k Passion Cafe with Lana Love k
k The Passion Cafe Princess k
Lana Love is truly a one woman show, the brains and beauty behind Ibiza’s most successful healthy eating concept Passion Cafe, with four outlets under her belt…and more on the horizon. We caught up with the sassy and successful entrepreneur to talk all things Passion…
On one of the walls behind us sits a flat screen TV showing Lana cooking on a Croatian food channel, the volume turned down due to the language barrier, she still looks every bit the celebrity I tell her…
“Haha thank you. When things somehow start to quieten down a little which I have no idea when that will be, I am planning to bring out a Passion Café DVD.”
And will that be filmed at one of the Passion Café’s?
“I am currently looking for a really nice kitchen to film in or maybe I’ll build one above the St Eularia café. It’s just finding the extra hours in the day to look at all the requests we are getting right now, at the moment it is just little old me doing everything, but when the company starts to grow then hopefully I can start bringing in some more people to help.”
We live in San Carlos so we eat regularly at Passion Café in Santa Eulalia which we love….
“Thank you so much. The energy at Santa Eulalia is so nice, I am really happy with how it has been received.”
You are expanding so fast in Ibiza, you’re going to run out of space on the island soon…
“That was never my original plan. I opened up a little café back in 2002 to raise enough money to move to London and study to be an actress which had always been my dream. When we opened people would come up to me and say ‘Oh Lana you must be so happy, your dream has come true opening up a restaurant!’. And I would think to myself, this was never my dream, all I wanted to do was have a summer business that would pay my way to drama school. And that was it.”
But surely you can do that now if you are still interested?
“Well that’s the problem, it isn’t the priority any more. I always had a great passion for acting but the dream was never about walking down the red carpet at the Oscars. It was all because at the few acting lessons I attended, it was the first time I felt comfortable in a room with other people feeling accepted. So today when I get all these compliments about Passion Café I still don’t feel worthy, I truly don’t think I have achieved anything of real note yet…I don’t yet feel fulfilled. I never planned to expand Passion Café, things just got offered to me and I’d decide one by one whether to do it or not. Let me tell you, I am the world’s worst planner, we are what a few weeks from the season starting and I still have a trillion things to do. I have no lists made, no real structure, I’m just taking each day as it happens.”
There have been rumours of some big offers coming in from abroad for Passion Café?
“I get offers all the time for franchising, but I am really not ready for that yet. I came close a few weeks ago with some amazing offers for deals in America and also the U.A.E. – but I declined both of them. Over the past 15 months I have planted new Passion Café seeds in Ibiza and I need to put everything in order, some structure in place. I have a great product which everyone has thankfully fallen in love, but if I am going to branch out I need to be able to show these people that I run the business correctly.”
The new Passion Café’s are really young too
“Exactly. They are only babies! I don’t want to be running around the world opening up new restaurants and end up neglecting Ibiza. They are working well touch wood, but they all have space for improvement. So at the moment I am concentrating on making each place as super strong as I can – and then I will look worldwide. It’s funny, a couple of weeks ago I had a Business Coach fly in from London, he wanted to work with me and give me some ideas so I said why not? And as Business Coaches do he came over and my walls were suddenly filled with charts, figures, diagrams and goodness knows what else…and after he left I just sat there looking at it all in stunned silence thinking, Lana – is this what you really want? It’s something I will have to work out eventually.”
Surely you would be worried that you would be diluting the Passion product too? One thing that we love at LoveFoodIbiza is that each of your cafés has their own menu and dishes…
“I love it when I hear about people telling me that each Passion is a destination in itself with each one having their own personal touch. The new one is going to be totally different too.”
In San Jose, the perfect location…
“Ah thank you, I love the vibe up there at the moment. We have the building but it won’t be open until the end of the season, it will have a reinvented menu and design, but you will know it’s a Passion Café. I get so bored doing the same thing so when I have the chance to open a new place I like to have a change.”
And that is the same for Ibiza, Playa d’en Bossa and Santa Eularia are totally different…
“Can you imagine if I took the English Breakfast off the menu in Playa d’en Bossa? People queue down the street for that! I can’t even take Coca Cola off the menu because by the time we explain we don’t stock it, we are so busy it’s so just easier to give them the god damned thing!”
But that is the catchment market in Playa d’en Bossa, there’s no way you can ignore people’s demands?
“I am so glad you agree with me on that issue. You know what, if I drew up a chart on what the Passion Café’s most popular dish was, do you know what it is and where it is served?”
The English Breakfast in Playa d’en Bossa?
“Exactly. Who am I to take this off the menu? I am serving the public and if I don’t put it on the menu they will go somewhere else. Up in Santa Eularia however there is a strict no red meat policy and people are fine with that.”
What would happen if you opened up a restaurant in San Antonio?
“Haha, good question. Well then it will be full English Breakfast all day long Tess…along with a green juice of course.”
So what is the ultimate direction you would like to go in with regards your menus?
“My big dream would be to open a wonderful vegan/vegetarian place.”
How much criticism do you take on board?
“I think listening to constructive criticism is important, but the criticism I really take on board is from people who lead by example. In this business like every other business, you can’t please everyone all of the time.”
