We recently welcomed Cafe Gratitude to our chef network Southern California. As a pioneer in the vegan movement, Cafe Gratitude has become a staple in the SoCal plant-based community. Since 2004, they’ve been serving incredibly delicious, impeccably sourced plant-based meals in their restaurants throughout California.
We recently chatted with Ryland Engelhart, the Mission Fulfillment Officer and co-owner of Cafe Gratitude, to learn more about plant-based eating and its powerful impact on the environment.
YOU’VE BEEN A LEADING FORCE IN THE CALIFORNIA VEGAN MOVEMENT SINCE 2004, WAY BEFORE PLANT-BASED WAS AT THE TOP OF TREND LISTS. CAN YOU TELL US A BIT ABOUT CAFE GRATITUDE’S ORIGINS AND BELIEFS?
My family understood the concept of Food as Medicine early on. Cafe Gratitude was built on this foundation, and we wanted to extend our experience with Food as Medicine to the community through healthy food and a service of love. We designed our menus, artwork, service style, and food to awaken people to a feeling of gratitude.
HOW DOES CAFE GRATITUDE SUPPORT LOCAL FARMERS AND SUSTAINABLE AND REGENERATIVE AGRICULTURE?
Over the years, we’ve spent a lot of time and energy to curate an ethical supply chain. Our baseline standard is sourcing from farmers who practice organic and sustainable methods. Beyond this, we always seek producers, winemakers, and farmers who are innovating towards regenerative agriculture.
For example, we created a wine program that focused on Biodynamics. We brought all our tortilla corn from one producer named David Vetter, who is a pioneering regenerative, organic farmer. We developed a pizza and beer special focused on a perennial wheat grain called Kernza and beer from Patagonia Provisions. We purposefully have 40+ vendors rather than two or three to assure we serve products from value-aligned sources and producers.
IT’S BECOMING INCREASINGLY APPARENT THAT EATING MORE PLANTS IS THE HEALTHIEST OPTION FOR OUR PLANET. HOW DO YOU BOTH EDUCATE AND ENCOURAGE MORE PEOPLE TO EAT PLANT-BASED?
We use the power of storytelling to educate our guests and audience through social media newsletters, press, and in-store announcements. We host special events and form aligned partnerships, including those with my non-profit, Kiss The Ground. One of our most recent initiatives was offering a 50% off a meatless Monday option, to make the barrier to adoption of plant-based lower, even if it’s just one day a week.
WHAT DO YOU THINK ARE THE BIGGEST MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT EATING PLANT-BASED?
The biggest misconception is if you only eat plant-based, you’ll be healthy. That’s not the truth in the slightest. There are many “plant-based” foods that are processed and filled with chemicals, additives, and toxins, and do not have the nutritional content to sustain a healthy lifestyle. That being said, eating a diverse selection of whole foods, nuts, grains, beans, vegetables, you can live a very healthy lifestyle. But just replacing your Big Mac with an Impossible Big Mac won’t make you healthy.
WHAT PLANT-BASED INGREDIENTS DO YOU THINK ARE UNDERRATED AND SHOULD APPEAR ON OUR PLATES MORE?
Chickpeas, Chestnuts, Breadfruit, Millet, Buckwheat.
YOU AND YOUR TEAM ARE SO INNOVATIVE WITH YOUR MEALS AND INGREDIENTS. IS THERE A CAFE GRATITUDE MEAL MOST PEOPLE ARE SURPRISED IS VEGAN?
I’d say our burger and fries dish is pretty spot-on, and our jackfruit enchiladas are also surprisingly vegan. But, maybe the most surprising is the coconut calamari. If it were served in a regular seafood restaurant, I don’t think anyone would know it wasn’t squid.
WHY DID YOU WANT TO PARTNER WITH TERRITORY?
It really allows us to go beyond the fringes of the health and wellness audience and show up in a more conventional business environment to provide good, affordable, delicious organic meals, making new beginnings and inspiring adoption toward a healthier life.
FOR ALL OF OUR NON-CALIFORNIA FRIENDS, ANY PLANS TO EXPAND EAST? OR ANY RECOMMENDATIONS FOR VEGAN MEALS IN PLACES OUTSIDE YOUR REACH?
There are plans to expand east and north in 2020 and beyond. Nothing definitive, but there are plans. I appreciate the vegan offerings that True Food Kitchen provides, and also Hu Kitchen – they’re based in New York.