Interview with Edible Magazine
How a diet change improved my health and inspired me to open House of Leaf and Bean
When Wen Raiti moved to the U.S., she adopted a typical American diet. Shortly after, she also began having serious health problems. In addition to gaining weight, Raiti experienced chronic discomfort in her stomach and for a full year, she went to doctor after doctor looking for a diagnosis. Repeatedly told that nothing was wrong, Wen took matters into her own hands and began to read and research extensively. She developed a keen understanding of the role food can play when it comes to health and also switched to eating organic. With the market for organic food only starting to gain momentum, however, she found buying organic (especially meats) was not only difficult but also extremely costly. As an alternative, she began to supplement her diet with beans and tofu (which she now makes from scratch), using organic soy as a more accessible option for getting the protein she needed. We sat down with Raiti to hear more about how her quest to improve her own health inspired her to open House of Leaf and Bean.
Tell us where the idea for an all-natural organic café came from?
I had a shift in my diet and also a shift in my lifestyle. After a couple of years I realizedI felt better, and others were saying I looked better. The three things that I had been doing consistently were: eating clean and organic food, exercising regularly and meditating. The intent of The House of Leaf & Bean is to promote this type of lifestyle and it offers two out of three of these things.
So you kind of went through this long journey, on a daily basis, how do you hope to affect people that come in?
I created this open house for the community, to let the community know that there are alternative options out there. When you drive down the beach what do you see? All those fast-food places, junk food places. We still have options here, healthier options. I’m not asking the community to eat like me every day, every meal, but let's start somewhere! One meal a day, one healthy meal a day and we can change the world.
I created this platform so the community can come here as a gathering place to work, to study and to make friends. We also have the healthy drinks and food that they can choose to have. We created this meditation room for the purpose of relieving stress, to relax, be in the moment and be present. We cannot have an exercise venue for people but we offer two elements of the lifestyle I mentioned that will help your health condition with regular exercise, healthy diet and regular de-stress. So you can go to [the nearby] Planet Fitness and exercise, then come here and relax.
What do you hope for the future of The House of Leaf & Bean?
I just want people to come in and enjoy the space and experience it and feel at home. This is what I want to see and I want to have a House of Leaf N Bean at every corner of our community. So we can make healthy food more affordable.
Were you motivated by your own health journey to make the leap from accountant to owning a cafe?
Yes, it’s a passion. In the two year process a lot of people, especially those close to me, gave me a lot of warnings, like "this is tough: and I heard it but I filtered it out because the passion inside me is so strong. Then when I opened the cafe I realized why everyone had warned me, it became very real. I have this giant baby and I feel like a new mother to a baby that I have no experience with and I’m learning every day by doing.
I already determined that I need to finish this journey to help the people that are suffering. We are getting sicker and sicker because of the food we eat and consume every day. We are what we eat; the food that we put into our bodies is impacting our lives and our health.
Do you find being the owner of The House of Leaf & Bean is much more fulfilling than your job as an accountant?
Yes, of course. This was my choice. I feel as though I’ve finished my duty and I am more free and I can do something that’s greater than myself. I’m doing this 24/7. I have a higher purpose and am more inspired because I can see the future that I am taking people to if I succeed. If I fail, at least I tried. That’s how I feel every day. Of course, sometimes I feel lonely because it is a lonely journey. We are all human, right? Sometimes I think I feel lonely because I have to make decisions every day and say "this could be right or wrong" and when I make decisions I don’t know if the decision will take me to total failure or success.