Lisa Bonbright is a name you should know. While running some of Los Angeles’s most notable vegan restaurants—she’s the CEO of Café Gratitude and operating partner of WeHo’s year-old Gracias Madre—she also lives a fabulously healthy life. And she does so without invoking the haute hippie stereotype.
When I meet Bonbright at Gracias Madre, she’s perfectly put-together in business chic—a bold green trench coat, edgy accessories, an oversize designer purse. “I believe it’s important to ‘dress’ and look your best. It makes a difference in business,” says Bonbright, who’s 52 but works out like she’s 29, and has the energy to match. “I really love wearing Marni and Jil Sander. Both have timeless design and use incredible textiles, which is important in the California climate. And they don’t wrinkle easily, so you can pull them out of closet or your suitcase and be out the door in a flash.”
While the Puerto Rico-born, Palos Verdes-raised Bonbright says she’s been personally healthy for the last three decades—she may have even dropped words like “Jane Fonda” and “aerobics”—she had no intention of making it her job until six years ago when she and her husband, Chris (both in real estate development and investment), walked into Northern California’s Café Gratitude by chance, instantly fell in love with the food and became obsessed with bringing it to LA.
The couple approached the restaurant’s founders Terces and Matthew Engelhart about partnering, and four years ago the first LA Café Gratitude became a reality. There are now two LA locations of CG with a third set to open any minute now in DTLA’s Arts District, and a San Diego location will be opening later this year.
Inspired by her cool, kind demeanor, savvy business acumen, and, frankly, beautiful skin, we asked Bonbright to give us some insights into her daily life and how she fuses her busy schedule with healthy habits. Unsurprisingly, she does it all in great healthy style.
1. Morning routine: An early-riser, Lisa is up at 5:00 a.m. to get a jump on emails and sip the cup of coffee Chris has made her. Most mornings from 6:00 to 7:30 a.m. the two hike Runyon or Franklin Canyons to spend quality time together—and discuss business. “We get a lot accomplished,” she says. “When you’re hiking, there’s something non-confrontational about it—you aren’t looking the person in the eye because you’re in nature and looking around, so you’re more free to communicate. If we get in a fight, hiking is the best thing we do for each other.” (Relationship advice noted!) At 7:30 a.m., Lisa has a health shake for breakfast (fresh pineapple, fresh-squeezed orange juice, fresh almond juice from one of the restaurants, frozen bananas and strawberries, protein powder, wheat germ and flax seed).
2. Food for thought: Bonbright’s a creature of habit and keeps it pretty simple: “I eat small portions of only organic, non-processed, mostly plant-based food. Lunch is often a Madre chopped salad or the I Am Humble from CG. My new discovery—incorporating bone broth. “I’m always healthy in my ordering, but I’m not a vegan,” she says. “Lately I have been astounded by the multiple benefits of having a very light dinner of bone broth. I’m sleeping better, I have more energy, my skin looks better, and I’m finally trimmed to the body I’ve always wanted,” she says. Her snack of choice? Frozen nuts, and occasionally frozen chocolate.
3. Keeping it clean: If entertaining has meant too many of Madre’s delicious La Purista margaritas, Bonbright will go on a three-day Cafe Gratitude cleanse—which consists of juices, a salad for lunch and more juices and a soup at night. Every three months, she does it for a week. Also every three months, Lisa checks into the luxe health haven Ranch at Live Oak in Malibu for their four-day program. “It completely puts me back on track,” she says. “It’s a reminder of how I want to feel; it keeps me motivated to stay on a healthy path.”
4. Working it out: In addition to the almost daily morning hikes, she hits several of LA’s toughest HIIT workouts. Focusing on strength training three times a week, she attends a mix of Burn60 (“I love the way Keith Anthony mixes things up, keeps it challenging and super fun”) and Sweat Garage (“Christopher Slevin, the owner of Sweat Garage has great energy, really listens to your needs”). “Nothing else contributes to overall posture and muscle tone like resistance workouts. It’s also essential for keeping my energy levels high,” she says. On off days she’ll unroll her mat for Power Hot Yoga in West Hollywood with Kristin Kaminski at Equinox.
5. Sleep matters: “A big one for me is sleep,” says Lisa. “I’m in bed by 9:00 p.m. on weekdays, up at 5:00 a.m.” The early-to-bed, early-to-rise routine helps balance Bonbright’s personal needs with taking care of her more than 300 employees across the restaurants. “I have so many people getting to our office at 8:00 a.m., I need to be a step ahead. If I’m up early, I can do plenty of emails and get their day going by before I even get there,” she says.
6. Take care of No. 1: Bonbright has a standing weekly acupuncture appointment (“It gets me really clear and keeps my body in sync,” she says) and twice-a-month massages are a priority. One area she still wants to improve? Stretching…“The absolute key to getting old is being flexible,” she says.
7. Gratitude training: “It’s perhaps even more important than the clean food, the exercise, and all the rest of it,” she muses. “When you’re helping other people and making a difference in people’s lives, the health, diet, and exercise all follow,” she says. “When you feel good about what you’re doing, suddenly everything feels good.” —Sari Anne Tuschman
(Photos: Gracias Madre)