The city’s first restaurant with an all-organic vegetarian menu, Mama Gaia will be opening in the new Crosstown Concourse
development by early next year.
The start-up concept was created by Philipp and Cru Peri von Holtzendorff-Fehling, who had the idea to do something in the quick serve category about seven years ago after seeing a big trend towards healthier eating in Europe and noticing a lack of restaurants in the U.S. offering organic vegetarian menu choices.
“We want to fill that gap,” said Philipp, who previously worked as chief marketing officer at ServiceMaster in Memphis. “We truly believe that it’s just an ethical obligation to offer better choices, and it also has a positive impact on the environment.”
In 2010, Cru was diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease, and in an effort to regain a normal lifestyle she self-prescribed a diet change (among other lifestyle changes) to all organic foods, eating mostly vegetarian and vegan options. She soon noticed a huge change in her overall health.
The new restaurant will offer a fresh, artisanal vegetarian menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as several vegan and gluten-free options. Chef Cru, who trained in the prestigious Michelin Kitchen in France, created a vegetable-heavy menu with items that will be handmade to order using organic ingredients – meaning they are neither genetically modified nor have they been exposed to any chemicals such as herbicides or pesticides.
The menu will feature several types of pitas, quinoa bowls, appetizers, salads and soups, including options for kids. Six flavors of organic soda will also be available.
“The menu is designed so it’s not too broad, because you can’t have 60 menu items and then be able to deliver everything fresh and affordable in a relatively fast time,” said Philipp, who estimates that buying all organic product raises their overall food cost by 50 percent.
Archimania created the restaurant’s nearly 2,500-square-foot design, which will feature modern elements, including diverse seating and table arrangements, and an outdoor patio.
Philip expects to hire approximately 30 people.
Mama Gaia will receive a B Corp Certification
before opening, making it one of fewer than 2,000 companies worldwide and the first company in Memphis to receive this certification. B Corp is similar to Fair Trade certification for coffee or USDA Organic certification for milk.
Other partners in the new venture include Tom Coba (former COO of Subway Restaurants) and Paul Stringer.
“We really have a deep love for Memphis, and we could have gone anywhere in the country,” said Philipp. “Crosstown’s mission and philosophy about bringing people together and promoting sustainable living really aligns with our mission. It’s just a great environment to be a part of.”