Memphis couple launches fast casual brand with organic, vegetarian menu
After being diagnosed in 2010, with Lyme disease, Cru Peri von Holtzendorff-Fehling changed her diet to include only organic and plant-based foods. Although she quickly saw a remarkable difference in her health, she also found a lack of restaurants offering affordable organic and vegetarian menu choices served in a fast-food setting.
She and her husband, Phillipp, are hoping to change that with the launch of Mama Gaia, the fast casual brand that they created and opened last month in Memphis. Mama Gaia, which means "Mother Earth" in ancient Greek offers freshly prepared dishes including pitas, quinoa bowls and salads.
"We know that fitting healthy eating into a busy lifestyle is challenging," Philipp, CEO of Mama Gaia, said in a company press release. "It's difficult to find healthy, organic options on the go, so after seeing first hand how an organic vegetarian diet affected our family, we wanted to make this option a reality for everyone."
More than 80 percent of the menu items are vegan, and many are gluten free. The dishes are handmade to order using organic ingredients that have not been genetically modified or exposed to harmful chemicals, Phillip said. Inspired by the restaurant's name, guests will get a taste of wholesome ingredients, including zucchini, eggplant, bell peppers, leeks, hearty mushrooms, asparagus, and homemade red pepper hummus and vegan pesto, which customers are already raving about.
Dishes are paired with original sauces and vinaigrettes, such as Tzatziki, lemon vinaigrette, and a secret and vibrant Mama Gaia sauce. Central to Mama Gaia's mission is the affordability, as the majority of menu items are $10 or less.
The couple is no stranger to the restaurant industry or to the world of marketing. A native of Germany, Philipp served as chief marketing officer of ServiceMaster and American Home Shield in Memphis; The Dallas Morning News; and T-Mobile. Cru, who also serves as executive chef for Mama Gaia, was classically trained in Germany at a Michelin Guide-starred kitchen. Her mentor was the Michelin Star-winning chef, Armin Karrer.
The couple has partnered with two experienced businessmen, Tom Coba (former COO of Subway Restaurants) and Paul Stringer.
"Memphis is our home and the first place we wanted to launch Mama Gaia," said Cru. "We would love to open more Mama Gaia locations so many more people can benefit from delicious, healthy, organic food."