Real People, Real Fitness: Chef Eddi Vinh Vi of Sprout Café

Check out Chef Eddi's award-winning Sprout Café in Palo Alto
Check out Chef Eddi’s award-winning Sprout Café in Palo Alto

When I tell people I’m a Registered Dietitian, the knee-jerk response is “Help me! I don’t know how to eat healthfully.” One of my favorite tips to share is to have a couple of “go-to” healthy places to eat at during the week. Doing this helps us make better food choices during the work week especially when life keeps us too busy.

If you’re looking for a fantastic go-to healthy restaurant, look no further than the award-winning Sprout Café in Palo Alto [which is awesomely rated 4 out of 5 stars on Yelp]. It is run by Chef Eddi Vinh Vi, and I am so proud to feature him in this “Real People, Real Fitness” series. He is a strong culinary advocate for healthful eating and living, and it is most evident in his restaurant’s mission statement:

“Our goal: to break the stereotype that fast and affordable food is neither healthy nor tasty. We push ourselves to bring great ideas and good food to you.”

Sprout Café is a grab-and-go New American restaurant that specializes in healthy sandwiches and small bites, and it is most known for its salads. It has quickly become a Palo Alto staple for Stanford University students because of its specialty salads (guest favorites include the Kyoto, Southwestern, and Rocky salads). The restaurant also allows guests to build and customize their own salads. With over 80 different ingredients, 15 types of dressings, and 6 kinds of lettuces, to say that Sprout Café has “options” would be an understatement. Celebrating it’s 5-year anniversary this month, Sprout Café has won multiple awards include Palo Alto Weekly’s “Best of” award for Best Salad for the 3rd consecutive year. The restaurant also won the coveted award for “Best Place to Go under $20” in 2012. Maybe it’s because Sprout Café focuses on supporting local grown produce by obtaining 90% of his produce from Californian farmers. Or maybe it’s because over 60% of his produce is organic with all 6 main lettuces being organic. Or maybe it’s because the food is simply delicious! One reason for the restaurant’s success is clear: Chef Eddi.

As a graduate of Chico State University, Chef Eddi worked in IT for 3 years before quitting to attend the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. His connection with food started as a young boy when he helped his father create dishes for the family’s Chinese restaurant in Palo Alto. A few years ago, his parents were looking to retire from running their restaurant, but Eddi wasn’t sure how he was going to recreate the space. He reflected on his grandma’s recent passing from cancer and how it was during this trying time that he learned the healing powers of healthful eating. From this, he was inspired to create a restaurant where people could have access to healthy foods.

Although he often works 12-13 hours at the restaurant, he makes it to the gym regularly to get his cardio in and focuses on eating healthy foods to maintain his good health. Chef Eddi follows the 80/20 rule for his personal style of eating : 80% of the time, he eats healthfully and 20% of the time he indulges. “Sometimes, I crave a bagel or a hamburger or even a big juicy steak. It’s my way of switching it up in combination with my regular healthy eating habits.” He really emphasizes healthful eating because “I believe the body is a miracle. If you give it the right nutrients and you exercise, your body will take care of itself and you can prevent all those chronic diseases like heart attacks and cancers.”

Chef Eddi’s top 3 healthy eating tips are as follows:

(1) Don’t go on a diet. There are so many diets out there. It’s a real lifestyle to change. Diets are temporary. Lifestyles are permanent.

(2) Eat your vegetables.

(3) To make a great salad, focus on high quality of ingredients. If you have really good ingredients, it’s going to make the best salad. Go to the farmers’ market to get the best of everything. They have amazing produce, especially in-season produce.

I hope you all take the time to try out the delicious salads at Sprout Café, or try Chef Eddi’s favorite dish: the Greek Chicken Sandwich. The next time you are trying to find a healthy lunch or dinner spot, think Sprout Café. Many thanks to Chef Eddi for his hard work and commitment to spreading good health.

Sprout Café
168 University Avenue
Palo Alto, CA 94301
T (650) 323-7688

Happy and healthful eating, friends.

Thomas Ngo, RD, CPT
Registered Dietitian
NASM Certified Personal Trainer
Facebook–The More You Ngo



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