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Brandt Evans of Pura Vida

Meet Brandt Evans, founder of Pura Vida in Public Square, a farm-to-table restaurant.
Describe Pura Vida.
Driven by a passion for food, I and my culinary team at Pura Vida are committed to expanding the flavors of any dish beyond the plate. I have traveled around the world to pick and blend fruits that compliment several of my signature dishes. I want to produce the most tantalizing experience for my customers. Pura Vida offers me the opportunity to introduce a new style of dining to Northeast Ohio.
We try to source new and exciting ingredients locally. We are minutes away from a farm and we have our own in-house farmer who brings in fresh, local ingredients daily.
How did you come up with the idea?
The name “Pura Vida” means "live today, not tomorrow.” It also means “fresh and alive.” And in Costa Rica, it means “Hello." I have seen in both of my restaurants that people just aren’t eating the big steak anymore. They would rather get a smaller portion and try different proteins.
By using fresh, local vegetables and proteins, I don't want to mask the flavors with cream-butter. If you season correctly and cook it properly, it will stand on its own. Since I was 25, I have put spins on the classic comfort foods.
Where did you find your first employee?
I hired chef Scott Coffman 15 years ago as a dishwasher at Kostas. He has worked his way up the culinary ladder to become my executive chef. He helped open ­Blue Canyon eight years ago and then moved to Dallas, Texas to run the Blue Canyon operation there. When I knew I was going to Public Square, there wasn't anyone else I would have leading the kitchen.
What are some of the advantages to doing business in Cleveland?
There is so much to be proud of in cooking in Cleveland. There truly isn't a number-one chef in our city and we need to embrace and celebrate that. Be excited you can go to 25 different restaurants and order a beet salad and they are all different and great in their own way.
Clevelanders truly want our city to make a comeback. I’ve received such great feedback about coming downtown and opening Pura Vida and helping make Public Square alive again. We don't need to act like Chicago or New York – we will never be them. Cleveland has its own unique personality and charm and that is truly reshaping our city.
What inspires you?
My best friend, Matt Klein, inspires me. He has MS and is in a wheelchair. When I want to be selfish and complain about things, I think of him and how it takes him 30 minutes to just get in his car. My problems of the day shrink really fast.
I am truly blessed to have a wonderful family and group of friends that have always been in my corner. Over the past four months, I have also been working with Holly Unger, a holistic nutrition coach. She’s really guided me to live a healthier lifestyle and learn how to deal with stress in a healthy and productive way. I call her my CWO (Chief Wellness Officer) in my organization.
My employees also inspire me, I am very lucky to have some of the best employees in the city. I have a very low turnover rate, which is rare in this industry. I empower them to make decisions as I would. They have a true sense of ownership and pride toward the restaurant and want it to be successful. They are the main reasons we have increased our numbers since opening just over a year ago.
What’s next for you and your company?
That’s what is great in my line of work. You really don't know and no day ever goes as planned. I’m working on launching a "Brandt's Pantry" line of jar products. This will include everything from heat-and-serve soups to sauces and spices. We will have items from our current menu, so if you really like something, you can purchase that dish and take it home. The products will go very nicely with the “Grab and Go” program we are about to launch -- high quality food prepared and ready for pick up on the commute home.

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