The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Colombia recently inaugurated its newly renovated restaurant in Bogotá, the nation’s capital. Dozens of church leaders and members toured the restaurant and sampled the healthy dishes. Named “Green Food,” the restaurant’s focus is on vegan dishes and healthy bites as part of the Upper Magdalena Conference’s strategy to highlight a healthy lifestyle with a spiritual ambiance, church leaders said.
“This launch is about the continual commitment of the Adventist Church here to promote wellness and conscious eating,” said Pastor Roberto Carvajal, project director for the Upper Magdalena Conference.
The church opened the vegetarian restaurant 26 years ago in the same location, but after studying, refocusing, and restructuring it, conference leaders decided to invest funds to expand, renovate, and convert it to a vegan restaurant with gluten-free, lactose-free, and sugar-free offerings.
“For us as a conference, it is very important to have developed this project because we want to eventually turn it into a center of influence where the entire membership in Bogotá can bring their friends so they can learn about living a healthy lifestyle by eating healthy foods and where they can learn more about God’s love,” said Pastor Fredy Martínez, president of the Upper Magdalena Conference. Leaders are dreaming of expanding the space to include a healthy lifestyle center, he added.
Pastors Abner De Los Santos, vice president of the General Conference, and Roberto Herrera, stewardship director for the Inter-American Division, took part in the inaugural ceremony and congratulated the church leadership for the visionary health impact that will make a difference in the life of the city.
The restaurant is run by a married couple, Marta Zabala and Javier Villamarín, both of whom are vegan chefs.
“We want for everyone who visits the restaurant to learn what is the proper diet because sometimes, it’s not about the quantity but the quality of food,” said Zabala. She has been in charge of restructuring the menu and incorporating diverse and nutritional flavors while the restaurant took a four-month hiatus for reconstruction and remodeling. “The idea is for customers to find different options each day. We don’t generally repeat the menu,” Zabala added.
Green Food offers a buffet-style menu, an a la carte menu, daily specials, and fast dishes like pizza, hamburgers, and desserts, said Villamarín. “God is going to provide everything so that we can encourage others to eat better,” he said. The restaurant is designed to have several spaces to promote family togetherness and spiritual enrichment.
Villamarín shared his perspective about gastronomy and the mission behind the restaurant: “The truth is I like to do everything. Some say that we are like the ideal couple, so we are always together. I am always helping her, adding flavors, creating dishes, innovating.” In addition to focusing on culinary excellence, both see this project as an opportunity to carry out missionary work. “I mean, I really like the whole missionary emphasis. We are very united in that. We like to teach,” Villamarín added.
In just the few days that the restaurant has been running, customers have expressed how much they love the food, said Pastor Martínez. “People say that this is the best vegan restaurant in Bogotá, and we are very proud of all the investment made in it and are excited about the message it carries with respect to the mission [we] must fulfill as a church body.”
The restaurant is the only church-operated restaurant in Bogotá. The dream is to have a full-time chaplain onsite every week as church leaders move forward to impact the lives of thousands of people in the coming months and years.
“This rebirth of this Adventist restaurant represents a renewed commitment to a healthy lifestyle, hospitality, and the mission to positively impact the community,” said Pastor Carvajal. “We want to continue being a center of influence and a space where the values of love, health, and well-being can be shared daily.”