Eating for Life

By Jennie Nunn / December 9, 2016

A chat with Yuta Tsunoda, CEO and owner of Chaya Restaurant Group 

L.A.’s macrobiotic food craze can be attributed much in part to M Café De Chaya (mcafedechaya.com) in Los Angeles. We caught up with the vegan and gluten-free eatery’s brainchild, Yuta Tsunoda, on everything from his favorite items on the menu to how he’s trying to further spread the word on the importance of healthy eating.

How did you come up with the inspiration for M Cafe De Chaya, and why did you
decide to open in LA?

When my uncle was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in Japan, he became inspired by macrobiotic philosophy and Mr. Michio Kushi, founder of Kushi Institute in Massachusetts, and would then completely change one of his restaurants in Tokyo to serve only macrobiotic cuisine. I was impressed with its concept and its taste when I visited. So much so that I met with Mr. Kushi himself in Tokyo and had dinner together. He gave me a crash course on macrobiotics and its philosophy and I was further impressed.

However, it was my mother who thought this concept could do well in Los Angeles, and I agreed. Upon coming back to Los Angeles, I researched the healthy dining scene and found out there were not many places providing health-conscious food that would also taste great with a great atmosphere. LA was and is a perfect market for a healthy food options for a variety of options, where denizens are known for being early adopters in healthy lifestyle trends. Notably, macrobiotics is more than a trend, it’s a philosophy and very much a lifestyle.

At the time, there was also great “grab and go”/Depachika/food court style of cafés. And for busy people who do not have time to cook and are worried about what they need to eat, I thought there was a big opportunity here. In general, Americans need more balanced diet options, focusing on seasonal and locally grown products that are real and wholesome.

What is your background?

I was born into the restaurant family of Hikage Chaya, in Hayama, Japan. The city is well known as a beach resort area and a fishing village. I grew up next to the beach and spent most of my time there growing up and developing a true love of nature.

I attended UNLV and studied Hotel Business Management; then worked as a management trainee with Four Seasons Hotels company, and then joined the family business to help run Chaya Brasserie from 1993 to 2003. I also opened M Café and have grown it into two café locations and one marketplace throughout Los Angeles.

What are the benefits of a macrobiotic diet?

As the saying goes, “You are what you eat.” I wholeheartedly believe that. Again, macrobiotic philosophy is not just a diet fad, but it is a lifestyle. And I believe this is a sustainable way to eat and coexist with nature in a balanced, seasonal, local, unprocessed way, providing balanced health, body and mind. This is not a diet, or cult or religion. Just humans going along with what nature provides.

What are you three favorite items on the menu and why?

Big Macro Burger:  The burger has the most macrobiotically balanced ingredients and is simply the best tasting veggie burger there is.

M Chopped Salad:  This is a well-composed salad and it never gets old.

Japanese Curry:  During the hot summer months, this dish gives me a burst of energy. There’s just the right amount of spice, and I love the Koda Farm Heirloom Brown Rice that we use.

Tell us about some of the new happenings at M Café, and what's up next?

Soon you’ll see M Café pantry items available at all of our locations and possibly online. If it were up to us, we would love to have our own farms and have our own dieticians making specially designed meal packages, which could help lower diabetes, create ecological balance and create more peace in the world.

Jennie Nunn

Jennie Nunn

West Coast Contributing Editor at Organic Spa Magazine
Jennie Nunn, Organic Spa's West Coast Contributing Editor, is a former editor at magazines including Sunset, California Home+Design, and 7x7. Her work has appeared in publications such as C, The Hollywood Reporter, AFAR, Destination Weddings+Honeymoons, The San Francisco Chronicle, Luxe Interiors+Design, San Francisco Magazine, Gotham, Capitol File, 5280, Houston Brides, and 805 Living. 
Jennie Nunn

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