Transformational Eating: Reinventing Health Food at Alchemy Juice Café
When Alexis Joseph and Abed Alshahal, the collaborative team behind Alchemy Juice Café, were undergraduates studying human nutrition, they discovered a shared passion for food as key ingredient to health. Their shared love of healthy food and entrepreneurial inclinations, however, led them on a much different journey than expected.
After graduation, Alexis earned a master’s degree and became a registered dietitian and Abed began preparing for medical school. In October 2014, their passion for food and health united and culminated in the opening of Alchemy, a juice bar and restaurant that seeks to “demystify health food and make nutrition accessible and affordable” according to Alexis, the self-described “director of nutrition, head of communications, chef, dietitian, and manager” of Alchemy.
As a registered dietitian, Alexis combines her clinical expertise with original recipes, which she features on her blog. Her clean, minimalist creations taste like the indulgence one expects at a restaurant but are also deeply nourishing. “This is a restaurant that caters your order to meet your specific health needs,” says Alexis.
Alchemy’s staff shares a similar background to Alexis in nutrition sciences and can all make informed recommendations particular to each customer’s health concerns. The café also offers classes on topics ranging from understanding food labels to stocking a home refrigerator and pantry. The food is prepared in what looks like a home kitchen, with open shelves that feature large jars of beautiful ingredients, inviting customers not only to experiment with new flavors but also inspiring them to bring what they learn at Alchemy into their own homes.
All of Alchemy’s food is made in-house and their cold-press juicing technique preserves the vital nutrients and enzymes of ingredients like apples, pears, cucumber, celery, spinach, fresh ginger, and lemon. Alexis starts her day early, doing kitchen prep work such as creating sandwich spreads like hummus, hemp pesto, and cashew mayonnaise. She also meets with customers for one-on-one nutrition counseling. Then she delves into the management of the business, keeping the inventory of fresh fruits and vegetables current and building her network of local suppliers. Smoothies might include honey from Honeyrun Farms in Williamsport, Ohio, and an accompanying salad might feature kale from Swainway Urban Farm here in Columbus. Customers can enjoy Deeper Roots coffee from Cincinnati and whole wheat toast made by an in-house baker, topped with homemade almond butter and Bonhomie Acres maple syrup.
Along with Jeff May Jr., who is also an Alchemy co-owner, Abed is one of the owners of A and R Creative Group, which has pioneered several innovative restaurant concepts in Columbus such as The Crest Gastropub and The Market Italian Village. Alchemy is located just south of the corner of Livingston Avenue and Parsons Avenue in South Columbus, an area that may not seem like an obvious choice for an entrepreneurial approach to eating. Yet Abed and Alexis intentionally located Alchemy within walking distance of Nationwide Children’s Hospital to raise awareness of preventative health for the hospital’s patients and staff and the surrounding community. And as a registered dietitian, Alexis is able to use her education and experience as a way to prescribe food as a factor for wellness.
To further support Alchemy’s approach to health, the restaurant is also affiliated with and adjacent to The Fitness Loft, an urban gym. The café and the gym have worked together to offer a holistic approach to health to customers and clients, including team-building retreats for locally headquartered companies. New members at the gym can take advantage of health assessments that include nutrition counseling with Alexis, and Nationwide Children’s Hospital employees are eligible for discounted gym memberships, making it easier to take advantage of both the workout facility and Alchemy’s inventive menu.
By intersecting the hospital, a gym, and the cafe, Alexis, Abed, and Jeff layer food, physical wellness, and preventative medicine in a way that makes customers enthusiastic about cooking and eating whole, clean foods to heal and energize. “Alchemy is a platform for me to showcase the intersection of health and food,” says Alexis, “in a way that is accessible to both traditional and experimental eaters.”
Alexis Joseph’s 5 Tips for Spring Eating & Wellness
- Strawberries are packed with immune-boosting vitamin C and fiber. For a spring smoothie, blend a handful of fresh strawberries with a frozen banana, a tablespoon of chia seeds, a cup of almond milk, and a handful of baby spinach.
- Crisp snow or sugar-snap peas are great snacks and delicious in stir-fries. Whip up a peanut sauce with soy sauce, rice vinegar, fresh ginger, natural peanut butter, and a squirt of local honey. Add in snow peas, sliced red peppers, and carrots for a pop of color.
- Spinach, lettuce, and many other greens are in full bloom in the spring. Add spinach to smoothies for a dose of phytonutrients. Pile meats, cheeses, and vegetables on fresh salad greens drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil, lemon juice, sea salt, and pepper.
- Spread 2 cups of chopped rhubarb in an even layer on a baking sheet and roast at 450° for 5–10 minutes. Toss with lots of fresh arugula, goat cheese, toasted walnuts, and a simple balsamic vinaigrette.
- Trim the woody ends off of 1½ pounds of fresh asparagus. Toss with a tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil, a dash of sea salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Roast at 425° for 10–15 minutes.
—Alexis Joseph, MS, RD, LD