conversely, I believe that what we eat should also taste good. Eating healthy doesn’t mean we have to sacrifice flavor. So at Raw.Now I turn “cheat sweets” into healthy treats. All my desserts are made with whole, plant-based ingredients. A regular cake robs you of your energy — but my cakes-in-jars fire you up. Speaking of jars, I went with them over plastic boxes so as not to create any unnecessary waste. Also, they’re much easier to throw in your bag to take to work or the beach. And at the end of the day, they just look better on Instagram.

One last plug, I’m also a private chef, so please reach out if you need an event catered. I do much more than just sweets. I also do vegan pancakes, tempeh bacon, tofu scrambles, vegan cheeses and butters, a bloody beet burger, plant-based mac n’cheese, and vegan poke bowls that’ll blow your mind.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
The taste of my grandmother Zina’s potato pancakes. I would spend summer break at their house, which was surrounded by a big garden (Zina was a florist). She would ask me the night before what I wanted for breakfast, coming into my bedroom and tucking me in. I would always choose her potato pancakes. I’d then ask her to wake me up at 9am, but she would never do it. She wanted me to sleep in, in order to “grow big.” So I would roll out of bed around noon, and she’d get started on her potato pancakes. She would watch me eat, sitting with me in their alcove, shadowed by grapevines. Zina always had a lot of things to do — she had hundreds of flowers in pots and in the garden. She had many trees, fruits and vegetables growing in the yard that she had to take care of. She also had to cook for many people. But still she made me feel like she had all the time in the world for me. As I ate her delicious pancakes, she would ask me to place my order for lunch and dinner. I would’ve chosen her pancakes if she had allowed it. I miss her so much. She taught me the most important thing; when you cook with love, it tastes better.

Contact Info:

  • Website: raw-now.com
  • Phone: 3109803002
  • Email: info@raw-now.com


Image Credit:

Anokiart Photography, Christopher Lovick

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