Brett Aylward weighed 230 pounds when he started eating healthier, plant-based foods four years ago. Without exercising at all, he is now down to 150 pounds, and he's never felt better.
"The best move I ever made in my life is doing this," he said.
Aylward knows first-hand the advantages of eating well. Now, he's looking to share that knowledge with others. Next month, Aylward and Ed Doris will open the Good Karma Cafe at 56 Lincoln St., the former home of Renata World Bistro, which .
Aylward and Doris first met two years ago. Aylward's grandfather was dating Doris's mother, and Aylward attended Thanksgiving dinner at Doris's home.
Aylward brought with him several healthy desserts he had made, and Doris – a self-described carnivore – was struck by how good they were. They discussed the idea of opening a restaurant or cafe together several times since then, but until now it never came together.
"We were waiting for the right space to open up," Doris said.
They made an offer to the owner of the former Hannah's Fine Foods space on Water Street, but the price was too high. When 56 Lincoln St. became available, they jumped at the opportunity.
Aylward, who has worked at numerous restaurants over the past decade, spent the past four months helping out a friend at the Each Peach Cafe in Danvers, Mass. That gave him an opportunity to work on some of his healthy dessert recipes.
"She needed help, so I went down and started implementing different food and snacks," he said. "I was coming up with different stuff – kale chips, desserts, cookies, smoothies."
"It was a good test of our items," added Doris.
Aylward said the Good Karma Cafe's menu will consist of "healthy food," but it is not going to be strictly vegan or vegetarian.
"It's a plant-based cafe, but not purely vegan," he said.
The key, though, as Doris learned over Thanksgiving dinner two years ago, is that Aylward has mastered the art of making healthy food that doesn't taste like it's good for you.
"I try to make healthy food palatable," Aylward said.
Aylward said he likes to play off foods that people like. So, for example, his kale chips are aimed at people who enjoy potato chips. And he makes a cookies and cream smoothie, that, while healthy, tastes more like an extravagant dessert.
"It's as good as junk food, but it's beneficial," he said.
"If you have a sweet tooth, here you can do it guilt-free," Doris said. "He's just an artist when it comes to making this stuff."
In addition to the healthy dessert and snack offerings, the Good Karma Cafe will feature wrap sandwiches, salads, rice bowls, soup, organic coffee, fresh squeezed juices, and smoothies.
Doris and Aylward said they're aiming for a soft opening on May 1, if not sooner, with a grand opening scheduled for May 5, Cinqo De Mayo. The hours of operation will be from 6:30 a.m. until 9 at night – 10 p.m. on weekends.
Check out the Good Karma Cafe's Facebook page for updates on the grand opening.