I first discovered Cafe Gratitude after a good friend and renowned reconstructive breast surgeon Dr. Heather Richardson, invited me to join her for lunch. Heather had just moved to Los Angeles, and we were grabbing a quick bite near her new office in Larchmont to talk about the project that we were working on for WaterKeeper Alliance.
As we sat down and were studying the delicious vegetarian menu prepared with only the best of local and organic ingredients the server who came to take our order asked us the question of the day, "What are you grateful for?"
At that moment I felt a familiar stir in my chest, and my eyes began to water. Heather, who had lost her husband to a tragic accident the year before, assumed that was the reason. Without a pause, she reached her hand across the table and said that she was grateful to be with me. I affirmed my gratitude to be with her as well, relishing this moment of our shared friendship and her new start in Los Angeles. After a delicious lunch of Fortified; a sautéed vegetable bowl and a plate of Transformed; two corn tacos with seasoned pinto beans, juice, and herbal teas, I decided to stay a while longer as the question the server had asked us had inspired me to meet the co-owner, Ryland Engelhart who I heard was in the restaurant that day.
As I waited, I remembered the words of one of my beloved authors, Tosha Silver who says in her book, Outrageous Openness, pauses or delays in life are a very good time to listen to what's going on inside of our heads and our hearts.
That's what I did as I sat chewing over the words I would later say to Ryland, how I would share with him how I suffered as a bulimic-anorexic earlier in my life and how the simple question of being asked 'what I was grateful for' in this wonderful cafe, made me realize it was time to start being truthful about it. I would thank him for the good tasting and clean food he offered on his menus, for his support of local farmers and environmentally friendly products, and for offering all of us the chance to express our gratitude and honor the things we take for granted in our daily lives. Having that time alone allowed my thoughts to wander from being simply grateful for eating to a deeper gratitude for life itself. I found myself growing more and more at peace with the truths in my life.
When Ryland bounced over to my table with his big smile his title of Chief Inspiration Officer seemed very fitting for his personality. He sat down, looked me in the eye and gave me his full attention as he opened his heart to listen. I told him my story and how I wanted to help him open more restaurants so there could be more plant-based places to eat and help spread this message of "being generous and grateful every day." Since that meeting, Cafe Gratitude is my favorite place to eat. Not only has Ryland and his wife Sarah become my good friends, but this journey led me to Be Love Farms and to meeting his stepmother and father, Terces and Matthew.
It turned out I did not help expand the restaurant business, but I did help spread the word about the importance of soil restoration by joining the board of Kiss the Ground, the non-profit he co-founded with Finian Makepeace. Kiss the Ground has a mission "to inspire and advocate for the restoration of soil worldwide." This grass roots effort is based on building healthy soil which can sequester carbon from the atmosphere, promote clean water, healthier food, drought resistance and restored habitats.
I've since learned that Cafe Gratitude practices business through what they call "Sacred Commerce" where they provide "inspired service, honest and transparent communication, and express gratitude for the richness of our lives." That and the fact they serve delicious food is why I can't go to or through LA without a stop at one of their five locations. Sometimes I even go twice a day and carry out to save for the next day's lunch or dinner.
Living with a green heart for me also means living with an open and grateful heart. A simple question that asked me to think about what I was grateful for that day at Cafe Gratitude led me down new paths and gave me new friendships. It's also a good reminder that while Thanksgiving is an "official" time to pause and be thankful for the blessings we have, Cafe Gratitude reminds me that it is good practice to do that every day. Wishing you, your family and friends a Thanksgiving full of love and gratitude.