An entrepreneur traveled more than 4,000 miles to open a restaurant in North Miami Beach to serve people “the food they need.”
Laura Ramonda, 34, is from Cordoba, Argentina. She moved to Miami in May, and on June 29, she opened Holi Vegan Kitchen in North Miami Beach with her sister Cecilia.
The word “holi” is associated with Lord Shiva of the Hindu religion, known for his meditative nature.
“We want to give people a holistic experience,” she said. “People need food that is going to nourish and heal their mind, body and soul.”
Ramonda didn’t always live the vegan lifestyle, eating meat like most people. She became vegetarian 15 years ago and vegan in 2013.
She said she realized the she was not only eating healthier, but animals’ lives were being saved. Her family in Cordoba also eventually removed meat from their diet.
“Nobody taught us how to eat this way,” she said. “I wasn’t raised a vegan. I was raised regular, so I had to learn another way to cook and eat to stay healthy.”
Making her dream become reality wasn’t easy.
It was difficult finding a location, and the budget was low,” she said. “It was hard finding good people, especially contractors, to work with.”
Her background as a fashion designer in Italy for five years helped her create the “holistic feel” she said she wanted her customers to experience.
She said she misses her old job and her family in South America, but said her customers keep her coming back.
“I get at least 100 people coming to the restaurant everyday,” she said. “It makes me cry because that’s 100 meals being served without any meat. That’s 100 people skipping meat for a meal.”
She said that most of her customers are not vegan, and that often children come in with their parents to introduce them to a new way of eating.
Current cashier and hostess Kristina Spalding said that before she started working at the restaurant, she tried the Jerk Tempeh Panini. When she found out that the restaurant was hiring, she called Ramonda, scheduled an interview and got the job.
“It’s good to work somewhere that matches with your morals,” she said.
The 11-year vegan has been working with Ramonda for a month, and said jokingly that she “wishes she and Laura can be friends.”
“She’s very straight to the point, but still very polite and sweet,” she said. “She’s definitely the best boss I’ve had thus far.”
For her part, Ramonda said she started a business that helps people make changes to their lives “one plate at a time.”
“Even if people don’t convert to vegan, I’m happy to see that they’re making the move to take care both their body and save animals’ lives,” she said.