Wandering around greater Toronto, Canada, in search of ethnic hole-in-the-wall restaurants and suburban strip mall eateries serving amazing and unusual food.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Is this quaint vegetarian restaurant in Riverdale part of a religious cult?

Loan Bhan-Le, an immigrant from Vietnam, tells me that she set up this Riverdale eatery after her guru, the Supreme Master, asked her disciples to start up restaurants. "She asked us to open them so people can try vegan food and see that it's not bad food."

The result is Green Earth Vegetarian Cuisine, a vegan restaurant located at 385 Broadview near Gerrard (see map, below). This may be one of the most unusual restaurants I've encountered to date in Toronto. However, it does succeed in its goal of showing that vegan food can be quite tasty.

Photos by Jennifer Hollett

The menu has pages and pages of veggie food options. There are elaborate salads and Asian-style soups, Indian curries, fried rice dishes and pasta. Many dishes have grilled soy protein or grilled tofu.

I ate some tasty spring rolls and surprisingly yummy "shrimp" made out of yam. The crispy lemongrass faux-chicken may be a delight to vegetarians, but if you're a carnivore, you might find it a bit lacking. Prices are reasonable, with appetizers running for $3 to $4, giant soups for $6.50 and entrees for $7 to $10.

It looks like any normal restaurant, except for a few telling details. A TV screen in the corner is tuned to Supreme Master Television, a network that broadcasts the activities of Loan's guru—a spiritual teacher based in Taiwan named Ching Hai—in multiple languages. Stats roll across the screen on the numerous diseases you can get from meat and commentators warn that meat production is causing global warming that is destroying the planet.

The Supreme Master appears on her TV channel.
Green Earth has the Supreme Master's books on display.
The Supreme Master is a bleach-blond woman originally from Vietnam. Her disciples meditate two-and-a-half hours a day using her Quan Yin method of meditation. The Supreme Master says she doesn't accept donations directly, but she does peddle pricy merchandise to her followers online. You can buy a hat for your dog with the Supreme Master logo for $24, or the "at-one-with-creation lamp" for $1,094.

What does Loan say to accusations that her organization is a cult? "We don't care," says Loan. "Just God knows and we know." Loan says she's a buddhist, and that people of any religion can follow the Supreme Master. "We call her a guru, but she says she is just a friend of people."

Green Earth, says Loan, isn't meant to promote the Supreme Master. "I hope my customers become vegan," she says. "I don't care about religion."

Green Earth waitress Shayna with the owner, Loan
Green Earth is just one part of Supreme Master's massive effort to vegangelize people through restaurants. She is behind the international chain Loving Hut, which just opened up two locations in Toronto.  The chain has 160 locations in more than a dozen countries.

For a good story explaining the phenomenon, check out this article in VegNews.

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Green Earth on Urbanspoon


TOFoodReviews said...

Enjoying vegan food is one thing, but meditating to a vegan lifestyle and buying pricey goods from the 'Supreme Master' to confirm your committment to veganism? Seems like a bit of a money grab to me...

Clara Jean said...


How did you rate the food? (I miss your scale system!)

Spice City Toronto said...

Hi Clara, a couple of people have said I should bring back my scale system, but the issue is that I'm moving the blog away from reviews and more into stories, oddities, etc.

But just for you, I'll say Green Earth gets "★ ★ ★ Tomorrow's lunch"

rdi said...

It's one of my go-to places since turning vegan about a year ago. Decent food at a decent price.

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