On a recent trip to NYC I got to reconnect with my dear friends Bart and Joy. They’re the founders of Candle 79, Candle Cafe, and Candle Cafe West, delicious sexy restaurants in the city. If you haven’t been you need to run there!!! The Seitan Piccata (Candle 79 + Candle West), Seitan Chimichurri (Candle West), Ravioli with Ricotta, Spaghetti & Wheatballs (Candle 79 + Candle West), Impossible Burger (Candle West + Candle Cafe), and Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse (Candle 79 + Candle Cafe), are out of this world.. Anyways, it is always so lovely seeing them. Bart is 81 and THRIVING! We all know so many elder people that start falling apart in their 50’s or later, but by 80’s most people are on tons of meds and face tons of pain. But not Bart. Bart feels no pain and is happy as can be. I think this is a testament to his diet, he feels and appears like a guy far younger than he is. See for yourself 🙂 It’s so inspiring, I encourage you to share this with your loved ones and elders.
I’m re-sharing below an interview he did with Chad Sarno of Wicked Healthy Food. Side note – I met Chad, Bart, and Joy all in Jamaica at a raw food convention many years ago! Laura Louie (Woody Harrelson’s wife) connected us. How fun is that?? Over to Chad and Bart!
First off, congratulations on your recent 81st birthday! What do you attribute your good health and success to?
Thank you! Nothing beats feeling healthy, strong, and vital so that you live life full out. Happily, I feel that way most days of my life. When I became plant-based some 26 years ago (in my 50s), I felt that an added edge was given to my already strong constitution. Opportunity and success grew from that energy, as well as the desire to give and do more with Joy, my business partner and wife.
How is Candle Cafe a reflection of your beliefs and values? Is there any significance behind the “79” in Candle 79?
It was organic, literally and figuratively. Most of our customers are not vegan, but for 34 years, they have loved and embraced our food (1984-2018). To this day, I’m surprised that more people don’t get the message about eating clean, organic, plant-based food.
The name Candle 79 was the upscale spinoff that landed on East 79th St. in NYC. Joy calls it our “sexier” restaurant that arrived just four blocks from the original & recently updated Candle Cafe.
What piece of advice would you give to someone wanting to open their own vegan restaurant or start their own vegan venture?
All the hard-working clichés abound when describing how we did it. I’m a great believer in mentorship and I had wonderful mentors all my life. Through several careers including marketing, acting, art-dealer, and restaurateur, I had formidable older men and women guide my personal growth and business acumen. Now, alas, I’m the “older guy” giving advice!
What’s the best thing going on in the New York City vegan scene right now and how has it changed since the 90s?
We were one of the first to bring fine dining, fine wines, and eco-bars to the vegan eating experience. Today the trend in most eating establishments is what we call “grab and go.” Not everyone has the time or money to sit down for a fine dining experience. It’s a mixed bag, but technology has allowed for more eating at one’s desk or workstation. Indeed, there are many more vegan options now compared to when we started. People have more choices to live a healthier lifestyle, and the smart ones are going for it big time!
You’ve done so much to support veganism and non-violence through your food—what are some other ways you support and advocate for animals? Do you have some favorite organizations or causes, or has a special case or experience really stuck with you?
Joy and I have had the privilege and pleasure of joining and supporting many animal rights organizations. Our biggest impact came many years ago when we visited Farm Sanctuary. Playing and frolicking with the animals was life changing for both of us, and it enhanced our already committed vegan lifestyle.
Tell us some of your favorite dishes from each of the three Candle Cafe locations!
Being Italian/American, I go “wicked crazy” for any and all pasta dishes at all three Candle restaurants. The chefs use an imaginative array of sauces and combos to make for a special treat each time. Of course a fine glass of organic red wine rounds out the experience! I also love our stir-fry dishes that continue to impress me with their explosion of flavors. Joy and I love to cook at home, and our culinary commitment led to three cookbooks that Joy co-authored with Jorge Pineda and Angel Ramos, our head chefs. I was happily the prep person and dishwasher for all three cookbooks!
Thanks Chad & Bart!
Have you been to one of the Candle restaurants in New York City? What’s your favorite dish??