Magic Elixirs Uplift Health and Heart
An Interview with Cesar Vernier
By Andrea Foster, Education Director
Bone broth is hot, and not just from the stockpot. Customers line up for hours at New York City broth counters. Oprah recommends daily cups of it. Holistic practitioners swear by it. And The Bone Broth Company’s containers are staples at West County farmer’s markets and local grocers. I got the opportunity to sit down with one of the representatives of this wave of back-to-basics health to talk about his broth, his grandmother, and his new heart-opening drink.
The dhyana Center: Tell me a little more about where you’re from and your company.
Cesar Venier: I was born in El Salvador and I came to the States when I was 14 and I grew up in Miami, Florida until I was 18. Then I lived in Costa Rica for about a year and a half and that’s how I actually ended up in California. I was hired to cook for some clients and I ended up in Sebastopol. It’s been about 8 years. I’ve been cooking for 22 years plus. I’ve been a professional chef for about 10 years and I cook for local restaurants in town, like Peter Lowell’s, Bastoni when it was open. Being a private chef has been a big part of my career for the past 10 years.
I grew up eating bone broth. In El Salvador, we have this soup called sopa, which is “soup”, de pata, which is mainly knuckle bones and cow’s feet and that’s more like a Sunday tradition that we have. One of my biggest inspirations was my grandfather, who’s 96 as we speak. My mother says he still has a bowl of it every week. He’s coherent, strong. My dad happens to be 92. Same thing. His lineage is different because he’s part French, but still – same concept of grabbing those bones and making it into a stock. He explained to me that as he’s gotten older—so does my grandfather — they feel really good drinking soup as opposed to solids. That was a big inspiration for me to come up with bone broth.
The other inspiration was my ex-partner Mudita, who’s a nutrition consultant. One day I was making paella and I had leftover broth, because I normally do two types of broth, and she’s the one who actually turned on the lightbulb and said, you know that people will buy that, people will pay money for that broth. So I talked to Paula, the manager of the [Sebastopol Farmer’s] market to make paella and then the leftover broth I started selling right there. We started with 10, 15 quarts a week and people bought it. Now, it’s close to 400 quarts and it keeps increasing. Every month we see a large increase. We started with a 22 quart pot. Now we have a 33 gallon pot. I take that back – I just bought a 300 gallon steam kettle that will give us about 1000 quarts at a time.
So, that’s the story of bone broth here in Sebastopol for us. We have it here at the dhyana Center, Community Market, Andy’s Market, some stores in Healdsburg, and down south. It’s been a great experience.
Another big inspiration was my best friend in Miami who hired me to open his restaurant about three and a half years ago. On my way back to California, he said to me, “you know, just pick one thing, something that’s going to waste that you’re not using and related it to food. So, you know what came. There was a lot of momentum behind it, a lot of knowledge and I’ve been rolling with it. As we speak right now I have about 150 quarts of broth that’s brewing. And that’s always in my mind, that’s the funny thing, that whenever I’m having fun or doing whatever I’m doing, broth is in my mind because it’s always on the burner, just simmering. It’s a fun thing. I love it. It’s so fulfilling too, from feeding it to pregnant mothers to children. Children are my best. It’s my biggest satisfaction to see a child have a cup of broth when they come to the booth. It’s beautiful to see a child drink it.
What else about me? I just turned 40 last year. Some of my goals are to build a commercial kitchen in California so I can supply the West coast. And then my friend is ready for me to go to the East coast and open up a kitchen. He supplies about 40 Whole Foods on the East Coast. He grows sprouts and wheatgrass. He’s ready and tells me, “whenever you get to that level we can take it here, and in the Midwest.” So I want to have it across the nation. We’ve seen the growth and it’s going to get there over five years. So for the next five years I want to do this nonstop, retire early I guess. That’s the goal.
Besides the financial beauty of it, it’s to bring nutrition to people; that’s the main goal. To have people drinking it, seeing the changes. All these testimonies we have on our Facebook page of people that are here and how they’ve healed from anything that they have and they drank bone broth. It’s an ancient thing. Bone broth is really ancient. It goes back hundreds and hundreds of years. Men and women have always utilized bones to extract the marrow, that mineral, something that can’t be described. Literally when I’m making broth and I have a cup right out of the pot, it’s this euphoric moment you feel, especially with a bigger animal’s bones. I make bison broth, which is one of my favorites. There’s a beautiful connection to that specimen of animal and then you can feel it when you drink the broth. This is some sacred stuff. I call it medicine at its best. It touches all levels.
dC: What do you think this process of making bone broth and this dream of bone broth has been teaching you?
CV: Wow. I’ll just give you one or two examples. I’ve seen two of my clients die already, actually three of my clients die. And when you meet them, when they come face-to-face with you, and you talk to them, and they grab that product, that bone broth, and they drink it with all of their faith and you see that interaction, to be humble with life and to see that you’re helping tremendously because each one of these individuals, their family members came up to me after their passing and they said to me, “we just want you to know that my father, my grandfather drank it and it was so beautiful to have seen him drink your broth and have that transition with nutrition because they were not eating.” That’s why I’ve been approached to cook for people like that because they’re not eating anything and the family members, the broth they’re taking for the last minerals of their life. They would be able to drink or eat something that was so nutritious. Of course, their illness was way advanced, they were cancers, all of them. It was too late, too much but whatever the reason was, they had to go. That’s one of many things that bone broth has taught me.
