Robby Graham thought he was very healthy.
He believed he had found God and gotten his life back on track after an opioid addiction that left him homeless. And he figured he worked off any ill effects from his diet at the gym, although he was in his 50s and had a genetic predisposition for heart disease.
So when he experienced chest pains, he thought it was nothing serious. Until he had a heart attack at the gym.
“You can look good on the outside and, on the inside, you’re dying,” he says.
Robby wound up with a stent in his left coronary artery. But he also learned to embrace a plant-based lifestyle he now gladly shares with patrons of Revelations Cafe
, the restaurant he runs with his wife Mia at 17808 N. Dale Mabry Highway in Northgate Square in Lutz just north of Tampa.
“I eat whatever I want plant-based and I don’t seem to gain weight,” he says, adding that his diet is now more balanced. “On occasion, I may have an Oreo.”
A former bodybuilder who ate standard American fare, Robby had been on board to help Mia open the restaurant they believe was inspired by God. All the while he was still eating chicken, burgers, fish, steak, eggs, cheese, and dairy.
The heart attack, he says, changed his perspective. Now he touts a plant-based diet from personal experience.
“I feel 10 years younger,” he explains. “ I just can’t [go back]. The way I feel is too good to want to compromise that.”
The back pain that led to his addiction is “for the most part healed,” he says. Now when he has pain he just deals with it or, rarely, takes an Advil.
“I’ve been clean and sober for eight years. I’m completely off [opiates],” he says.
Robby, who once lived at the Salvation Army for nine months, met Mia at an AA meeting in 2013. Mia, who was celebrating a year of sobriety, noticed he was wearing the same type bracelet she wore. It read “Better Together.”
Through a chain of coincidences they credit to God, the Grahams opened the restaurant in February 2019, fine-tuned a plant-based menu during a brief COVID-19 shutdown, and added a frozen entree line. They’ve become the focus of a plant-based eating/educating group called a pod and the new documentary set to premiere Thursday, July 8, at Grace Family Church in Lutz.
The original vision Mia had for the restaurant has grown to encompass her ex-husband Martin Revello, President and CEO of VeriMED
, and John Corry, a friend of Robby’s from Seminole High School in Pinellas County.
Revello, a Tampa resident and partner in the restaurant, has begun offering a plant-based diet through VeriMED, an association of primary care physicians operating in the Tampa Bay region.
"We service Medicare/geriatric patients that have many and multiple chronic conditions. Many of these patients are candidates for attempting a plant-based diet, and we’ve started with a few patients as of earlier this year,” he says.
The film came about after Robby and John became reacquainted through Facebook at the time the couple was planning the restaurant. Corry already had produced other movies in the plant-based genre, most notably Forks Over Knives, which promotes the idea that modern disease can be prevented and potentially reversed with a whole-food, plant-based diet.
“We were hired [for Forks Over Knives] because we were good storytellers. You couldn’t come out of that 12-month production,” he recalls, “without a profound respect for the power of nutrition, when properly applied.”
The thought-provoking Revelations Cafe, Food for the Soul, tells the stories of Robby, Mia, Martin and Lori Martin, the cafe’s chef, and others whose lives have been impacted by the plant-based diet. It features cameos by T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D., co-author of The China Study and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, author of Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease.
Through their stories, the documentary demonstrates how the plant-based diet has helped people improve their health, reduce their weight and/or cholesterol, boost energy levels and live more active lives.
In a broader sense, it shows many may be choosing the least-expensive processed foods that can carry a hidden price tag: diminished immune systems, greater dependence upon pills, and higher health care costs.
“Our film doesn’t proselytize. You get to meet Robby and Mia and you see where they’re at. In the meantime we’ve stumbled into a couple of issues that are rather profound,” says Corry, founder and executive producer of the Seminole-based Nine Times Entertainment
The 95-minute movie premieres at Grace Family Church in Lutz on Thursday, July 8, at 7 p.m. The church is at 5101 Van Dyke Road. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Guests can signup for the free premiere
It is Robby and Mia’s goal to encourage the faith community toward a more healthful eating style to take better care of their bodies, and to give non-Christian vegans a better understanding of Christian love.
“My burning passion is more on the spiritual side of things than the food sides of things,” explains Mia.
“It’s just a story about love. That’s really where all this goes,” Robby says.
The restaurant, developed according to Mia’s vision, is a place that fosters friendship and prayer by things like a cup holder for cell phones, a prayer room and prayer wall, and soothing music Robby describes as “feel good” and “intimate.”
The menu features signature dishes like the customizable Eden Acai Bowl, which can include banana, granola, raw honey, chia, pecan butter and berries, and the Carpenter’s Plate, which includes a pancake, two eggs, and sweet potato fries.
While meat and alcohol are off the menu, visitors can order a Plant Craver-Chocolate Chip Cookie, Norma Jean’s Cinnamon Roll, or Berry, Berry Good smoothie.
Robby describes the cafe as “fast casual on steroids.”