In fall 2014, Kalle LeMone was attending a yoga class when her teacher, Kimber Dean, shared homemade chocolate truffles with the students.
LeMone was impressed by the taste of the chocolate and the result of high-quality ingredients. She wondered how this type of food could be brought to Columbia.
A year after their first acquaintance, LeMone reached out to Dean about a business venture.
“She Facebook-messaged me and said, ‘Do you want to open up a business’,” Dean recalled. “I was like, ‘first of all, who are you? Second of all, no.’”
After meeting and talking through the idea, Dean and LeMone opened Nourish Café & Market in June 2016 on East Broadway. Dean agreed to be the head chef.
Nourish is a health-focused cafe that serves locally sourced organic whole foods, sustainably sourced produce, high quality meat, smoothies and juice.
The small cafe has a bright atmosphere, an enthusiastic staff and lots of natural light. Customers sit at tables by the window and can enjoy their food with a view of downtown Columbia.
Dean and LeMone created the menu together, and Dean prepares the food. LeMone writes health-related blog posts, sends newsletters and organizes events.
“You can taste the freshness and the nutrition,” said Front-of-House Manager Josh Old. “Being able to serve local organic food feels really good.”
A blueberry breakfast smoothie, for example, starts with homemade almond milk, followed by a scoop of vanilla protein, a tablespoon of almond butter, a half cup of blueberries, half an apple, half a banana and a scoop of oats.
“People love them,” Old said.
By making everything from scratch with a wide variety of ingredients, Nourish Café can cater to the dietary needs of its customers.
“You can eat here as a paleo diet, or Whole 30 or vegan,” LeMone said.
Dean said she and her staff go through 160 pounds of kale a week, 120 pounds of oranges, 40 pounds of lemons and 200 pounds of apples.
Both women are dedicated to a healthy lifestyle through careful consideration of dietary practices. They frequently answer customer questions about the benefits of the variety of diets options offered at the cafe.
LeMone said Nourish sources its ingredients from 25 different local farmers and vendors, “from our eggs to our meat to our cheese to our veggies.” The cafe is transparent about its ingredients in the interest of retaining customer trust.
“They can eat anything and everything, and everything’s healthy,” LeMone said. “We go to bed at night knowing that we’ve served the best quality food.”
LeMone discovered her healthy lifestyle while she was struggling with fertility issues. “Every Western expert I saw said, ‘you need hormones; your body just doesn’t make them,’” she said.
By carefully regulating her consumption, she said she was able to reverse her health problems: “Everything has a root cause.” She now has one child and is pregnant with another.
Dean and LeMone urge customers not to be afraid to seek help adjusting their diets. People may come in without knowing how to pronounce the ingredients and then learn all about what can be done with them.
“We don’t ever shame people,” Dean said. “Everyone starts somewhere.”
In addition to being the head chef, Dean has authored two cookbooks and makes meal plans for various needs.
“I like to take their symptoms and diagnosis with the food allergy test and I can write them a really good meal plan,” Dean said.
After deciding against pursuing a career as a lawyer or a doctor, Dean was drawn to culinary school.
“It’s universal,” she said. “You don’t have to speak the same language and you can enjoy a meal together.”
While she was in culinary school, she struggled with drug addiction. In the process of getting clean, she began researching healthy lifestyle choices and controlled what she consumed. “Sugar was the first thing I cut out.”
Dean also shares her recipes and goes out of her way to help people help themselves.
“Our juice cleanses and three-day resets are just two really easy things,” she said. “We’ve never had someone come back and say they don’t feel good.”
“I still think we’re one of, if not the healthiest restaurants in the nation,” she added. “Never trust a skinny chef, but I’m like, yeah, you should.”