Onto David Wolfe…
He has been a huge inspiration for you…
“Oh absolutely. I always give him credit for this incredible journey of mine, it all started thanks to David. Years ago when I was living in London I bought a book that he was featured in where he was talking about these new super foods which he was explaining was the future. So I went out and bought all ten of these foods and was making smoothies that tasted not the best ever but it just changed my whole outlook on life and how I went about my business.”
Have you attended any of his conventions, apparently they are amazing?
“I am totally mesmerized when he speaks. He is so passionate about his subject, his brain is so sharp and the complexity of his language is just amazing. His talks are my brain food.”
And he’s a friend now, he has come and visited you in Ibiza…
“Yes. I was at one of his conventions in LA last year and knew he had a European tour coming up later in the year so I said to him come and stay with me in Ibiza for a few days after it has all finished. I just wanted to say thank you to him, he has always supported me, written for the magazine and it was such a lovely four days.”
And what did he think of Passion Café?
“He told me that he had travelled all around the world many times but that the Passion food was one of the best he had ever had.”
You two are a match made in heaven, you should get together!
“Oh my goodness! Not at all! I would try and domesticate him or something silly. And he’d probably propose with a ring with a chaga mushroom on it.”
You’d love that!
“No darling, I want diamonds.”
David remarked on his Facebook page this morning about Jon Bon Jovi’s restaurant in America where there are no prices and guests pay whatever they can or volunteer in exchange for their meal. Ever fancied that at Passion Café?
“Well you know I take my hat off to Jon for being able to do that and if one day I have enough money to afford that kind of restaurant then maybe I’d do it. It’s nice he is giving something back to the people who perhaps can’t afford it a meal, but he does all those millions of dollars in the bank to fall back on. Not everyone can do that.”
In the UK the younger generation are really looking up to a whole host of new culinary bloggers such as Ella Woodward and the Hemsley sisters…
“I think they are great, they are bringing more enthusiasm to the food industry. Ella Woodward is a member of the Sainsbury’s family so hopefully such a big supermarket chain will substitute a lot of their unhealthy boxed goods with healthy food.”
Your have a love for Middle Eastern, Lebanese and Israeli food…
“After moving to London from Dubai many years ago I was introduced to the restaurant Maroush which I totally fell in love with. I am a sucker for their different vegetables, rose water, dates, orange blossom, pistachios and halva…this kind of food just speaks to me. Coming from Croatia we have a lot of food that has influences in that part of the world, hence my love of the world’s most unhealthy desert Baklava!”
The Israeli markets out there are incredible aren’t they?
“The first time I went to Israel I was blown away with the amazing foods on the street; the spices and herbs, the redness of the paprika, the pomegranates…I was going crazy looking at all this stuff.”
We both share a passion for Ottolenghi’s style of cooking…
Whenever I am in London I always go to Ottolenghi’s Nopi restaurant in Soho and spend about £70 for a dinner just on myself…and then go back the next day and spend the same amount on other dishes.”
What many people who eat at places like Passion Café and Ottolenghi don’t realize is how much time, effort, complexity and money goes into your dishes…
“Absolutely. Well firstly I never regret spending money on my ingredients, that will never change. Nobody knows the complexity there are in even the simplest of dishes, even something simple as a salad which has 11 or 12 steps to prepare. But that’s one of the reasons why our food is so well received, we care.”
I heard somewhere that you found the best hummus in the world in a very strange location?
“Ha ha that’s right. It was on an Israir Airlines flight going to Tel Aviv, can you believe that? We are all used to the worst food on airplanes but the hummus was crazy. You have no idea how good it was.”
You have so much choice at Passion Café, what are you the most proudest of on the menu?
“I put a lot of attention into making sure people have a good choice of gluten and dairy free options and I also think the sourcing of the best ingredients is really important. If I have to do a burger then I make sure the beef is of the best quality and that the fries are sourced locally from farmers and not from a bag. I am very proud of my juices too, people have really warmed to our raw food choices. I am also particularly proud of my healthy cooked breakfast too.”
I saw an interview with you recently with photographs of your kitchen cupboards packed with bottles of potions and pills!
“Haha you can blame David Wolfe for that! I got a little carried way in the beginning, I’d arrive in Ibiza with my suitcase packed with thousands of dollars worth of stuff. Do I take all them? No. Sometimes I do, but I am definitely cutting down on my intake, I have started to wonder just how much a human body can utilize or use and really, we are getting advised to take so many different products by people who aren’t experts or have any real knowledge. They get passionate about something and then just go and tell everyone to take it, I just feel that you have to listen to your own body and do what feels right. I love having a cup of coffee in the morning for instance, it makes me happier. And if I want to have a croissant with it I will, I’m not going to beat myself up about it just because I’ve read somewhere it’s bad for me.”
It must be down to moderation and common sense?
“In our magazine I always stress that I am not a nutritionist, I am not an expert, all I am trying to do is to try and explain that these superfoods I am promoting have been around for thousands of years. I always stress to only use a few and let your body guide you to what feels right. It’s all about having a balance.”
Ultimately though you must be happy with how the health food movement is going?
“Of course, the future is looking so much brighter. I just want to get the message over to people, especially the younger generation that we are all responsible for. It’s great if you want to go raw or vegan, but please look at what you need to replace in your body if you suddenly stop eating certain things. And most importantly make sure you know where your food is coming from and try to go organic as much as possible. You have to educate yourself, read up on it all. See what makes sense for yourself.”
Photos by Ana Lui