Candle Cafe has been a part of my life for over 25 years. Throughout these years the candle family graciously welcomed me and nourished me and my family at their three locations as well as with the convenience of home delivery. Through and through, I continuously could feel the love they pour into their food that nourishes the mind body and soul. I have felt so comforted by the warm environment that Candle so lovingly provides for healing and for gathering at and I always feel at home with the Candle community. We joined forces and I was fortunate to have a hands on closer experience in the Candle 79 kitchen where chef Jorge Pineda led a beautiful cooking demonstration.
I hope you enjoy these delicious Spring recipes curated for The Joyful Approach by the talented chef Jorge Pineda and enjoy this video demonstration and interview. See below for Recipes.
Sustainability seems to be a foundation for Candle. In what ways do you strive each day to minimize your carbon footprint as a restaurant and as an individual? What are some tips you could give to others in how they can do the same?
Sustainability is our foundation in all we do from fabulous drinks and cocktails from our eco bar – using sustainable ingredients and spirits along with the delicious food we serve from organic farmers. We incorporate eco conscious decor, cleaning supplies and we were the first NYC restaurant to start composting. Adopting a plant based diet and lifestyle decreases your carbon footprint by 40%. What a great way to contribute to the sustainability of the planet and your own health and well being. Vote with your fork and choose health for you and the planet.
What inspired you to start Candle?
Our mutual commitment to health and well-being and our love for nutrient dense plant based food and how it made us feel. Our personal transformation and benefits of eating a plant based diet inspired us to share the excitement with as many as possible hence the Candle was born.
What was the process of the expansion into 3 different locations?
Customer demand was a big factor and our desire to feed and nourish more people was our overall mission.
What are the foundations that the spirit of Candle rests on?
Organic, vegan, seasonal cuisine thats fresh from farm to table. Food Fresh from farm to table was a term we started using over 25 years ago – we were one of the first restaurants to embrace that theme.
Given select items on your menu change seasonally, what is the process you use in order to decide what ingredients, and herbs you use in a particular season?
One of our favorite activities is working with and discovering organic farmers and their fresh “crops” that influence our seasonal menus. Winter spring summer and fall all bring inspiration that brings a special style to our menu selections.
Where did the inspiration for the name “Candle” come from? What does it represent to you? How does it tie in, if at all, with your mission/intention?
In 1984 Bart bought a juice bar and health food store called Sunnys a landmark UES store for forty years. The owners lit candles in the store every night to bless the place and it inspired Bart to rename it Healthy Candle Cafe and that evolved into Candle Cafe when Joy came on board. The candle symbolizes light into darkness and spiritual enlightenment
How do you decide what items remain signature dishes for Candle locations?
Customer favorites and very strong demand for chef driven signature dishes. Our loyal customers are very attached to what they love to eat as are we!
Where did your journey with sustainability and eating a plant based diet begin?
We both share a love for the health food and sustainability mission. Joy started as a nutritionist and health counselor and Bart started in retail in a popular health food store where they both made eating well fun and important. We shared a passion for using food as medicine and found that eating a plant based diet was better tasting, better for us and better for the planet.
What is it that you feel makes Candle stand out as a restaurant/a brand?
We were one of the first restaurants to adopt an all vegan menu and a sustainable mission of fresh from farm to table concept. The Candles history of care and commitment to all things wonderful carries this message to a fourth generation of customers. Our motto when our customers gave birth is we deliver when you deliver. We have celebrated with our awesome food so many monumental occasions through the years. Although we are only as good as our last meal we pride ourselves on making each meal memorable and mind blowingly tasty with a joyful approach to food.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Candle Reflections by Joy Pierson
Candle 79 has been an oasis for many people, some of whom have been known to us, and others, although less known, who have made an impact on us and vice-versa.
The Candle story began in the summer of 1984 when Bart Potenza purchased Sunny’s a landmark health food store and juice bar located on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. In honor of the previous owners’ nightly ritual of lighting candles to bless their establishment, Bart renamed it the Healthy Candle and made it his own. In 1987, Joy began frequenting Healthy Candle as a customer and friend. Eventually, she became the in-house nutritionist for the fast-growing eatery. The Healthy Candle evolved from a juice bar and vitamin shop into a full service eatery featuring a vegetarian menu of homemade soups, sandwiches, salads and entrees. Customer demand overwhelmingly confirmed that Healthy Candle could make a difference in people’s lives by feeding them fresh, wholesome, vegetarian food. They knew that we had to expand but how? So they asked, and the universe answered: on Friday the 13th, 1993, they won $53,000 in the take-five lottery, and Candle Cafe was on its’ way! Since 1994, Candle Cafe has been serving an organic vegan menu composed of the freshest ingredients available, and has been continually rated as one of the best vegan/vegetarian restaurants in the country by both traditional and holistic communities. In 2003, Candle 79 was born just 5 blocks away. This time, Candles’ famed vegan, organic cuisine was presented in a different setting: a two-floor fine dining oasis with an organic spirits, wine, beer and full eco bar for the conscientious, yet sophisticated drinker and eater. Candle 79 has twice been rated as Zagat’s #1 vegetarian restaurant, and its reputation is recognized internationally. In 2012, they opened Candle Cafe West on the Upper West Side to rave reviews! In addition to serving organic, vegan, and sustainable food and cocktails, it’s also kosher certified. Candle Cafe restaurants serve up a delicious and fresh array of organic delights in a warm and eco-friendly environment, as we work towards our mission of health and sustainability.
Yellow roses have been significant in my life because my mom, who passed away 18 years ago, always loved them. Every year on her birthday, I honor her with yellow roses to acknowledge the wonderful mother and person she was.
Candle 79 had a lovely and kind customer who dined with us weekly. Although she never shared her personal struggles, she was always grateful for the delicious, healing food, and for our welcoming staff and environment. After she passed away, a friend of hers brought the restaurant a dozen yellow roses. She said that her friend requested that she bring flowers to Candle 79 as a way to thank us for the love and care that we always bestowed upon her. We are humbled and honored by her story and keep it close to our hearts.
We continue to carry on our customer’s legacy, and that of my mother, by offering nourishing, healing food to our community. The Candle Cafe Cookbook is dedicated to our mothers and grandmothers who taught us that food equals love!!
In our 30-year history, the Candle Cafe brand has been known for its delicious organic vegan food, excellent service, and knowledgeable hospitality. And there was also the bench.
A mainstay in front of the original Candle Cafe on 3rd Ave & 75th St, the bench was a waiting area, a resting place, and a tribute to caring New Yorkers. Alas, the “city” wanted the bench removed, so that our delivery bikes could be parked away from the curb and not interfere with pedestrian traffic. That insighted an uproar from our customers, neighbors, and community advocates. It happened during the Bloomberg administration and he received many letters and phone calls defending the need for our bench.
When we finally won it back, a kind neighbor donated a new bench because the original was 15 years old and past its prime. She dedicated the new bench, made of recycled materials, to her deceased mother, who had used the original bench for many years. Then and now, New Yorkers have rested on our welcoming bench, which is representative of the Candle’s credo: to feed people, body, mind, and spirit.
Video and Candle Cafe Photography by Christian Carroll