Behind the Scenes: Wellness Week at Vesta Dipping Grill, Steuben's, and Ace Eat Serve

November 6 2013, 1:30 PM

If your server seems especially cheerful at Vesta Dipping Grill, Steuben's, or Ace Eat Serve, it could have something to do with the company-wide Wellness Week. Healthy living and the restaurant industry might seem like an oxymoron, but this trio of eateries, owned by Josh and Jen Wolkon, tends to function a little differently.

More than 10 years ago, the Wolkons implemented Sober Week at Vesta and temporarily did away with shift drinks. "Originally, it was my attempt to counteract the party lifestyle of the industry by encouraging staff to lay off booze for a week," Josh says. Instead of pushing back, the staff embraced the move and the once-a-year, alcohol-free emphasis morphed into a more full-body approach. In the time since, the Wolkons have created partnerships with gyms and workout studios, while also bringing in massage therapists and arranging company events as varied as 5k runs and skate park days.

During Wellness Week, the kitchens get in on the act by cooking healthier staff meals. One of the offshoots is the newly implemented Meatless Mondays at Ace. This vegetarian-friendly option kicked off this past Monday with a three-course raw food dinner following the screening of Boulder filmmaker Rachel Prince's Raw Natural. The documentary looks at professional athletes, including a gravely injured skateboarder named Evan Strong, who have adopted the raw food diet.

The Wolkons' current Wellness Week includes a cleanse (the company's fourth). There are more than 50 employees participating in the Conscious Cleanse, a Boulder-based company that released a book last year. The program (I'm dabbling in it myself) is more approachable than other cleanses, thus making it more realistic for those in the restaurant industry. In the end, it's not just about embracing the week and then returning to one's normal ways. “Ultimately, it is my hope that our staff makes just one change for the better regarding their lifestyle and health whether it be more water, less sugar, less packaged or processed foods, quitting smoking, less booze, more exercise, more sleep, etc. Wellness is one way to decrease the cost of healthcare.”

Inspired? The lull between Halloween and Thanksgiving offers a natural time to reset. Create your own wellness week (or weeks) by incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your diet or lacing up your shoes and going for a run. Juice bars can also be an easy way to infuse your day with vital nutrients. Ace has one, but there’s also Parsley, True Food Kitchen, WaterCourse Foods, Juicing Tree, and the Vibrant Earth Juice’s food truck. Downtown, TAG Raw has a few fresh juices on its menu and Pressed Juice Daily opened a kiosk on the 16th Street Mall where Adam Cianciola and Christian Davis sell their bottled, fresh-pressed, organic juices.

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