Wayo Longoria Creates a Dining Room Where You Are a Family Member
When you are on a whole foods, plant-based diet, finding a restaurant for an enjoyable meal can be a challenge. Eduardo (Wayo) Longoria solves this problem for you with San Diego’s Casa de Luz, an inviting dining room that serves certified organic, plant-based, non-processed, cooked-from-scratch breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
I sit in Casa de Luz with Wayo and Lainey, one of several lead chefs. The space is comfortable with high, beamed ceilings, an open kitchen, a choice of small tables and large community tables that invite chatting, all in wood and natural colors that make you feel closer to the fresh foods you are enjoying.
As I slowly savor my dinner, wanting to get the most out of every flavorful forkful, I tell Lainey the zucchini is the best I’ve ever eaten. Usually this is not my favorite vegetable. Lainey let me know why it is so special; she marinated the zucchini for hours in a blend of spices and tamari before roasting it, then added daikon for crunch, fresh basil, and almonds. Then the result is incorporated onto a plate with foods that complement the zucchini’s color, taste, and texture. Really, I could eat this every day.
As we eat, Wayo passionately draws his vision for Casa de Luz. “Food becomes you after you eat it. Real food is healing. That is the spiritual part of eating. At Casa de Luz, we serve only healing foods. We are a gathering spot to educate the community experientially on how delicious and satisfying a whole foods, plant-based diet is. Our customers are our family. They come here and can just relax, knowing
the nutritional part is taken care of. All they have to do is re-educate their palates or, if already there, just enjoy. We are not a restaurant even though it looks like one. It is in the intention and vision that we feed people in a ‘wholly’ different way. That’s why we call ourselves a dining room instead.”
The basic unit of food at Casa de Luz is the plate. One plate – which changes at every meal. There is no menu in the same way that your mother did not present you with one, but rather chose carefully the best foods to keep you well and nourished. You can rely on Wayo and the chefs to give you a plate orchestrated with a variety of taste-satisfying whole foods.
That is where Lainey comes in. She is as passionate as Wayo. Raised vegetarian, Lainey learned to cook whole plant foods from her mom and grandfather, both also professional chefs. Her challenge is to create a new magical plate, rounded out by soup, salad, and a choice of desserts, each day. This is a playful, creative process.
She explains how she achieves her goal. “I am lucky to start with the best ingredients. The plate must contain a variety of flavors, colors, and textures. The contrast makes the whole more than the sum or its parts, more than just a random collection of food lumped together. The plate is attractively designed to appeal to both the eye and the taste buds. Casa uses the best: Saladmaster cookware which is made from surgical stainless steel that does not leach into the food or dull its taste.”
Lainey constantly hones her craft by talking with the people she cooks for. About half come because they know about Casa de Luz and are seeking a wonderful whole foods, plant-based meal. Others arrive without any prior knowledge of the kind of food served.
What message does she hear the most? “People share they are satisfied without feeling stuffed. They don’t miss the meat at all. After they eat here several times, their tastes start to change. They don’t crave junk foods as much. They are happy to eat delicious whole foods that just happen to make them feel good, too. They love that the drinks are equally healthy and tasty, with a choice of smoothies, juice, coffee, tea, and wine – all, of course, organic.”
Lainey tells me that the customer favorite is the “sun-cheese” that is part of many of the plates. It
is so called because it is made with sunflower seed and is dairy-free, made from soaked seeds, vinegar, and seasonings, blended with water to the perfect texture. “People are amazed and often ask about it,” Lainey says.
If you live in or are visiting San Diego, I highly recommend you go to Casa de Luz for an adventure in whole foods. If you are visiting, go early in your trip, because you are almost certainly going to want to go back. Happy eating.
If you enjoyed this post, you may want to read my first interview with Wayo Longoria when Casa
de Luz was under construction. Wayo shares his history in the restaurant industry and the health challenges that started him on the road to a whole foods, plant-based diet.
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Blog posting by Janice Stanger, Ph.D. Janice authored The Perfect Formula Diet: How to Lose Weight and Get Healthy Now With Six Kinds of Whole Foods. This easy-to-follow eating plan is built on a whole foods, plant-based diet that can prevent, and even reverse, most chronic disease. Janice plans to visit Casa de Luz again soon.