Vegan made easy — and delicious
Cacao Tree Cafe
Amber Poupore started as a dish washer in the famous Inn Season Cafe in Royal Oak and worked her way up to manager. After 11 years with Inn Season, Poupore began her own vegan entrepreneurial adventure with Cacao Tree Cafe in August 2010.
Cacao Tree is not just her restaurant; it is her mission, her passion, her life — and part of her legacy. Eating a plant-based diet for more than 19 years, Poupore offers what she has learned to the public through a menu and a space next to the railroad tracks in Royal Oak. This restaurant makes going vegan so easy and attractive.
Cacao Tree is small. When you walk in, you are looking at the kitchen. All the food is prepared in plain sight by the friendly staff.
“We really have a challenge when it comes to getting customers to come in, have a good experience and then come back,” Poupore says. “When you are up against all these corporate institutions, people recognize brands, they are familiar with things and more comfortable going into a corporate business than they are trying something new.”
Amber reminds her staff that they have one opportunity for customers to enjoy their experience — whether the food and/or the service — one chance to get them to come back.
“For me, customer service, high-quality ingredients and never losing the integrity of what we do has been paramount to our success,” she says.
The menu is organic, non-GMO and impressive. There is no soy, no gluten, and the only animal products on the premises are raw honey and raw bee pollen that is locally and responsibly sourced.
You won’t miss any of the gluten, soy or the meat. Aside from being delicious and filling, the variety of food offered is stunning and colorful. Everything is vibrant, fresh and honestly nutritious. Ingredients include turmeric, ginger and yes, cacao, among many others. A myriad of smoothies, juices, salads and wraps adorn the menu with specialty sauces, soups, dressings and even pasta dishes.
“We don’t have an account with Sysco Foods or U.S. Foods. We have specialty purveyors that only carry organic, non-GMO products,” Poupore says. “For me, it is not about profit. It is about offering a product that people can trust that’s healing.
“We strive for quality that exceeds expectations,” she continues. “Our clients include millennials and yogis, yes, but we also have many people who suffer from chronic illness, degenerative diseases, heart disease, cancer and diabetes.”
The bulk of the people who find and frequent Cacao Tree are those who need healing and clean food.
As more people learn about the recuperative power of a plant-based diet, places like Cacao Tree Cafe are becoming more mainstream. Poupore opened her second restaurant, the Clean Plate, in Shelby Township about three years ago. Like Cacao Tree, it offers the same intensely high-quality plant-based food with a menu more along the lines of comfort food. Both of her restaurants are seeing robust business with a high percentage of returning patrons.
Poupore’s energy and passion for plant-based diet is contagious. She was chosen to be part of a documentary film that has just been produced called Eating You Alive, which drills down on the importance of choosing great food for your body and how your diet impacts your overall health and well being.
She also volunteers at a Native Indian reservation, teaching about the health impacts of a plant-based diet as it relates to diabetes. The food eaten on the reservation is widely subsidized by the U.S. government and much of it is processed. The results from switching this native population to a plant-based diet have been remarkable.
“When we see that kind of progress and when people share with you the success of their health journey to a plant-based diet, it is so rewarding.”
Mary Meldrum – Special to the Jewish News
Cacao Tree Cafe
204 W. 4th St.