Ruby Thomas-Cezette has a secret to staying young – she avoids meat.
The 75-year-old swears by her vegetables and is convinced they’re the reason she’s not at home knitting or watching television.
Monday, Thomas-Cezette opened Whitehorse’s newest vegan and vegetarian restaurant.
By midday customers had already filled an entire page of her comment book with compliments.
“Good food. It’s so great to have a restaurant like this in town,” wrote one customer.
“Delicious, warm and welcoming,” wrote another.
People in Whitehorse have been craving vegetarian options, said Thomas-Cezette.
Before she had even officially opened her doors, people kept wandering into the restaurant to see when they could eat there.
But Thomas-Cezette isn’t worried about being able to fulfill the demand.
She’s already opened three other restaurants, in Mississauga and Oakville, all after she retired.
Her other career was as a nurse.
That’s where she noticed the link between eating well and staying healthy.
It’s also how Thomas-Cezette was first introduced to meat.
While growing up in Tobago, her family couldn’t afford to buy meat. They ate whatever was available, she said.
“When there was potatoes, we ate potatoes. When there was rice, we ate rice.”
When Thomas-Cezette started working at the hospital, she was allowed to eat what the patients ate, which often included meat.
But just as soon as she was introduced to the food, she completely lost her appetite for it.
“My first day of work as a nurse I saw a placenta and that did it for me forever and ever, amen,” she said.
Days later she had to assist a man with a second-degree burn.
“I had to cut off his skin – it was like slicing through a piece of roast beef.”
She never looked at meat again.
Thomas-Cezette sees her work as a chef as just another facet of medicine.
“The restaurant business is like the better side of medicine,” she said.
“It deals with the body, soul and spirit.”
At her restaurant you won’t notice any salt or pepper shakers on any of the tables or in the kitchen.
“Salt isn’t good for you. Pepper is carcinogenic,” she said.
Thomas-Cezette relies instead on Braggs, a soy-based seasoning to enhance the flavour of many of her dishes.
Her menu, lifted from her last restaurant in Ontario, offers several pages of meat alternatives.
Her dinner menu includes roasts made from lentils, tofu and textured vegetable protein, some of which mimic steak and turkey.
Rotis, pizza and veggie burgers are also on order, as are unique sauces made from fireweed honey and non-dairy mayonnaise.
Her curried potatoes and vegetable dish snagged her a restaurant award from Vegetarian Times magazine in 1996.
Inspiration for new recipes come to Thomas-Cezette like a strike of lightening.
“I’ll wake up in the middle of the night and just see a recipe in my head,” she said.
“Then the next day I’ll try it out and it’s perfect.”
Her husband, 81-year-old Pierre Cezette, helps out in the kitchen.
To accommodate people who can’t eat wheat, they offer gluten-free options.
On her freshly painted powder-blue restaurant walls, Thomas-Cezette proudly displays her health-related degrees.
There’s the holistic nutrition diploma she got in 1997 and the registered nurse nutritional consultant degree she finished up three years ago.
It’s a nice touch in a room that has been completely transformed from it’s previous digs as a music store.
Gone are the spray-painted walls, the rotting ceiling and the noisy tattoo room.
Thomas-Cezette spent $78,000 retrofitting the space, which sits next to her daughter’s traditional Caribbean restaurant, Antoinette’s.
But don’t confuse Antoinette’s meat-heavy menu with her own.
“Over there there’s blood, feather and fur,” she said pointing next door.
“Here there’s vegetables. They have nothing to do with each other.”
Ruby’s is located at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Wood Street. It’s open for business from 11:30 to 2:30 p.m. and from 5:30 to 8:00 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Contact Vivian Belik at