Although Boulder, Colorado, and Ahwatukee, differ in many ways, Iva Paleckova counted on one thing when she opened Blooming Beets Kitchen in the Shoppes at Casa Paloma: There would be just as many people here as there who craved really healthy food.
So, after tailoring her menu with gluten-free food and dishes appropriate for people on a Paleo diet, she’s now introduced what she thinks might be unique for a restaurant anywhere in the country – items prepared with an autoimmune protocol.
“There are five Paleo restaurants in the country, but we’re the only one with an autoimmune menu,” said Paleckova, who engineered some of her dishes to help people subdue or even conquer conditions that arise “when your gut isn’t working.”
While a Paleo-style diet focuses on eating like our prehistoric ancestors did – with unprocessed food such as all-natural meats and fish, fruits, seeds and leafy vegetables – the autoimmune protocol includes foods and their preparation that help heal the immune system and gut mucosa.”
“Gluten-free foods can still be bad for you,” she explained, noting that an autoimmune protocol can help with various ailments, such as acne, arthritis and celiac.
“I didn’t know about all this, and my customers started telling me they had cleaned up their diet and it really helped,” she said. “There are people who come here almost every day to eat.”
One patron had undergone 34 stomach operations, she said, and she still had various problems with her digestive tract.
A self-described “ingredient Nazi,” Paleckova said Blooming Beets is not like a restaurant that sports an organic menu. “You have places that have organic dishes, but then they fry them in canola oil.”
Paleckova’s experience with her own diet years ago led her not only into healthy eating but eventually into healthy restaurateuring.
She had been working in Texas at the computer giant Dell in the small-medium business segment, marketing storage units and servers and training for 100-mile runs when she started developing fainting spells.
“I used to eat out all the time, and I would go out and get sick. I knew something was not right,” she recalled. “Somebody told me I should try Paleo and my reaction was, ‘You’re telling me whole grains are bad and bacon is good, right? Whatever.’ Then I started reading up on it.”
“I’m just a nerd who does a lot of research,” added Paleckova, who can rattle off things she has learned about autoimmune, paleo and gluten-free eating and dining.
“I cleaned up my diet and started blogging about it,” she said, and then decided to move to Boulder in 2012, working for Dell on a remote basis.
But she quickly noticed, “There were no Paleo restaurants in Boulder and I asked, how come? All the health nuts live in Boulder.”
So, she found some investors and decided to open her own restaurant, but even that required research and learning.
“I had no experience and no idea what I was doing,” she recalled. “You don’t find chefs out of cooking schools that know how to do Paleo, so I had to learn.”
“I took online classes and watched YouTube videos for cooking techniques, and some people on my staff knew what they were doing — just not the Paleo part.”
Paleckova opened her first Blooming Beets restaurant in Boulder in 2014 – but she doesn’t look fondly on its beginning.
“Learning the restaurant business was a nightmare – more than a nightmare,” she added. “It was all trial and error. I didn’t ask for help. I didn’t know how to manage people or set expectations or hire the right people or get people with the right experience or how to train them.”
She also was determined to make the food taste good.
“Sometimes people still come in here and say, ‘Healthy food? It’s going to be awful,’” she said. “I knew we need food that is super-flavorful. We need to convert people who think healthy food is awful.”
She did – and Blooming Beets caught on.
“All the health nuts live in Boulder,” she laughed, adding “people were going to Boulder just to try the restaurant.”
She decided early last year she wanted to branch out, and deliberately picked a spot along the Ahwatukee/Chandler border because she had been told “there are a lot of people who live there who are big on being healthy, exercising and eating right.”
Paleckova said she envisions her Chandler restaurant becoming a community spot.
“A lot of people come here are so into health, too, and they want to meet each other. They get to know each other and network here”
She hosted a fashion show recently put on by Ahwatukee photographer Amy Aranyosi and Metro Image Consulting owner Ashley Krupnik and hopes to do more community-type events.
“People here are the most amazing people,” she said.
Information: 7131 W. Ray Road, Chandler; bloomingbeets.com, 480-699-7639.