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Loving Hut
May 13, 2010 8:56 PM   Subscribe

"You know there's a perfectly good brisket back at the house we could be eating instead, Jo Ann?" One of what I can only imagine is the very small number of people to appear on both Wikipedia's list of "self-described messiahs" and its list of "restaurateurs," Supreme Master Ching Hai is known for the Quan Yin Method as well as the Loving Hut chain of vegan restaurants.
Apparently the latter serve some pretty tasty cuisine.
Previously on Metafilter.
posted by Neofelis (33 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Man, there's a Loving Hut a few miles away. I'm sure the food is delicious, but I don't want to give any money to a company owned by someone who insists that they capitalize referential pronouns. Thanks for the warning!
posted by Burhanistan at 9:26 PM on May 13, 2010


Yeah, we have one within a mile, and the pho was actually pretty good, but I won't be eating there again. It's creepy. The TVs play their cult channel with like 15 languages subtitled... Really.
posted by Huck500 at 9:30 PM on May 13, 2010


I've been to her place in San Jose. The atmosphere is creepy as hell and the food is not as good as the vegetarian Chinese food available elsewhere. I rank this place a four out of five creeped outs, surpassed only by Sri Chinmoy's chain of vegetarian restaurants, also staffed by dead-eyed cultists.
posted by 1adam12 at 9:33 PM on May 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I saw one of these in Chicago and one in Toronto, in neighbourhoods that did not strike me as vegan friendly, and they sort of screamed "ran by a cult" and was wondering, but too lazy to do the research, so thanks.
posted by PinkMoose at 9:35 PM on May 13, 2010


"Everything we sell here," the Loving Hut cashier explained to me as she gestured to a refrigerator/freezer combo next to the cash register, "is made in our factory in Taiwan, just for us. That way, we can ensure that it's 100 percent vegan and 100 percent safe."

So, you get a pretty deep carbon footprint by eating your supremely enlightened veggie fare.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:37 PM on May 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Her idea of sexual misconduct is probably depressingly predictable. No "alcohol, drugs, tobacco, gambling, pornography, and excessively violent films or literature" either.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 9:47 PM on May 13, 2010


Wow, this looks really delicious, and I love watching goofy cult TV. I hope the one in Massachusetts opens soon!
posted by shii at 9:50 PM on May 13, 2010


Here's Wikipedia's list of "self-described Messiahs", but I can't seem to find the list of restaurateurs.
posted by contraption at 9:58 PM on May 13, 2010


The Five Precepts:
1. Refrain from taking the life of sentient beings. This precept requires strict adherence to a vegan diet. No meat, fish, poultry or eggs (fertilized or nonfertilized).
2. Refrain from speaking what is not true.
3. Refrain from taking what is not yours.
4. Refrain from sexual misconduct.
5. Refrain from using intoxicants. This includes avoiding all poisons of any kind, such as alcohol, drugs, tobacco, gambling, pornography, and excessively violent films or literature.


In some dialects I believe this is also known as "No Fun".
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:58 PM on May 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


The Vegetarian House is the restaurant in San Jose that they own. It was their first restaurant in the US.

Been there many times. (More info from Yelp, including their menu.) They had a mushroom dish I loved, and I also love their green papaya salad.

It is a bit of a Vietnamese-centric cult, with freaky decor, but the thing is, they and their followers have positively affected the quality of vegetarian cuisine in my region... especially for Asian food... so I don't care really. I love my vegetarian spring rolls and pho, which have become relatively commonplace and probably wouldn't exist around here without lots this group.

I do find videos of their spiritual leader hard to watch, but that's mostly because she has partial paralysis in her face. ;-)
posted by markkraft at 10:05 PM on May 13, 2010


contraption:
Here's Wikipedia's list of "self-described Messiahs", but I can't seem to find the list of restaurateurs.
Restaurateurs is a wiki Category, not a List. Ching Hai appears on the List of Buddha claimants and the Category of Self-declared messiahs, but not the List of messiah claimants.
posted by knile at 10:46 PM on May 13, 2010


SJ vegetarian house has the only vegan 'eel' I've ever had, and their thousand layer tofu is divine. But I keep expecting to be drugged and brainwashed when I eat there.
posted by BrotherCaine at 10:55 PM on May 13, 2010


I learned about this "Supreme Master" lady a little while back when I was intrigued by these giant stickers some of the (SE Asian) ladies who work at the nail salon near my store had on the back windows of their cars, with religious-cult looking slogans on them and the URL suprememaster.tv. It certainly seems like a cult, but it doesn't seem to be that abusive beyond ripping people off (people pay for the "Supreme Master"'s bathwater, for instance). There's also a vegan restaurant here in Austin that I always sort of assumed to be connected to some weird Eastern religious cult, but it's not called "Loving Hut" and their only TX location is Houston.
posted by DecemberBoy at 10:57 PM on May 13, 2010


Okay, but you all forgot the other thing about Ching Hai: Popping onto Amazon and seeing some book you never heard of as the number 1 bestseller, and then seeing that all the reviews are eerily positive regarding said book's mindblowingness, and then finally seeing the book in person and being repulsed and confused at the awful photoshoppery and pastel mists that cover every page. Oh, cult leaders do the wackiest things.
posted by redsparkler at 12:14 AM on May 14, 2010


They do have some pretty tasty dishes—I've eaten at the one in Ladera Ranch, CA, that just opened last year. Their lavar dishes are great—I've never eaten vegetarian "fish" before, but the texture and taste is pretty much spot on. (I later Googled lavar and realized that it really refers to the seaweed wrapping that serves as the "fish"'s skin—but I think it's the seaweed that makes it taste like fish.)

