Gorilla Food's Aaron Ash plumps up raw, vegan cheesecake with blueberries

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      Punk-rock music is one of the reasons why Aaron Ash is a vegan. The owner and chef of Gorilla Food (101–436 Richards Street) says that the genre’s straight-edge movement got him interested in vegetarianism as a teenager growing up in Regina.

      “The idea of animal rights came up in the messages of that music,” Ash tells the Georgia Straight at Gorilla Food’s soon-to-open second location across from Oppenheimer Park. “I started to also become interested in yoga, Buddhism, and ideas of nonviolence and peace, and it started to become clear that vegetarian food was the solution to a lot of different things.”

      A job at a local health-food store at the age of 18 helped solidify Ash’s decision to stop eating animals.

      “That was where I started to meet older people who were vegetarians, and there was something about them that seemed like they were brighter, healthier, and more youthful,” he says.

      Ash eventually became a vegan, eliminating all animal products from his life, including honey and leather shoes. When he met a friend who was a raw-foodist—a person who doesn’t eat cooked or processed foods—Ash wanted to see if he could do the same.

      “Fresh, raw, ripe fruits and vegetables are highest in nutritional value, and the longer they’re off the tree, then they’re depleting in nutrition,” he claims. “The more they’re cooked, the more we’re destroying certain nutrients.”

      Ash opened Gorilla Food’s downtown location six years ago and has since witnessed a growing demand for all-natural dining options in Vancouver.

      “I sum it [the restaurant’s menu] up as organic, vegan, raw food, and it’s nice that nowadays I feel like that means something to more people,” he says.

      In 2012, Ash’s first cookbook, Gorilla Food: Living and Eating Organic, Vegan, and Raw, was published. Of the more than 200 recipes in the book, he says, the Blueberry Cheezcake is one of the most accessible for those who aren’t used to preparing and eating raw foods. The recipe requires only five ingredients and is a good alternative to regular cheesecake for people who want to avoid dairy.

      “Cashews are a great replacement for dairy because they’ve got a creamy texture when you blend it,” Ash notes.

      To pair with the cake, Ash suggests a sweet white wine or, for a nonalcoholic option, apple-beet juice.

      Aaron Ash’s Blueberry Cheezcake


      4 cups (1 L) cashews
      9 dates, pitted
      2 Tbsp (30 mL) coconut oil
      1½ cups (375 mL) unsweetened coconut flakes
      4½ cups (1.125 L) blueberries, plus 125 mL for garnish
      1 Cheezcake crust (see recipe below)
      2 to 4 Tbsp (30 to 60 mL) cashews for garnish
      2 to 4 Tbsp (30 to 60 mL) unsweetened coconut flakes for garnish


      1. Place cashews in a large bowl, cover with water, and soak for two hours.
      2. In a food processor with an S-blade, process dates and oil until mixture reaches a toffeelike consistency.
      3. Drain water from cashews and discard water. Add cashews and coconut flakes to mixture and blend until buttery.
      4. Add 4½ cups (1.125 L) blueberries and process until smooth.
      5. Press mixture into Cheezcake crust. Garnish with remaining blueberries, coconut, and cashews. Refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours.

      Cheezcake crust

      2 cups (500 mL) unsweetened coconut flakes
      8 dates, pitted
      1 Tbsp (15 mL) coconut oil

      1. In a food processor with an S-blade, process coconut flakes for 30 seconds before adding dates and coconut oil. Blend until mixture sticks together.
      2. Press mixture flat and evenly across bottom of 10-inch springform pan.
      3. Refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours before using.

      Yield: 1 10-inch cake.

      Recipe has not been tested by the Georgia Straight. Recipe adapted from Aaron Ash’s Gorilla Food: Living and Eating Organic, Vegan, and Raw (Arsenal Pulp Press). Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

      Gorilla Food's Aaron Ash assembles a Blueberry Cheezcake
      Gorilla Food's Aaron Ash makes a Blueberry Cheezcake




      Aug 14, 2013 at 9:58pm

      Love Gorilla Food! I'm not a vegan, vegetarian or raw foodist, but the food and smoothies are something differnt and delicious.


      Aug 15, 2013 at 9:49am

      I have that cookbook and have made the cheesecake before. It's unbelievable!! So delicious.


      Aug 15, 2013 at 9:46pm

      Absolutely, the best restaurant in Vancouver! Try the avocado pie!


      Aug 16, 2013 at 8:18am

      I have the cookbook and many recipes don't work, it'S like they weren't tested at all. Too bad, because the pictures look yummy!
      Haven't tried this pie yet though.

      Kelly Craig

      Aug 26, 2013 at 11:42pm

      Hey Aaron,
      I hope this gets to you, I'm a vegan now too, fun how so many of our crew from Walsh Acres hold the same values and have chosen this route. I'm not on a raw food diet yet, but I'm for making the change. My mother told me you may have a cookbook? I'd love to purchase one.