Local restaurants reinvent favorite foods for better health, taste

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (KABC) -- Jeanne Cheng's first job was at Hot Dog on a Stick at the Santa Monica Pier, and it was the only restaurant experience she had.

That lack of experience around food didn't really prepare Cheng for what was coming.

"My son when he turned two, all of a sudden became allergic to tons and tons of foods," said Cheng, owner of Kye's.

What did help Cheng was a background in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. She used that to come up with options for her son, who can't eat dairy or gluten.

In the process, she reinvented the sandwich. She passed on bread and uses seaweed, collard greens and romaine to wrap all kinds of combinations.

"Whether you're vegan or paleo or gluten-free or dairy-free, we wanted to provide something really exciting and delicious," Cheng said.

Her son's challenge became an opportunity: creating Kye's in Santa Monica, where the menu is gluten- and dairy-free.

Also inventive: the way the wrap is wrapped. Protective layers between inner and outer ingredients keep it fresh and the push pop bottom makes it easy to eat.

But that's not the only food to get a makeover.

Beyond the sandwich, some are re-creating the overused term "cleansing." Yes, juicing's still around, but now soup is front and center.

"We wanted to essentially to redefine soup. In some cases, soup can actually mean almost like a warm, savory version of a smoothie," said Julie Morris, culinary director for Beaming.

Morris calls soup the "new" juice, loaded up with all kinds of extras.

Example: Protein packed quinoa, chopped, crunchy kale and hot creamy cauliflower soup topped with walnuts is an antioxidant, nutritional bonanza that defines cleanse in a whole new way.

"Cleanse doesn't just mean drinking juices all day. You can get nutrient dense foods in your body, in your system, get that detoxification going with foods that actually help satisfy all of your cravings at the same time," Morris said.

The soups can be a bit pricey at $10, but they aren't your typical tomato.

When was the last time you whipped up a bowl of arugula, curry, avocado and celery juice for your family?

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