The Day I Discovered Joi

Last week, when my daughter and I were in Thousand Oaks looking for brunch. I remembered a friend had recommended a plant based café called Joi. A quick Google search later and we found ourselves standing at the counter deciding what to order.

After years of working in the food service industry in my youth, I find that people fall into two categories of diners. Ones that order independently and others that order based on what their dining partner feels like eating. My daughter and I fall into the latter group, discussing all the available options so we will have exactly the right tastes during our meal. As an eco-foodie I feel blessed to have a daughter who is my equal as a health nut and enjoys pondering a menu as extensively as I do. After much deliberation we decided on the Hula Kale Salad, the Shiva Bowl and Rad Thai.

We settled in with our food at the bar overlooking the patio, as I like to do, while sipping a lemon ginger soda, I took note of my surroundings.

It made me smile to see that the majority of tables and counter space both inside and out were full, more proof that the plant-based diet my daughter and I favor is spreading in popularity.

Just outside the window, I noticed a woman in a pretty summer shirt and jeans talking to a man in biking gear at one of the outside tables. Her hair was in a ponytail and she was having an animated conversation about something that was clearly important. As I studied their interaction, I surmised that the woman was probably the owner of the café. So as I am known to do and which sometimes makes my daughter cringe, after we finished our meal I caught her at the “to-go” counter, and asked her if this was her business.

Our conversation reminded me of the ones that I have had with dozens of other businesses over the years. Each of those owners shared a passion and commitment for delivering the highest quality eco-friendly product or service available to their local customer. Joi, who lives up to her name personally and professionally was no exception.

She and her husband Nic and their business partners, have gone to great lengths to make sure that every aspect of their business is eco-friendly including the floated bamboo floors and stone walls. Anyone could find something to satisfy themselves on the plant-based menu from the variety of drinks at the smoothie bar to the savory and sweet gluten-free bakery items. Joi’s passion was again true to her name, as she told me things were always evolving and she was always looking for ways to improve their business.

What I learned later after reading her website was, that like me, her passion for healthy food has deeply personal roots. She lost a mother to cancer, has a daughter suffering from gluten and food allergies and a son with ADD. She sees food as medicine and believes it can not only fight disease but in some cases reverse it.

I left Joi Cafe with a full tummy and a full heart. These are the sort of experiences in life that make every day just a little better. Life should be joyful and shared with like-minded people. People should love what they do. And people should take pride in offering a product that is to the best of their ability.

This may sound idealistic or preachy, but the honest truth is that everybody feels good when they try their hardest. I adore meeting people like Joi, whose passion for what they do gets them up at the crack of dawn, intent on making their business the best it can be – in this case both healthy and joyful.

My daughter will always have the #1 spot on my list of eco-heros, but I am adding Joi Stearns and her team to the list.

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