The impact on children is huge. Sometimes I get phone calls from mothers who don’t know how to feed their kids the bone broth because you think about it, bone broth. And I’ve come up with recipes like popsicles for the summer. I make a plain bone broth where you can actually mix it in with vanilla, their favorite fruit, a little bit of honey, blend it all up and make it into a popsicle. The children will never know that it’s bone broth as a base. We can make smoothies for them. I’m talking about the plain one, that doesn’t have any flavor but a little bit of bone flavor, but it can be diluted with vanilla or things like that.
That’s one of the many lessons I’ve learned, to be one with life. Like, I’m always looking at it. It’s fortunate that there are so many people that come face-to-face with me to talk about their illnesses because the broth is good for everyone. There’s a big emphasis on how good it is for terminal illnesses. So those are the clients that I get to face a lot. People who are on the verge of walking that thin line, people who are going to eat something nutritious or they are going to pass. It always takes a big breath of me, okay there is someone that I need to talk too. Give them a hug or hold them in my arms. Give them that little faith or hope that I can only help you with this but it might do something good for you.
dC: So as you mentioned bone broth has been a part of human existence ever since we started hunting animals. Why do you think it is that right now seems to be this sudden rise in need and interest in bone broth?
CV: Well media does a great job for many reasons, sometimes the positive, sometimes the negative. For me in this case it’s been a positive thing. What’s the name of the big MBA player Kobi Bryant. He’s a big advocate. he came out I think last year or a couple years ago he came out in the news that’s his biggest secret in keeping himself healthy and strong. When you have an MBA player saying stuff like that, then media focuses totally on what he is saying, more research and of course there were books before he came up with that. The name of the book Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fellon, and recently, a year and a half ago, she came up with Nourishing Broth. So there’s been media behind it. I think Oprah already talked about it. She came out and said something about bone broth.
dC: Do you think there is something shifting in our culture that calls out for bone broth more than ever?
CV: Most definitely yes, as they are doing more research on how depleted we are with nutrition. There is something going on right now, at least in North America and probably the world. There is a lot of leaky gut happening, which is perforation of your intestinal lining. People don’t even know because it’s very seldom and it happens slowly, corrosion of your intestine lining. It’s one of the most misdiagnosed illnesses out there. I know this because I have clients that come all the time and they are like, “Do you think I’m sick?“ They totally look healthy, these ladies. They say, “I eat so healthy, I exercise, I do yoga and I have leaky gut — how come?” But you know antibiotics, medicine, and things over the counter that people drink, any of those things will create something like that. I’m just talking about leaky gut because it’s something people don’t know if they have it and it’s causing so many problems. If you don’t have the right absorption of nutrients in your system, most likely you will not be healthy. You will be healthy at a certain level but you don’t achieve that level of homeostasis in your body. There is always something wrong.
The studies of bone broth related to white blood cells, replenishing your white blood cells, which helps your immune system to recover and to produce more white blood cells, which is what supports your immunity. That reason is out there so people are thinking, if I drink this it will replenish it. But what I usually tell people is try it, give it a week. I’ve given bone broth away for free to people who need it and they don’t get themselves to buy it for reasons. I’m like: here it is, just take it. Let me know what you think in a week. Most likely they come back and they feel good.
Things are changing. MD’s are prescribing it, which is big when I hear those phone calls, “my son just got out of the hospital and a MD advised him to buy bone broth so here I am buying bone broth for my son.” It’s getting there. The media has done many beautiful things, like I said. It’s just getting stronger and bone broth is something, people call it a trend. It’s not just a trend, it’s something that just got here and it’s going to stay. I see bone broth as part of nutrition for as long as we live. It’s just big. It’s like organic in the 90’s when we realized, wait a minute — pesticide versus non-pesticide. We have nutrition and organic stuff and it’s still out there [that] we’re talking about organic. That’s my input of bone broth that I have.
dC: So what do you think the best way to use bone broth is?
CV: I like to drink it. My product comes frozen so you put it in a pot [and] within five minutes at a low simmer you have it hot. I like to squeeze lemon juice and sea salt because I don’t salt it. If you want to get a little more creative you add to an eight ounce cup a teaspoon of miso and you could add scallions and cilantro. It can get more complicated. I know the simple way to use it for people who love to cook, they don’t have to really do much. You get your broth and you can basically dilute the amount of liquid that I’m giving you, double it. If it’s chicken you can add more chicken, vegetables and salt. It really doesn’t need more spices as it already has spices in it. That’s another easy way to cook — you can put it in your rice, anything that requires liquid. Just substitute some of the liquid for broth and it flavors everything. You get all the nutrition, too, and that is the best part of it. I would say those, too — making soups, stews or just drinking it straight like that.
dC: So you make different broths from different animals. Do certain broths suit certain constitutions? Are there recommendations that you tell people for different effects based on which bones were used?
