With more processed and GMO foods finding their way into our diets than ever before, eating healthy isn’t just for those with dietary restrictions.
As the tide continues to turn in favor of organic, GMO-free foods, more and more people are diving into the world of healthy eating. However, long before the start of the organic food revolution in the early 2000s, Nancy Parkison had already fine-tuned her diet to include all of the foods her body craved, cutting out all the processed, genetically modified foods it didn’t.
In her early 20s, Parkison was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic autoimmune disease that causes inflammation in the joints. Learning how to live with this painful condition was challenging, but after years of eating right and staying active, Nancy defied the odds and, at age 50, summited Mount Rainier.
For Parkison, staying active was key to keeping her symptoms at bay, but equally as important was eating a healthy diet free from foods that are known for causing inflammation. Parkison has been vegan for 20 years, and managing this kind of diet was easy to achieve at home, cooking for herself and her husband, Rich Baker, but it made enjoying a meal out near impossible.
In 2010, Parkison and Baker, who happens to be gluten intolerant, were thrilled when they discovered that a raw, vegan restaurant was opening in Tacoma. In no time at all, the two established themselves as regulars at AmeRAWcan Bistro, delighted by the specialty-diet conscious options that were offered on its menu.
Over the next couple of years, the couple became well acquainted with AmeRAWcan Bistro’s Head Chef, Paco Hernandez, and the two continued to frequent the establishment. “We became friends with Paco and just thought he was so talented,” Parkison shares. However, almost as quickly as the couple celebrated the opening of this restaurant, they found themselves grieving to learn that the restaurant was closing.
Parkison and Baker knew they had to do something. They had experienced firsthand the benefits of having a dining option like AmeRAWcan Bistro in their community and knew there were others who were certainly mourning the closure of the restaurant as much as they were.
Understanding the importance alternative restaurants provide the community, there was only one clear answer for Parkison. “I didn’t want to own a restaurant,” Parkison says, “but I had nowhere to eat.”
Parkison remembers asking her husband, “Why don’t we go into business with this young man?” Excited about the idea, Parkison and Baker, two experienced entrepreneurs, asked Hernandez to go into business with them.
In 2013, with a clear vision in mind, Parkison, Baker and Hernandez opened Viva Tacoma in Proctor, providing South Sound-area residents a new option for healthy, organic, vegan food. And for Hernandez, who had spent the past three years creating completely raw dishes, he was excited to fire up the grill again.
Viva Tacoma’s menu is always changing with what’s fresh and seasonal, but one thing that stays the same is that all of Viva’s offerings are always organic and vegan.
The menu includes a wide assortment of rotating items — including breakfast and dessert — ensuring that there’s something for everyone. Hernandez, who makes everything from scratch (nothing comes out of a can), says some of his personal favorites on the menu are the stuffed portabellas, eggplant lasagna and cauliflower “wings,” just to name a few.
What’s more, Viva Tacoma is happy to customize any order to accommodate individual food allergies and other dietary restrictions.
Since opening in fall of 2014, Viva Tacoma has provided Tacoma-area residents with an option for healthy, vegan eating in the city. With Parkison and Baker’s combined experience eating well for total health and Hernandez’s culinary prowess, this trio has not only provided the community with an alternative dining experience, they’ve also fulfilled a huge need.
Parkison calls this Viva’s pay-it-forward principle. “I love knowing we’re making an impact in the community,” Parkison says. “But my favorite thing is talking to people, asking them what brought them in and what they enjoyed.” And Hernandez couldn’t agree more.
Whether you have dietary restrictions, are making the switch to a healthier diet, or just want to try something different, Viva Tacoma offers the community a wide selection of “food to live by.”