In 2011, vegans Palaka Sauer and David Fintel co-founded Follow Your Bliss, San Luis Obispo's first mobile food facility.
Within a short year, Bliss traded its wheels for a permanent establishment at the Network Shopping Center at 778 Higuera St.
Over the past decade, the plant-based passion project has evolved into a full-service restaurant, marketplace, event lounge, and catering company, and its ownership team has expanded to include General Manager Dara Stepanek and Chief Financial Officer Kyle Fintel, David's brother.
However, the Bliss team's core mission—to create food that is good for the planet as well as for the body and soul—has never wavered, according to Sauer, who helms the kitchen as executive chef.
"Cooking healthy food with a healthy mindset is key to creating wellness," Sauer said. "This is a yogic diet [rooted in Hinduism]. We use sattvic foods, which are foods in the mode of goodness.
"This is why we never use animal products or serve any meat, fish, or eggs. This philosophy supports the nature of prana—or life force energy—and teaches us how to accept energy from nature without causing harm to the planet or any living beings. This is also why we source local and organic whenever possible."
- Courtesy Photo By Triniti Rowe
- FROM THE HEART Bliss co-owners, from left, Kyle Fintel, Palaka Sauer, Dara Stepanek, and David Fintel are dedicated to crafting wholesome cuisine, fostering community, and protecting the planet.
Originally from Brazil, Sauer spent time in India before moving to the Central Coast in 2007 and eventually settling in Oceano.
"I learned many of the principles of ayurvedic cooking through studying the principles of ahimsa, or nonviolence, while living in India in the mid '90s and continue to apply and practice these principles in all aspects of my life," Sauer said. "This philosophy is centered around compassion and caring for all creatures and realizing that our activities and choices affect all other life on the planet."
Ayurveda, which originated in India more than 3,000 years ago, is a natural form of medicine that encourages healthy and humane lifestyle choices, and it's Bliss' guiding light—from its restaurant and product offerings to special activities and events.
"Our varietal menu is full of delicious and energizing dishes, many of which are naturally gluten-free and easily modified for special diets," said Stepanek.
Breakfast and lunch offerings include coffee, tea, smoothies, juices, and entrees ranging from pancakes and scrambles to salads and protein bowls.
In the evenings, a rotating chef's dinner special features eggplant Parmigiana, yellow coconut curry, "karma asada" chili, and lentil-vegetable soup.
Melissa Sabino of Atascadero says she dines at Bliss several times a week.
"I work in downtown SLO, so I order online and pick up the food to enjoy on my lunch break. It's so easy and convenient," she said. "I know everything on the menu will nourish my mind, body, and soul. My favorite [dish] is the Protein Buddha. I'm also loving their addition, the Light and Bright Bowl, and their daily soups. Everything on the menu is delicious."
- Photo By Cherish Whyte
- CREEKSIDE PATIO Bliss' 2,400-square-foot kitchen, marketplace, and lounge area seats 50 indoors, with capacity for an additional 100 guests outdoors.
In addition to the restaurant's lounge and patio area, Bliss has an in-house marketplace featuring ayurvedic skin care, super foods and supplements, hemp-infused cooking oils and tinctures, and zero-waste lifestyle products, along with snacks, drinks, and groceries.
Another goal of Bliss' ownership team is to improve the holistic wellness of their community through experiences, Stepanek said. A SLO resident and Cal Poly math and physics graduate with teaching credentials, Stepanek is also a certified climate reality leader and integrative nutrition and embodiment coach.
She loves her work at Bliss, as it provides "a vehicle to help create a future of thriving humans on a thriving planet," she said.
Stepanek offers regular dance and embodiment classes in the Bliss lounge, and travels off-site as well. For those who prefer yoga or breath work, enthusiasts can access the Bliss webpage's events tab for local classes led by Sauer.
As part of its ongoing commitment to promote innovation in vegan cuisine and healthful living, Bliss will be offering its first ever Sunset CBD Dinner on April 16.
- Photo By Cherish Whyte
- GOODIES GALORE Bliss' expanding marketplace includes its own branded nutritional snacks and hemp products, as well as other health-conscious groceries, skin care items, apparel, and more.
"CBD [cannabidiol] benefits are widely known and accepted in today's culture," Sauer said. "The idea for an all-CBD dinner came about through conversations with our friends at Kind [Creations]," based in Santa Cruz.
"We would like to collaborate to help demystify and help educate the public about the innumerable benefits of CBD," he continued. "Their product is fantastic, pure, and potent. I will create amazing flavors to complement this amazing product, demonstrating how CBD can be easily incorporated into our diet to improve our overall well-being."
The CBD dinner event will include live music from acoustic indie folk duo Fort Vine of New York.
"Attendees will be taught how to cook with our hemp-infused organic olive oil and be entered to win and take home one of our seven Bliss Hemp products," Sauer said.
The meal will include a sparkling cherry mint twist nonalcoholic beverage, cranberry-dressed Italian salad, butternut squash soup with croutons, samosas with spiced chutney, turmeric and ginger quinoa, roasted vegetables drizzled with cashew cream, and açaí blueberry Bliss Balls for dessert.
Stepanek clarified that guests will experience subtle side effects from the CBD dinner, such as "feeling calmer, experiencing less tension or pain in their body, smiling and laughing more easefully, feeling deeply relaxed, and generally feeling happy." The company notes that CBD products contain less than 0.3 percent THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the phsychoactive compound of marijuana. Bliss makes its products using CBD.
Long-term goals for Sauer and Stepanek include expanding the brand.
"We ... hope to open a second location in the next few years to spread Bliss throughout the county and beyond," Sauer said. "We are also currently building an exciting line of grab-and-go products to be sold in local markets ... and, eventually, the whole country." Δ
Flavor Writer Cherish Whyte salutes Bliss' 10 years of healthful—and delicious—culinary pursuits. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.