CV: Yes. I don’t like to make claims like that, but my common sense when I finish a product, when I see it. For example, leaky gut I always think of a creamy broth, usually chicken. Why chicken? Because it has a lot of collagen. Because, in one batch of chicken broth we use about 40lbs of chicken feet which has a lot of content of collagen. And the other broth people kind of discriminate [against] for some reason is pork and pork is excellent source of collagen. I only use the pork feet and so that is another very cloudy, white, rich broth. If you combine the pork and chicken you create an amazing flavor in one soup or broth that you want to drink. So for leaky gut, I would say, or any intestinal issues, chicken or pork.
For energy and strength and people with cancer or terminal illnesses, I recommend the bigger animals and that would be beef or bison. I’ve noticed for religious purposes, people use lamb not chicken. No seafood, no cows, but [they] would do lamb. It has an acquired taste because lamb can be gamey sometimes. Oh, another thing I want to mention is, to remove the after-taste of broth or the smell of it because it has a very distinct smell is [to use] lemon juice. Lemon juice and sea salt is amazing to neutralize odors, flavors and smells, and it [alkalizes] liquid. As you know, if you add lemon to hot water it is alkaline and has a lower PH; so it does the same with the broth.
dC: So I want to switch gears a little bit and talk about the Mayan Elixir. Tell me the story of the Mayan Elixir.
CV: It was created in Costa Rica last time I was there. I was basically just helping my friend with his coffee shop. It’s a funny story. There were so many tourists coming in. This was a yoga town that I lived in called Nosara. People kept coming in and I told them I wanted to see some reaction. I always love to see reaction when I serve food or do something related to food. I want to make something people feel really happy and connected with. Because everyone will come in and treat it as this really cute coffee shop, it was so rigid. I was behind the counter so I said, let me just do something.
I created a drink with all these elements, rose, vanilla, and cacao. Some of these elements, ingredients, are heart openers. That’s their function. When you see it, people just immediately react to it. So I created the first batch and gave samples away when the store was really crowded — he had the best coffee in town. It was just incredible how everyone responded to it. The response was just so positive. People were just talking and it was just impressive. He looked at me and I looked at him and I said, “I told you this was going to do it and it did it.”
I tested it in a festival. I made about thirty-five gallons one day. You hear about three thousand people, buying it and talking, it gave me more of an inspiration. I’m going to make it and sell it. That was just a test ground to do that. It really came alive when I was here already in California. I was at a house, I was invited to this party and somehow there was chocolate everywhere and this woman was talking about this drink, this one drink that she had. Actually that was the pivotal point for me to come up with this drink. She was talking about this drink and I was on the other side of the table listening and when she described this drink that she had one day, it was giving me the feelings of this drink that I knew. So I asked from across the table “where did you have this drink?” She said “Oh, it was in Cost Rica.” My heart was just pounding. I was like, “in Costa Rica where?” She named the town Nosara. I just closed my eyes and I was like, that’s it. It made it across another continent and that was more of a confirmation, too. To remember I can’t create something like that and just walk away from it — I need to do something about it. So that’s how it came out.
dC: That is a great story. So both of these products are beautiful and there’s so much love. How are they fitting in with your personal work or your spiritual journey?
CV: Broth, like I said, is something that I grew up with. It was the one dish that we had to have on Sundays. Not every Sunday, but it was a Sunday thing. So it’s part of religious path for me that I grew up with. When I came up with the idea, I called my mom and I said, “Hey Mom, I’m thinking about doing this,” and she laughed on the other side of the phone. She’s in El Salvador. She told me, “do you realize you grew up drinking bone broth? That’s what you had on Sundays.” Oh my God! So that’s bone broth.
I think of my grandmother when I think of Mayan Elixir. My grandmother is by far the biggest feminine influence in my life. She’s what they call in Spanish ‘La Brujita,’ the medicine woman. She is the one. When I think of the drink I think of the many things I observed growing up with her actual cooking. She was an alchemist making food. She was the one that made the broth at home. She was the one that influenced me to eat chocolate. I was fortunate enough to have farms of cocoa near my house and woman would pass by with raw cocoa and they would show me, “hey we’re going to have chocolate later.” So I grew up eating from the source, chocolate from the farms next to my house.
I’ve been influenced with these two things since I was a kid, since I was a little boy in El Salvador. I’ve been cooking since I was boy. I was fortunate enough for my mother to allow me to cook, to get my hands dirty in the kitchen. Not to mention both my parents are chefs and restaurant owners. I grew up in commercial kitchens, wearing cloth diapers walking from freezer to freezer, seeing my parents’ restaurants. So it’s in my blood. These two drinks are by far the essence of all of my many years of cooking put into the two of them. That’s what I always wanted to do was create something that’s going to stay behind and make people feel different and happy. I think I’m getting there. I’m getting there!
dC: Thank you so much.
You can buy chicken, beef, or bison bone broth by the quart from the dhyana Center freezer. And bring your favorite friend to the Apothecary Bar to enjoy Mayan Elixir.