When Steve Curtis won his battle with terminal cancer, he aimed to do as much good for the world as he could. He built facilities for clean water for 3,000 people in Lesotho, Africa, fed the homeless, raised $100,000 for at-risk youth, and with his leftover energy just casually climbed Mount Everest. While Curtis has arguably done more to improve his community in a few years than some people do in their entire lives, he was not about to plateau.

Owing much of his recovery to a clean diet, herbs and extracts, and simply the connection between mind and body, it’s not much of a surprise that Curtis next move was to open up a vegan restaurant! While he has dipped into the wellness business through his $100 million company, Zag Group, which researches ethnobotanicals, nutraceuticals, and healthier lifestyles, Curtis wanted to make the transition even easier (and more delicious) for consumers by opening a restaurant called Zend Conscious Lounge.

Zend Conscious Lounge serves raw and cooked dishes, depending on which delivers the best nutrition. According to Curtis, Chef Karen McAthy, former chef at vegetarian restaurant Graze, makes everything from scratch, including the flour for the gluten-free flatbreads and plant-based cheeses.

“It’s really about creating an impact,” Curtis says, “I really see it more as movement than as a restaurant or lounge.”

And a movement it is indeed. In the past two years, the plant-based food sector has reached $3.5 billion with an 8.7 percent growth rate. Additionally, 36 percent of U.S. consumers said they prefer milk alternatives to traditional ones, and one-third of Americans are flexitarian, meaning they are choosing to leave meat off their plates more frequently. New vegan eateries are popping up every month because people are finally waking up to the fact that their food choices and their well-being are strongly linked, something Curtis was forced to realize after being diagnosed with cancer.

On top of providing awesome sustainable food, the restauranteur is also giving back to the local neighborhood with his venture. The profits from Zend get recycled right back into the community through activities and donations. Their staff is also heavily involved in customer-driven do-good events, with groups recently volunteering at Covenant House and Hungry House in Vancouver.

Whether it’s with delicious vegan food or through charitable efforts, Curtis is proving that plant-based food is not only tasty, it can make an incredible impact and help people align their food choices with their values. “The idea of the lounge was inspired by my journey through illness,” says Curtis. “To become well, you need to be in a positive, calm and peaceful state.” And what can be more peaceful than knowing that you’re food choices are good for the community, for your body, and for the environment?

Image Source: Vancouver Sun