For Chef Phil Lendof, owner of Roots Vegan Kitchen, being an entrepreneur has always been his dream. Turning that dream into a successful business is where Lendof admits he struggled.
“Cooking I could do in my sleep, financing not so much,” Lendof said. “And, if you asked me five years ago if owning a plant-based business was on my radar, I’d probably disagree because it wasn’t really an option I’d consider until now.”
Opened in 2021, Roots Vegan Kitchen, is a unique plant-based restaurant that offers house made sandwiches, salads, fresh juices and tacos. But before Lendof could open his restaurant, he first needed a business plan on how to get started, he said.
Lendof sought out help and turned to the Florida Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Florida Atlantic University (FAU). He met Jaqueline Ramirez, a business consultant who specializes in strategic planning and business development.
“We’ve been open for about a year and things are going great. Jackie taught me a lot that I wasn’t familiar with, and she connected me to the right people once the business was open,” he said. “And just to have someone with her professional knowledge from the Florida SBDC at FAU that I can rely on for information meant the world for my business.”
Prior to Roots opening, Lendof sold tacos from a food truck in Delray Beach. He has more than 25 years in the restaurant industry cooking for various restaurants in Delray, and a culinary arts degree from Johnson & Wales University in North Miami, but his expansion to vegan creation began just shy of the pandemic.
When Lendof lived in Atlanta in 2019, he discovered a plant from India known as the Ashwagandha root, which is known to support the immune system and increase energy. From this root, he created raw juices made with fresh fruits, vegetables and the Ashwagandha root.
“I remember a friend introducing me to the Ashwagandha root that I first thought wasn’t for me, but after trying it and doing my research it caused me to want to learn more about other healthy options I could make,” he said.
Moving to Florida during the pandemic and wanting to finally start his business meant that he needed to find a source of income quickly, Lendof said. So along with selling tacos, he sold his vegan-made raw juice. He also earned the name Dr. Phil Good because his juices, “left people feeling amazing,” he said. A year later, he was offered to buy a space inside the Delray Beach Market, and then Roots was born.
“I really do enjoy the vegan lifestyle and I love making people feel good when they're eating,” Lendof said.
Roots menu has expanded to include breakfast, lunch and dinner. Lendof also creates exotic dishes like vegan tamales and corned jackfruit sandwiches.
“My biggest success is the guests' reaction to the food. I am not primarily vegan myself, but I know the health benefits and when I create a dish that they probably haven’t seen go plant-based, their enjoyment means so much to me,” Lendof said.