That Supreme Master TV is way trippy—the times that I've been there, though, it seems to be filled with earnest newscaster-types preaching the benefits of being vegetarian/vegan and warning of global warming. (I love the 15-language subtitles, BTW!) I didn't see too much of Her Supreme Blondeness, as the blogger who reviewed the Irvine Loving Hut called the Supreme Master (that link is now broken, alas). Seems to me that if she really were a spiritually advanced being, she'd have her followers focus more on her message, and less on herself. Meditation? Great! Cult of personality? Not so much. Rafer Guzmán's 1996 exposé about Ching Hai is worth a read.

I did read somewhere last year that many of the workers at Loving Hut are "volunteers," and aren't paid. As to whether they're volunteering generously of their own free will...? After reading Guzmán's story, I'm thinking they aren't.

But I sure do love their limeade with rosewater, and their lavar with lemongrass! Hmm... great food, weird cult, hypnotic multi-subtitled TV channel. Quelle combination !

Oh, and one thing that bugs me: What's with the Supreme insistence on using old-fashioned names for Vietnam and Taiwan? In all the Loving Hut/Supreme Master writings (and menus, even), Vietnam gets rendered as Au Lac (so when her hagiography talks about her speaking Vietnamese they say she speaks the Au Lac language, I guess because speaking Aulaquese would be even more mystifying!), and Taiwan is always Formosa. Sei que a ilha de Taiwan é formosa, but that custom of using the old Portuguese name for the island has been dead in English for over 50 or 60 years, right? Âu Lạc was a legendary Vietnamese kingdom, dating from 257 or 258 BCE; was that kingdom part of some mythical golden age that she's trying to hearken back to? It's never explained.

Whatever it is, that weird revisionist renaming always gets to me.
posted by kentk at 12:44 AM on May 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


As to whether they're volunteering generously of their own free will...?

Isn't that always pretty much the problematic point when dealing with devotees of a given movement? If someone is convinced devoting their current life to a movement will get them an eternity of bliss, is it brainwashing or a conscious decision when they surrender some of the freedoms of their current life?

Relatedly, perhaps: the ladies in my parents' church who slaved in hot kitchens for endless church fundraisers, while ministers and husbands glad-handed it with the public; or even all the oppressed housewives who think God / Allah / revered ancestor / Guru wants them to wait on their jackass husbands 24/7 and raise their bratty spawn single-handedly. Are they exercising free will?

(Wait - is this a soapbox I am standing on? Sorry.)
posted by aught at 6:30 AM on May 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


DecemberBoy, the placeyou're talking about is run by Falun Gong.
posted by liketitanic at 6:53 AM on May 14, 2010


I'm sure the food is delicious, but I don't want to give any money to a company owned by someone who insists that they capitalize referential pronouns.

Unfortunately that includes most sushi.
posted by electroboy at 7:02 AM on May 14, 2010


Unfortunately that includes most sushi.

NOOO!! We need a Moonie-Free Fish certification for sushi joints.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:35 AM on May 14, 2010


My bad about Wikipedia Category vs. List.

I am very curious about fifteen-language subtitles. That might not get me to drive that far down Westheimer but it is intriguing. (The banana bread might lure me.)
posted by Neofelis at 7:39 AM on May 14, 2010


I just don't know how you get to be a restaurant critic without learning enough about food to know that French bread already doesn't have any egg in it (at least not as a "binder", you might brush some egg white on the crust if you're so inclined).
posted by padraigin at 8:42 AM on May 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


I ate in a place in Houston, TX that wasn't called "Loving Hut," but was clearly affiliated with Supreme Master - at least, they had a wide-screen TV tuned to that channel. It was kind of strange, but not really that creepy. The wait staff had dead eyes, sure, but what lunch joint in suburbia doesn't have wait staff with dead eyes?
posted by me & my monkey at 9:10 AM on May 14, 2010


I like Loving Hut. They have some great stuff.

I think the Supreme Master is also associated with Golden Era in San Francisco, and Golden Lotus in Oakland.

Golden Era is probably my favorite vegan restaurant after Millennium. (I'm going to Souley Vegan for the first time this week!)

Golden Era runs the Supreme Master TV constantly. The translated captions take up 70% of the screen space. ^_^

I have no problem giving them my money, though I'm open to arguments why I shouldn't.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:18 PM on May 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have no problem giving them my money, though I'm open to arguments why I shouldn't.

