Daniel's Corner - The TOP 3 things I learned working at Café Gratitude
“We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.” -John F. Kennedy
Most people don’t know this about me but in 2006 I was on my way to becoming a cop. My goal was to work for the Berkeley Police Department (BPD). Starting salary was around $85k a year, with a low crime rate and full benefits, it seemed like a good career move at the time. In the midst of applying for police academy- Taking physical agility tests, running through obstacle courses, psychological exams & interviews, testing how fast I could pull a gun trigger and dragging around 100+ lb sand bag dummies, I also applied for a job at Café Gratitude.
It was a warm late summer day when I walked into Café Gratitude Berkeley. My resume was printed in crisp linen paper, I had a freshly ironed blue collar shirt and a clean cut police style haircut. I handed my resume to the manager- She looked at me quizzically and said, “You do know this is a raw vegan restaurant right?” I smiled to myself, the truth is I knew exactly what kind of food Café Gratitude served, but in retrospect I had no idea what I was getting myself into or how it would change my life.
"At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us." -Albert Schweitzer
After a few follow up phone calls and an interview with the same manager I got hired to work in the bakery. This was a turning point and changed the trajectory of my life forever…
Since I was a kid I loved making great tasting food with the best, healthy ingredients- Merging deliciousness and health into mouthwatering morsels. Since I was young my dream was to open up a restaurant. Though, I had forgotten my dream and it was at Café Gratitude that I got reminded. I would arrive at 7am and start hand pressing pie crusts made from nuts & dates with a pinch of pink Himalayan salt, prep tiramisu made from fresh pressed almond flour that I would later soak in cold pressed espresso. I’d make key lime pies from whipped avocado, fresh lime juice and agave. I loved it!!
The #1 thing I learned from Café Gratitude is that: You can use the absolute best quality ingredients on the planet, never sacrifice quality and still have a sustainable business.
One thing that really sticks out in my mind is using real vanilla beans in all the desserts & drinks. Vanilla is the stamen of the Vanilla Orchid V. planifolia and the pods can take up to a year to cure, which is why vanilla is so expensive. At the store, if you can find it, a few beans cost around $10. Using this small ingredient impressed me greatly, it would have been much cheaper to just buy an organic alcohol extract, but using them was a sign to me that flavor and the absolute best quality trumps price. To this day at Coracao we have kept the tradition alive and annually hand scrape thousands of freshly cured vanilla beans into almost everything we create.
The #2 thing I learned at Café Gratitude is the power of being present.
Here is a quote I love from Matthew & Terce’s book Sacred Commerce:
“One night before closing, after a long day at work I realized that we were always trying to get home if we were at the café, or get to the café if we were home. It was crazy-making. When I could just be “this is where we are now,” my experience was completely different: when we are home we are home, when we are at the café we are at the café. My entire body relaxed.”
Another way that Cafe Gratitude accomplished this is by something called “clearing”. At the beginning of every shift each employee would sit down with a manager for a clearing. This entailed being asked two questions. The first question focuses on the wound and the 2nd on the opportunity, for example:
“What is your biggest disappointment?” and “If money were no consideration what would your life be for?”
The questions changed every day and as Matthew and Terces describe it: “Clearing is a basic technique for distinguishing how the past is impacting the present and then presenting an opportunity to create something new and shift one's attention to something more empowering.”
Sharing myself so honestly was uncomfortable, it was an act of walking my edge. It allowed me to let go of a lot of past hurts that were holding me back. Speaking the stories of challenges & disappointments out loud and then linking them to empowering questions & ideas, enabled me release the negative charge. This led me to appreciate the lessons they taught and to consistently experience the magic of being in the present moment- Where we have the freedom to choose how we want to live our lives and where we want to focus our attention.
“One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon – instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today.” -Dale Carnegie
The 3rd thing I learned is that a business can be a tool for bringing community together.
My favorite thing about working at Café Gratitude was the community of AMAZING people. It brought together the most conscious, fun, expressive, loving, open and talented people I had ever met under one roof. My wonderful girlfriend, some of my best friends, my creative genius business partner, my phenomenal office assistant, Coracao’s two powerhouse kitchen managers, our die-hard dedicated sales rep, my massage therapist, my favorite musician. What do we all have in common? We all used to work at Café Gratitude. All of us and many more have been brought together by the community that Café Gratitude created, and to this day our love, friendship and sense of community remains strong.
The expression of my childhood dream turned out to be a chocolate factory and not a restaurant, but it still expresses my love of merging healthy ingredients & deliciousness. Café Gratitude changed the course of my life, without it Coracao Confections would never have been born and you’d have had a cop on the streets who had given up on his dream. For that I am grateful.
“Stay hungry, stay Foolish.” -Steve Jobs
Until next time & with love,Daniel