Originally from Germany, Philipp and Cru von Holtzendorff-Fehling decided to move to the states and make Memphis home because of its culture, history, and community. While they have always loved their adopted city in the heart of the Delta, they discovered it was hard to find healthy, organic food, especially when eating out.
“We saw the gap and the need for healthy, fast food,” said Philipp. “We all lead busy lives, and healthy food in restaurants is widely unavailable, especially if you don’t want to spend a fortune or need to get in and out quick.”
Philipp’s wife Cru was diagnosed with Lyme disease several years ago. More than anything, she had to make changes to her diet, which kept them from eating out. Needing organic and vegetarian options, she found that places besides New York City and San Francisco were lacking in restaurants that catered to healthy eaters. So, the pair decided to develop a restaurant concept, and from there, Mama Gaia was born.
The first step was to determine a location for Mama Gaia. Philipp and Cru were immediately drawn to Crosstown Concourse. “The philosophy of Crosstown development is so aligned with what we’re doing—it’s a natural fit,” said Philipp.
Next they needed a menu. Cru, who was trained and mentored by Michelin-star chef Armin Karrer, developed the entire menu herself, which is made of all organic, vegetarian dishes that are prepared quickly for people on the go. The menu consists of pita, petizzas, salads, and more at affordable price points. “We wanted to create a restaurant and a menu that are good for the planet, the environment, and our health,” said Philipp. “Mama Gaia means ‘Mother Earth’ in ancient Greek, and we think that’s a perfect description of what we have built with our business. With Mama Gaia, we’re making the unavailable available.”
The restaurant quickly took off, and a second location recently opened in Ballet Memphis at Overton Square. The Overton location has a full coffee bar as well as signature cocktails made with organic liquors, wine, and beer. While Philipp and Cru decided to start Mama Gaia in the city they live and love, they would like to make this a Memphis story and carry the concept to other cities in the U.S.
By Christin Yates