When I was in my late twenties and early thirties, I avoided eating meat. The reasons why aren't important, but looking back on that phase, I wish I'd chosen a different time in my life to go meat-free, because I was living in Chicago, where militant vegetarians were few and far between. This isn't to say that I ate particularly healthy. In fact, on my way to work each morning, my must-have habit was an egg McMuffin -- just egg and cheese -- from McDonald's. And sometimes, a hash brown. My metabolism was much better then; I was skinny -- super-skinny -- but I was still eating junk.
During those years, there was no True Food Kitchen or Native Foods Cafe, no Chipotle or Maoz Vegetarian, and certainly nothing like LYFE Kitchen (the acronym stands for "Love Your Food Everyday"), a restaurant that opened its first store late last year in, coincidentally, Chicago. And in mid-June, as part of an ambitious growth spurt that will spawn 250 locations nationwide over the next five years, LYFE Kitchen will open in Park Meadows Mall, in the space vacated by California Cafe.
The owners-operators of that location? Rachel and DJ Mitchell, a married couple who grew up together in Chicago and worked for McDonalds and McDonald's Corporation.
Over time, the Mitchells sold off most of the stores they owned, and by October of last year, they had sold them all to pursue a very, very different restaurant landscape -- one that couldn't be more different from the world of chicken McNuggets and egg McMuffins.
It was in January of last year, remembers DJ, that he first heard about LYFE Kitchen. "I was driving to work and listening to Bloomburg Radio, and they were doing a really interesting interview with Mike Roberts, the president and CEO of LYFE Kitchen, and as soon as I got to my office, I started researching the company on my computer, and what I came across was just fascinating," he says. And when he started poking around the LYFE Kitchen website, his interest, part of which hit very close to home, soared.