THE BUSINESS OF FOOD: LANA

Lana Love is a bit of an icon in Ibiza. The Croatia born entrepreneur first came to the island to open up a juice bar based on a friend’s suggestion, having never been to Spain before. Almost 15 years later, that juice bar is now Passion, a company with 100 employees, seven locations, including an organic food shop, as well as a magazine and products all under the same name.

Passion focuses on healthy food, with organic and locally sourced ingredients. There’s a strong focus on veg friendly  dishes, but goes by a concept that Lana calls “Love all, serve all”, with some omnivore friendly ingredients.

I’ve always admired Lana with her sheer force and endless inspiration that makes her mini empire come out stronger every season. Here she shares about all things behind the scenes, her journey on becoming an ‘accidental entrepreneur’, and what exactly goes into the perfect Passion dish.

Can you tell us a bit about your journey with food and healthy eating?

Like many who got into healthy eating by having health issues or digestive problems, it was the same thing for me that made me flirt first with Ayurveda, then macrobiotics, onto being vegetarian, vegan, raw vegan and now I have found my middle by being as we call it flexitarian! My diet is predominately vegan but now and then I have some goat cheese kefir, goat or sheep cheese (Spanish do amazing cured sheep cheese!), rarely I will have some eggs from local Ibiza farm and if the menu in restaurants I’m dining at have only gluten pasta or just green salad as a veggie option, I will go for some fish.

What inspired you to open Passion?

There was no inspiration! I wanted to open a summer business that will make me LOTS of money in the summer so that I can go back to London in the winter and continue studying drama. I wanted to be an actress, not a restaurateur! But that BIG money didn’t come in the first ten years so my acting career suffered. I guess the universe saw bigger use in me feeding people better than walking the red carpet!

Was there a lot of learning curves in the beginning?

O my! So many! But for those, you will need to give me book deal to write about it all ☺ One of major ones is that you have to listen to your customers, suggestions, their wants… you may not necessarily make them all happen but once you are there to serve the public you might as well make them happy and not all be about you and only your beliefs and wants.

Why did you decide to open your business in Ibiza?

I was going to go to Croatia to do it; I had an idea for a juice bar and homemade cakes, muffins, healthy salads, sandwiches… but a friend of mine heard my idea and told me that this concept will work amazingly in Ibiza as so many here are in need of vitamins and healthy food after partying. So I came to Ibiza in 2002 to open a business, never being in Spain before, let alone Ibiza, not speaking word of Spanish! Looking back at it, it was insane thing to do, but it shows you what having no fear can turn into.

What’s your favorite thing about the island?

Nature, clean air, good weather, views… I live on the seafront with a never ending sea view… its my favorite thing everrrrrr!

What’s a typical work day like for you?

There is nothing typical in my work or life! Ha ha ha… But it starts with me trying to have my morning coffee at home if I can, just to have that hour for myself and at the same time I try to do my social media as sometimes if I’m busy the whole day and get home at midnight I don’t do it.

I do not go to all my locations every day, it rarely happens as I have seven now. I mostly go to check up on staff, if everything is okay, if they need anything, to say hi to some customers, as they like to see me and chat with me. Many find it inspiring what I do, so there are always questions, curiosity, asking me for advice on all kinds of things.

Recently I try to eat in couple of different Passions a day from the menu instead of just my usual bowl of soup, avocado, or green juice. That helps me experience dishes as a customer and keep an eye (and tastebuds!) on quality. I’m a nightmare… I change things all the time as soon as I feel something is not completely okay. I’m a perfectionist and that can drive my chefs and bar people crazy ☺

What inspires you?

My inspiration is to always try to do better, to innovate, to not stand still, to keep moving with trends, new things. My customers are my inspiration. I look at them and think what would they like to experience, how can I keep them entertained with my menu and Passion experience. I get inspiration everywhere! A name or phrase or song lyrics can make me create a new dish or drink or dessert to match it, a photo on Instagram can make me do a dish that will not necessarily have anything as a finished product to do with that photo. A new superfood I hear of, or suddenly new ingredient that I haven’t paid much attention to before is also inspiring. For example, at the moment I’m obsessed with black garlic, water kefirs and putting jalapenos in green juices!