The Hare Krishnas will give you a vegetarian meal for free.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:38 PM on May 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


I love Golden Lotus, and they aren't heavy handed with the cultishness. About the only things tipping you off to the Supreme Grand Magic Lady are some pamphlets in the front. If you're in the Bay Area and like the food but not the creep factor I highly recommend Central Vegetarian in Alameda.
posted by ryaninoakland at 12:53 PM on May 14, 2010


The Hare Krishnas will give you a vegetarian meal for free.

Do you mean these folks? A free vegan meal with nothing else required/included? Hell, I'll try it. Where do I go?

(Is there something wrong with Hare Krishnas too? I remember some brainwashing claims, but I thought it was a fairly respectable org?)
posted by mrgrimm at 12:53 PM on May 14, 2010


Nah, I was just saying that it won't cost you any cash.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:12 PM on May 14, 2010


But, yeah. Call the temple in your city. They usually have the big free meals on Sundays.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:12 PM on May 14, 2010


The Hare Krishnas will give you a vegetarian meal for free.

I went to one of the free Hare Krishna Sunday dinner locations in Toronto for a few months, many years ago. Nice people. Amazing food. But we were expected to sit through a sort of service afterward, where they talked about their beliefs and coached us in their version of meditation. I thought about merely showing up for the food and then leaving straight after, but never did. It would have felt rude. Anyway, I found their beliefs generally non-offensive until I went to a weekend "yoga retreat" where they were hosting some Big Cheese from the US. It was more lecturing than yoga, though. In one lecture, the Big Cheese announced that "the master is always right, and even when he's wrong, he's right." Yikes. I didn't go back to those dinners after that. Nobody ever hassled me about it.

I sometimes think about a woman I met there. I told her I had ginormous objections to the "master is always right" tenet. She told me she had "doubts" about it herself, but that these people gave her caring and stability. She'd never gotten anything resembling caring or stability from her birth family. She would stick with these Hare Krishnas. I still wonder where she is. I hope she's well.

So from my limited experience, no brainwashing. At the retreat, they let loose with stuff I found weird that I suspect they never would have at the post-dinner meditation/service. But I reminded myself that objectively, it wasn't any weirder than a lot of Christian rituals. Just completely unfamiliar.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 4:01 PM on May 14, 2010


Nice people. Amazing food. But we were expected to sit through a sort of service afterward, where they talked about their beliefs and coached us in their version of meditation.

There's a pretty big Hare Krishna temple in my city, and they have a big cafeteria style free meal on Sundays after their chanting service. There's no expectation of any kind of lecture afterward, nor would it really be logistically possible because there are all sorts of regular ethnic Hindus there as well (big crowd). I think they have stuff on the weeknights where it gets more up close and personal, but I never went to those.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:33 PM on May 14, 2010


(Is there something wrong with Hare Krishnas too? I remember some brainwashing claims, but I thought it was a fairly respectable org?)

Ahem.

As is not uncommon with many organized belief systems, the Hare Krishna movement was founded on ambition, jealousy, sexual exploitation, emotional and mental abuse, and murder.

Show me an irrational belief construct, and I'll show you selfish leaders exploiting the gullible for their own benefit.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 5:25 PM on May 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Five Precepts:

Other than the strict interpretations of the first and fifth precept, those are just the plain old Buddhist precepts, nothing Supreme-Master-specific.
posted by mendel at 8:32 AM on May 16, 2010


True story: the only place I have ever seen one of these places was down the street from my parents in San Jose. The place had such a weird, almost cultish vibe. I refused to go back (still haven't) even though I am a vegetarian and fond of faux meat dishes.

In late July of 2008, I was in the Republic of Georgia on a Peace Corps stint. I was visiting the family that was going to be my host family for six months to two years. It was awkward. Communication was a huge hurdle. I was feeling ill and freaked out. Explaining that I wasn't very hungry just wasn't working. I would excuse myself to my room frequently and just read over materials meant to help me with cultural adjustments and just feel totally overwhelmed.

The house was far nicer than any other I had seen in the country so far. There was a library filled with Russian and Georgian books, indoor plumbing and satellite television in the living room. I used the TV as an excuse to numb myself and convince myself I was interacting with the host family. Everything being shown was dubbed into Russian, so I really wasn't understanding anything going on.

Then, randomly I found one English-laguage station. It was Supreme Master Ching Hai's station, with the fifteen-language subtitles at the bottom of the screen. I was beyond shocked. This place that I associated with my parents half a world away from me, was the ONLY english broadcast reaching this corner of the world. I didn't understand how they had the money to reach this population, or WHY they would choose to do so.

And so I sat. And I watched. For hours and hours. I saw news about how the Supreme Master Ching Hai had sent copies of her book about dogs and bottled water to Japanese Earthquake victims. I saw them thank the city of Minneapolis for dimming their building lights at night, so as not to disturb the migratory pattern of birds. I saw fact after fact about how a vegan lifestyle is best for the earth. I sat there with equal amounts confusion (by the agenda and means for communicating the message) and comfort for home. It was one of the oddest experiences I have ever had.
posted by piratebowling at 6:09 PM on May 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


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