Urban Fresh Teaches Healthy Eating in a Delicious Way

December 6, 2012

By Teya Vitu

You are what you eat.

Just think of what you are with a body full of fast food, junk food, processed food.

Kathleen Lohnes, Kathy Iannacone and Fernanda Guevara will prove to you that eating healthy is delicious at there new Urban Fresh eatery.

Kathleen Lohnes, Kathy Iannacone and Fernanda Guevara want you to think about a lifestyle shift to plant-based foods prepared deliciously.

They own Urban Fresh, 73 E. Pennington St., which they describe as “a vegucational experience.”

Urban Fresh opens Dec. 17 with dining hours from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Friday and plant-based cooking classes typically following from 4:30 to 6 p.m. and also on weekends.

“It’s about half restaurant, half classroom,” Iannacone said.

No fear, they will not be health preachy during the lunch rush, but if you wish to learn and lunch, the trio will be happy to oblige.

“During the day, we may be doing short demos,” Lohnes said. “We may be doing lunch and learns.”

They are next-generation healthy eating. They avoid the common food veg-words that TV food celebrity Anthony Bourdain detests. Their v-word is vegucational.

“We don’t even talk about meat. That’s not a talk we have at all,” Guevara said.

“We are about being inclusive,” Lohnes said. “It is about healing and transformation. That’s what this place is. It’s not a restaurant. It’s not a school. It’s about transformation.”

Actually, it is a restaurant and a school.

And the restaurant strives to make you forget you are eating a) healthy and b) not getting any meat or anything fried. Urban Fresh, however, is not about deprivation.

“It’s not just brown rice and beans. It’s really tasty food,” Lohnes insisted.

Guevera likes to talk about Iannacone’s Healthy Heart Taco Salad made with purple cabbage, green onions, roasted corn, tomato, romaine lettuce, cilantro, guacamole.

“Kathy makes a really good ground taco mix with mushrooms and beans,” Guevara said.

“It’s all about laying the flavors. The texture is so important,” Iannacone said. “I use fresh grated jicama and carrot instead of cheese.”

“One important part of the texture in the taco salad is the tortilla,” Guevara said. “We are putting them in the oven instead of bathing them in oil.”

The Taco Wrap employs seasoned carrot pulp instead of ground beef and jicama replaces rice.

Urban Fresh has its own twist on happy hour. They call it Power Hour from 2 to 3 p.m., where smoothies are $1.75 off or you can get two free Super Food boosters for your smoothie.

“Our fruits are organic and locally sourced,” Lohnes said. “We are not adding any sugars.”

All three are American Association of Drugless Practitioners certified health coaches and they are graduates from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.

“That’s how we all met,” Lohnes said.

Guevara and Iannacone are the chefs and Lohnes handles the business side and oversees the cooking classes program.

“My passion is the education section. That’s where my heart is,” Lohnes said.

Each woman has a specific niche to make Urban Fresh whole. Along with the cooking, Iannacone does the outside marketing and is the team’s creative leader. She creates the menus and coined the word “vegucational.”

“My emphasis is more in food,” Guevara said. “I just want people to do more with vegetables. I am very passionate about showing people how easy it is to eat healthy.”

Lohnes sums up the three-way partnership: “Kathy is the outside focus. Fernanda is the inside focus, and I’m the bridge between them.”

Kathy and Fiore Iannocone are last known as prior owners of Enoteca Pizzeria & Wine Bar, which they sold in January 2008, when they decamped to Oregon before recently returning to Tucson. From 1983 to 2003, they also owned the Italian Kitchen, located where the Fox Theatre box office is now.

Guevara, originally from Chile, was a chef at high-end resorts in Vermont and Hawaii while shifting toward personal chef work, where she could devote her craft more to plant-based foods.

Guevara, Lohnes and Iannacone live what they preach.

“It’s the only way I feel 100 percent,” Guevara said.

Lohnes had issues with balancing here life.

“My challenge was always working too much and not exercising enough,” Lohnes said. “I’ve been a vegetarian for 25 years but not a healthy vegetarian. Now I can just immerse myself. From one year ago, I have more energy and more focus.”

Iannacone overcame serious health issues through this lifestyle.

“I overcame being a homebody and not working to working 60 to 80 hours a week,” Iannacone said. “I have more energy that I did when I was younger. Ever since I started this lifestyle, that has let my brain be more creative.”

The cooking classes are as much the heart and soul of Urban Fresh as the lunches and juice-and-smoothie breakfast.

“We want the cooking classes to improve their lives,” Guevara said. “What we are trying to do is show people how to be able to obtain this lifestyle and that it’s not so challenging. We have a lot of tricks up our sleeves that recreate favorites in a healthy way. They taste, look and feel like the traditional favorites.”

Upcoming Urban Fresh cooking classes include

• Fresh Juicing on Dec. 12 from 4:30 to 6 p.m. $20

• Condiments & Spices on Dec. 14 from 4:30 to 6 p.m. $20

• Plant-Based Italian on Dec. 15 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. $35

• Healthy Gourmet Appetizers on Dec. 21 from 4:30 to 6 p.m. $25

• Soup and Stews on Dec. 22 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. $35

• Super Food Smoothies on Jan. 2 from 4:30 to 6 p.m. $20

Starting in January, Urban Fresh will off a four-month group health coaching program. Grand opening reduced price of $365.

“We are looking for a platform to reach out and teach people about healthy nutrition,” Lohnes said. “It’s all about plant-based nutrition.”

They have planted Urban Fresh in Tucson’s latest and evolving dining mecca: Pennington Street and Scott Avenue. They are steps away from Café 54, Café Poca Cosa, Reilly Craft Pizza & Drink, 47 Scott and Alejandro’s.

“Downtown is the perfect opportunity to reach out to the community,” Iannacone said. “This is the audience we want to reach. People who are highly motivated and they want to make a change.”