By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
For a year and a half, Maya Bentley watched her father die from cancer. It was an illness that came from a lifetime of eating readily available unhealthy food, which eventually led to diabetes and ultimately, his death.
In 2015, the day after Christmas he passed away, but as it turned out burying him gave Bentley the motivation she needed. After years of educating herself on the power of good healthy food, she decided the time had come for her to take her knowledge to the streets. So, in what Bentley considers the true American way, she went forward and made something happen. On July 12, 2017 Bentley opened Country Fresh Kitchen, a restaurant that serves organic southern cooking with locally sourced food supplied by Oasis Fresh Foods grocery market.
The goal isn’t just to serve organic food that tastes good while still being simple, but to educate her customers on what it means to eat healthy. She wants people to start eating healthy by choice. “It’s not a business or a franchise, it’s a lifestyle,” Bentley said.
In addition to only using organic foods, the restaurant doesn’t have a set menu, it all depends on the chef and what’s in season. Part of this is due to the country style nature of the kitchen, the other part is due to Bentley’s upbringing. Growing up, Bentley never went home to a menu but she ate good food every single day.
Per true country style, the menu changes but it’s always good, some days they have turkey and collard green egg rolls while on other days they have salmon croquettes. Regardless of what may be on the menu for the day everything is made from scratch with all the great flavors of southern cooking with a healthy twist. “I don’t use salt or sugar…” Bentley said. Instead she relies on her produce to maintain a level of satisfaction that keeps people coming back for more.
Although Oasis Fresh Foods, the co-op grocery store supplies produce, Bentley also uses her own money to supply the crops. This year, she spent $80 on seeds, and has already harvested several times this summer with hopes for a few more before fall hits. Bentley explains one doesn’t need a lot of money, just perseverance. “There’s no money in this type of business,” she said. “It’s all heart.” Although they’ve been certified for less than a month, Bentley has already seen a change in her customers. People with diabetes or high cholesterol have called her to find out how altering their diet can change their lives, and maybe even eliminate their need for medications.
According to Bentley, eating healthy is necessity because everyone is “trying to escape the genocide,” and being forced to rely on medications as degrading and ensures people aren’t treated properly.
In this case, the genocide is a result of the GMOs, junk food and unhealthy eating habits. Bentley has personally seen the effects of a bad diet. Aside from her father, her aunt died at the age of forty-two without any limbs because of her diabetes.
“[I’m] tired of watching people die,” she said. “The pain has gotten great enough.”
Her pain propelled her forward, but it’s her sense of righteousness that helps her overcome the obstacles that lie in her way. By teaming up with like-minded people and utilizing her knowledge and resources, Bentley found a way to make healthy food become available food.