Can you tell us a bit about the process for developing recipes?

My food is not so much about recipes but about preparing basic ingredients well, like grains, seeds, vegetables, marinades for tofu and tempeh, the way we chop, shave, julienne, spiralize veggies and then putting dishes in combination with great sauces and dressings; thinking first and foremost how all ingredients will gel, do they go well together, making sure there is lots of greens on the plate but also satisfying ingredients like a sweet potato wedge, grilled polenta, adzuki beans, piece of lovely marinated tofu or tempeh, or both.

I love textures in my food so there will be soft ingredients, crunchy, melt in your mouth, chewy… I always think how to spike a dish and put information in it so that it is nutritionally more rich. That means adding nuts, seeds, sesame, algae, hemp, superfoods… to Passion food. As I did macrobiotics before, I use principle in quite few dishes of mixing grains and legumes for better protein absorption, then some cook veggies, add a touch of fried like kombu chips, something fresh like red cabbage salad, tempeh, gomashio and a few other condiments. But everything has to taste great! If it doesn’t taste great it doesn’t make it on the menu regardless how healthy it is. Passion operates on a love-all serve-all concept, so we offer chicken and fish, but no red meat.

Why do you believe it’s important for food businesses to practice sustainability?

Well first of all, as a restaurant or café you are huge consumer of not only food ingredients but also take-away equipment, packaging that your supplies come in and many other things. We feed the masses, so the choices we in the food industry make are super important and of big impact. Sadly many food businesses go for the cheapest option all for the sake of profits. I spend crazy money on my suppliers, ingredients, take away equipment and the products we get are of the best quality and sustainability. After 16 years being in the business I still rent a small apartment! Yes, I have expanded my business but my profit margins are so much smaller than businesses not buying organic or recyclable take away-equipment, napkins, only glass bottled water, etc.

What’s your favorite thing about being an entrepreneur?

I am accidental entrepreneur! Never thought or dreamed of being one! As I said, my dream was to be an actress! The best thing about being entrepreneur is that you are always moving forward, you have chance to do new things, projects, your work is your playground. It is creative, exciting, and comes with working 12 hours a day, 7 days a week! ☺

What’s your least favorite thing?

Not having time to be able to completely disconnect. I haven’t stopped since January of 2015! I really need a month off somewhere exotic to recharge and be good to myself. I care a lot about what I do and can throw myself too much in my work and neglect myself, my health, my relationships. But I’m also aware this is a peak period of big things happening and in the near future all fruits of hard labor will whisk me off to Maldives! I hope!

Any advice for others who want to start their own food business?

Many are coming to me for advice and encouragement on opening their own business. I will just say if you think of doing it, then just go for it. Many need proof of what they will do will be successful; they need a guarantee of that before even starting it! There is no guarantee, you just have to feel it so deep in your gut what you will do will be the best thing ever. Also, it is very true to say, that making money cannot be your only motivation. If you are lucky it may happen that money will pour in, but in the long term success rarely lasts if the motivation is only to make money. Owning your own business means you spend a lot of time at work so you have to adore what you do and have an extreme passion for it. I started my business in the most insane way so I will never discourage anyone from trying, even though my road to today’s success was so so so so hard. But not giving up, keep going and working hard always pays off in the end.

What’s next for Passion?

I now have seven locations in Ibiza and even though it is demanded from me by my customers to open them on more or less every corner in Ibiza I think right now there’s enough Passion cafes on the island. I’m starting to be my own competition! I am also yearning for city life again and would love to take Passion to a city, either in Spain or abroad. I have many offers for franchising but it is not what I wish to do with Passion. Many investors are knocking on my door and great opportunities are arising so we’ll see. I never plan anything; I very often am not sure what is the next step I will need to take, I improvise every day. But my dream now is to give access to Passion’s homes of health and happiness to as many people around the world as I can!

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