Interview with Joel Kahn, MD, owner of GreenSpace Café in Ferndale, Michigan for VEGWORLD Magazine
The idea that food is medicine may be over 2,000 years old, but seeing it in practice is rare. That is why we are featuring Joel Kahn, MD, a renowned cardiologist who has turned from treating heart attacks with stents to preventing them with sprouts. Dr. Kahn lectures to medical students at two medical schools in suburban Detroit where he serves as Professor, spreading the word that heart disease is preventable and reversible using plant diets. His passion has led him to write five books, produce a national public TV special, appear on national TV, and open a world class vegan café and bar in suburban Detroit, GreenSpace Café. In his free time, Dr. Kahn writes many articles on plant nutrition and health and lectures widely at hospitals and vegan festivals. After writing for Reader's Digest Magazine, the Huffington Post, MindbodyGreen, One Green Planet, Thrive Global and other outlets, he has become affectionately known as“America's Healthy Heart Doc.” Be sure to learn more about Dr. Kahn at www.drjoelkahn.com, follow him on Twitter at @drjkahn, and enjoy his weekly health tips at his website.
VW: Hi Dr. Kahn. I am pretty sure you will be the only cardiologist we talk to about favorite vegan eateries! Tell us where you are located and when you opened.
JK: Thank you. It is nearly 2 years since we opened the doors at GreenSpace Café (www.greenspacecafe.com) in Ferndale, Michigan, a very hip suburb next to Detroit. It was a project of love with my oldest son Daniel and my wife Karen. It has been quite a ride, and we are still open!
VW: What made an internationally known, preventive cardiologist add 50 hours a week to your life in the world’s hardest business?
JK: You are right about that; it is hard, but it is awesome. I am completing my 40th year eating plant-based exclusively (thank you University of Michigan dormitory cafeteria where I made that decision for survival the first day) and also my wife’s 40th year (we were in university together). Having taught cardiac patients the power of WFPB vegan diets for my entire career, I am a foodie. I had a favorite restaurant in Southfield, MI (Bacco Ristorante) that had a fantastic vegan menu every day, and I just fell in love with the chaos and ambience. Despite being warned by the chef/owner not to do it, Daniel and I started searching for a spot to launch a premier vegan experience in the Detroit area.
VW: What is GreenSpace Café like?
JK: It briefly was going to be a 45-seat restaurant with a 4-seat bar, but when the space next door became available, we went “hog” wild and took both spaces to launch a restaurant now seating over 130 with front and back patios and a 20-seat bar. Some days we serve over 600 people gourmet, 100% vegan choices -- many locally sourced and organic -- in an ambience that could be LA, Berlin, or NYC. It has been quite a hit. And nothing is fried. We care about your health.
VW: Do you only cater to vegans?
JK: One of the best things is watching non-vegans come in and try our food. Often it is a mate or spouse literally dragging them in after one of them has tried our spot. We have so many people tell us it is the first time they have tried “vegan”food, and they loved it!
VW: What are you most proud of?
JK: Working with my family to create a family business that cares has been so meaningful. John Mackey of Whole Foods Markets, who ate here recently and loved it, calls it conscious capitalism. But I also take our volume of business in a week and calculate how many animals we’ve spared, how many gallons of water we’ve saved by not serving meat, how many acres of rainforest we’ve avoided being destroyed, and post that on social media. It is amazing and powerful.
VW: What are some of your favorite dishes?
I love our grilled cauliflower steak. It is large, visually appealing, and delicious. And it is a cruciferous vegetable, so it is super healthy. I also love our brunch with organic blue masa pancakes and a burrito with jackfruit. And from the first day, we have had a Superfood Salad with an “Esselstyn” dressing that is my favorite. In fact, we have an extensive oil-free, plant-perfect menu as an option.
VW: Any exciting news for 2017?
JK: Yes! We have the most awesome food truck, the GreenSpace Café Jungle Truck, all wrapped in a beautiful garden scene and a gorilla with a peace sign. The food is street friendly and delicious, so now we are in all 3 counties of the Metro Detroit region, bringing healthy plant-based nutrition to the masses. I have my chauffer’s license, so it is my health ambulance when you want great food 911!
VW: Thanks so much, Dr. Kahn. Wishing you good luck and fast growth!