More than 100 Seventh-day Adventist pastors and church members from Bogotá, the capital city of Colombia met for the inauguration of the vegan restaurant named Green Food on September 5, 2023. The restaurant was recently remodeled and converted into vegan spot that seats 150 persons, staffed with new chefs and serving personnel. Larger plans are being drawn for the restaurant to become a center of influence. [Photo: Upper Magdalena Conference]

September 21, 2023 | Bogotá, Colombia | Laura Acosta and Libna Stevens, Inter-American Division News

The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Colombia recently inaugurated its newly renovated restaurant in Bogota. Dozens of church leaders and members toured the restaurant and sampled the healthy dishes. Named Green Food, the restaurant’s focus is on vegan dishes and healthy bites is part of the Upper Magdalena Conference’s strategy to highlight a healthy lifestyle with a spiritual ambiance, church leaders said.

“This launch is about the continual commitment of the Adventist Church here to promote wellness and conscious eating,” said pastor Roberto Carvajal, project director of the Upper Magdalena Conference.

Upper Magadelna Conference leaders L-R: Yuver Vargas, treasurer, Pastor Fredy Martínnez presidente, Pastor Juan Pablo Cardenas, executive secretary, and Pastor Roberto Carvajal, stewardship director and projects coordinator. [Photo: Upper Magdalena Conference]

The church opened the vegetarian restaurant 26 years ago in the same location, but after studying, refocusing, and restructuring it, conference leaders decided to invest funds to expand, renovate and convert it to a vegan restaurant with a gluten-free, lactose-free, and sugar-free offerings.

“For us as a conference it is very important to have developed this project because we want to eventually turn it into a center of influence where the entire membership in Bogotá can bring their friends so they can learn about living a healthy lifestyle by eating healthy foods and where they can learn more about God’s love,” said Pastor Fredy Martínez, president of the Upper Magdalena Conference. Leaders are dreaming of expanding the space to include a Healthy Lifestyle Center, he said.

The Green Food vegan restaurant is operated by the Upper Magdalena Conference and can serve up to 150 persons at a time. [Photo: Upper Magdalena Conference]

Pastors Abner De Los Santos, vice president of the General Conference, and Roberto Herrera, stewardship director of the Inter-American Division, took part in the inaugural ceremony and congratulated the church leadership for the visionary healthy lifestyle impact that will make a difference in the life of the city.

The restaurant is run by a married couple, Marta Zabala and Javier Villamarín both of whom are vegan chefs.

Chefs Marta Zabala and Javier Villamarín are married and run the Green Food vegan restaurant in Bogotá, Colombia. [Photo: Upper Magdalena Conference]

“We want for everyone who visits the restaurant to learn what is the proper diet because sometimes it’s not about the quantity but the quality of food,” said Zabala. She has been in charge of restructuring the menu and incorporating diverse and nutritional flavors while the restaurant took four months for reconstruction and remodeling.  “The idea is for customers to find different options each day. We don’t generally repeat the menu,” Zabala added.

Green Food offers a buffet style menu, an a la carte menu, daily specials and fast dishes like pizza, hamburgers, and desserts, said Villamarín. “God is going to provide everything so that we can encourage others to eat better,” he said The restaurant is designed to have several spaces to promote family togetherness and spiritual enrichment.

General Conference Vice President Abner De Los Santos (right) congratulates the church leadership in Bogotá, Colombia for investing in a vegan restaurant to impact the city while Pastors Fredy Martínez (center) president of the Upper Magdalena Conference, and Pastor Roberto Herrera (left) stewardship director of the Inter-American Division look on during the inaugural ceremony on Sep. 5, 2023. [Photo: Upper Magdalena Conference]

Villamarín shared his perspective about gastronomy and the mission behind the restaurant.

“The truth is I like to do everything,” he said. “Some say that we are like the ideal couple, so we are always together, I am always helping her, adding flavors, creating dishes, innovating.” In addition to focusing on culinary excellence, both see this project as an opportunity to carry out missionary work. “I mean, I really like the whole missionary emphasis. We are very united in that. We like to teach,” Villamarín added.

[Image: Upper Magdalena Conference]

In just the few days that the restaurant has been running, customers have expressed how much they love the food, said Martínez. “People say that this is the best vegan restaurant in Bogotá, and we are very proud of all the investment made in it and are excited about the message it carries with respect to the mission me must fulfill as a church body.”

The restaurant is the only church-operated restaurant in Bogotá. The dream is to have a full-time chaplain onsite every week as church leaders move forward to impact the lives of thousands of people in the coming months and years.

A casual area for customers to dine in the restaurant. [Photo: Upper Magdalena Conference]

“This rebirth of this Adventist restaurant represents a renewed commitment to a healthy lifestyle, hospitality, and the mission to positively impact the community,” said Carvajal. “We want to continue being a center of influence and a space where the values of love, health and well-being can be shared daily.”

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