By Tova Fruchtman

The first World Peace Café — a vegetarian restaurant conceptualized by the followers of New Kadampa Buddhism (www.kadampa.org) — opened in Ulverston, England, in 2002.

Since then, two more stores have opened in England (Halifax and Derbyshire) and people in Paris, Vienna and Hong Kong can take a break from the busy city around them at a World Peace Café.

And now the concept has crossed the Atlantic to the United States, with the first World Peace Café in America opening right here in Sandy Springs.

The restaurant, which opened its doors in April, but plans a grand opening on May 10, is located in the City Walk shopping center, across the street from Whole Foods.

There, Sandy Springs residents can dine on organic, locally grown vegetarian specialties for breakfast, lunch and dinner, while they surf the web with free Wi-Fi access.

Tofu scrambles, omelets and grilled potato wedges served with organic ketchup are part of the menu that was taste-tested again and again by owners of the café — the Rameshori Buddhist Center of Atlanta at 130 Allen Road, also in Sandy Springs.

Hand-picked coffee from Nicaragua, a Chai Latte made daily from scratch, a menu of loose teas that range from Biodynamic Breakfast to Peach Oolong to Jasmine Pearls, and an iced sweet tea with hints of tropical flowers and fruits called the Garden of Eden Sweet Tea are featured beverages on the menu.

And while they are still tweaking the menu during their soft opening, the Peace Burger and the Lentil Kale Soup have been big sellers. Deserts are also a specialty with vegan Chocolate Raspberry Mouse Cake that could satisfy anyone’s sweet tooth and Organic

Banana Pudding that’s a classic treat.

But for the people that opened the café it’s about more than nutritious vegetarian food that tastes great. It’s about bringing peace into the world.

The center built the café entirely through donations. Mayra Cuevas, the administrative director of the Rameshori Buddhist Center that serves the southeast, worked with a team of volunteers to put the café together.

The general contractor, the site manager, the electrician, the artist who put gold leaf on two walls in the café and the architect all volunteered their work to the project and most flew in to Atlanta from their homes across North America to help. The staff of the café is even comprised of volunteers.

Cuevas, who used to work for CNN but now works full time at the World Peace Café, said seeing how much people gave to the project has been one of her favorite parts of putting the café together.

“I worked in news so I know what the world is like,” she said “It’s very rare that you’ll see news about somebody being kind, and it was so amazing to work on this project because it was all about kindness. It was all about people giving themselves selflessly.”

Gen Kelsang Mondrub, an ordained Buddhist Monk and the Resident Teacher of Rameshori Buddhist Center of Atlanta (Gen means “Teacher”), said generosity as part of business is a new and inspirational concept.

“It’s very different type of model for running businesses, coming from good heart completely,” he said. “We can do business without trying to destroy each other and conquer each other, and as a practice of giving. That’s a whole different way of doing business, isn‘t it?”

As they hope to be an example to others of a different type of business model, New Kadampa Buddhist centers across the U.S. are looking towards the World Peace Café in Sandy Springs to see if they too can open a World Peace Café in their area.

“We hope that it will be the beginning of many more in the U.S.,” Cuevas said.

But the goal of the World Peace Café in Atlanta is to be a community meeting place — for people from all backgrounds — that helps people bring peace into their lives and into the world around them.

“The point of the café is not to make people Buddhist, it’s to give people a little peace, a little happiness,” Cuevas said. “We do our best to cherish everybody that walks through the door because everyone deserves to be happy, everyone deserves to be peaceful.”

Gen Mondrub said that goal fits in with the Buddhist tradition.

“Our basic view is that without inner peace, outer peace is not possible, and with that understanding we hope that this place here is a place of peace for people to come to and develop some inner peace,” Gen Mondrub said. He said the environment, the people and the food encourage that goal.

“The whole idea in our part of the world here is for word of mouth to spread, not just about the food, but about the place and the people and that we need more of that in this world. We need more world peace,” he said, adding that this is one of many ways to bring that peace to the world.

Sandy Springs resident Pierre Ferrari has already visited the café a few times since it opened. His description of his experience seems to meet the goals of the café.

“It’s a very peaceful place,” said Ferrari, who is not a vegetarian, but said he tries to eat vegetarian food as much as possible. “You can come here and have a nice quiet meal and feel good. It’s actually hard to find a good vegetarian meal.”

And Gen Mondrub said he hopes the café will become a place the community turns to for a peaceful, healthy meal.

“ I think in many different ways we’ll have a refuge for people to come to,” he said. “Whether people are spiritual or religious or not religious that doesn’t really matter, because everybody wants that inner peace; so, we think everybody will enjoy the World Peace Café.”

To find out more about the World Peace Café, the grand opening on May 10 or to look at the menu, visit their website at

www.worldpeacecafeatlanta.com.

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