Feeling the Love at Calii Love: Talking Good Vibes with Dan Gunam

A Calii Love picnic in the park

By Jennifer Gault

Good Vibes Only.

The ultimate surfer motto. A sentiment that supports the flow of positive energy.

When you’re out on the ocean, the rest of the world slips away sinking under waves of blue. Your mind is as clear as the water and your smile, as bright as the sun. Worries and troubles disappear. You’re floating now. You’re free.

But off the water and away from the Sea, clear skies aren’t as easy to find…

We all lead busy lives: Work. School. Kids. Commuting.

Bills to pay and places to be. It’s a whirlwind of rushing. And it’s all too easy to get swept up in the chaos of the storm. Too often we let the traffic of the outside world overwhelm our minds and drag us down. We rush, we work, we worry. And worst of all, we forget to live in the joy of the moment.

This is something restaurateur Dan Gunam understands all too well. Like the rest of us mortals, Dan has experienced the wearying battles of a demanding job and humdrum routine.

That’s why he decided to make a change, but not just for himself… Dan created a source of joy for us all: Calii Love!

With four eateries nestled in the heart of downtown Toronto, Calii Love is “all about that good life.” Serving up all fresh, all organic, all sustainable, and all delicious food. It’s a beautiful fusion of healthy fresh foods inspired by Hawaii and California. Calii Love is fuelling good vibes all day!

I sat down with Dan to talk about his blooming and booming Toronto franchise, to find out more about the motivation behind Calii Love and what brought it to life.

“I wanted to create a place I would want to come into everyday. A place that excites you about mornings. A welcoming space where you get that sense of Aloha, and a moment of positivity.”

And positivity is exactly what you get when you walk through the door at Calii Love.

The name Calii Love nods to Californian/Hawaiian surf culture; a state of being at peace with yourself, and of course, self love.

Keeping with the nature of the name, Calii Love feels like a vacation spot. Surf boards lean against bright blue and white walls. Green plants stretch high from their pots. Light spunky music dances in and out of your eardrums. It’s all a part of the experience that is Calii Love! You don’t just come in here to get good food, you come in here to lift your mood, reenergize, and find good vibes.

“Here we want people to see the positive. That’s why our cups have the ‘good vibes only’ quote. We want to give you a happy message, so for a brief moment, you tell yourself to think positive. When you start to make a habit of that, suddenly you’re doing it all the time, and that makes a huge difference in your life.”

“That’s why we ask for your name when you order, and that’s why our food is named the way it is. When we ask, ‘what are you feeling,’ we’re really asking, ‘what do you want to feel?’ And then when you tell us, ‘glorious,’ we get to say, ‘Jennifer is feeling glorious!’ It really is like an affirmation someone is telling you. You hear your name and the feeling you could feel, and then it’s said three times. When you order, when our staff repeat it to be made, and when the order is ready. The hope is, by then that feeling hits you. Subconsciously, when you hear this as you come in, even if that is once or twice a week, when you hear it here, somewhere along the line that feeling will resonate.”

And resonate it does. Possibly because the sentiments are meant. Calii Love genuinely cares. Good Vibes isn’t just their motto, it’s their mission. This passion for positivity is felt in their food, their décor, their staff and of course, their creator.

“It’s all about making people feel motivated and great. No matter how bad of a day you have, for those few seconds we can change how people feel. It is never about the food. It is all about the positive.”

At Calii Love, there is a lot of positive to be found.

But plastic straws? Nope, not here! Calii Love cares for the Earth and shows it by using compostable cutlery and bowls.

They also care a lot about customer value. Dan and his team are constantly working with chefs and suppliers to provide guests with quality foods at great prices.

And speaking of food…

Not only does Calii Love serve organic and sustainable food, they serve it up all healthy! There are no oils and no fryers. Foods like falafels are baked. And the baked goods, they have no butter, no eggs, no dairy – and no gluten!

The quality of the food served is very important to Dan. He wants to see his customers fed and feeling good. That’s why education is a crucial aspect of Calii Love.

“More than serving food, we want to educate people about wellness. On our website, you’ll see we’re collaborating with nutritionist and wellness coaches who write blog posts about health trends, diets, superfoods and recipes. I want to create a community where people can share information. It’s not about our products, it’s about education and what is best for people. It’s not even our food we’re talking about! We just want to educate people on healthy living, and maybe teach them something new. That’s also why people can take our menus home. It’s not just food listed, there are two featured articles with a brief amount of info you can read. If you want to learn more you can go to our website and see the full version.”

It is also a great way to inform people about exotic and unconventional foods loaded with health benefits, they might have never come across.

“We want to introduce new things to our menu, and we’re excited about this! There are roots and powders we call ‘wellness dust,’ and each one has certain benefits. Some are good for energy, others make you calm, or help with beauty and aging, or libido. So if you order a smoothie, you can choose to elevate it by adding additional ingredients like a shot of ginger or turmeric, spirulina or maca root. Things like that can add an extra boost to your health.”

Calii Love is also introducing a new collection of cookies in with their baked goods. Their flavour Matcha Green Tea, is quickly becoming the popular hit of the bunch!

But it’s not just about bringing out the new. Calii Love is also bringing back the old: OG favourites.

“We have had a few bowls we had to bring back! We had them from tests and in July we started to bring them back, because people kept asking for them!”

If you’re a fan of the Hopeful Bowl, you are in luck because baby it’s back! As is the recipe for the original Loved Bowl.

“For the Loved Bowl, we changed the acai recipe once, but people complained. So we brought back the original recipe! And for this, we use acai straight from Brazil. It’s all sustainable fruit. And the woman that get them make acai beads, then sell it and make money from them. We’re glad we can help in this way.”

And as for favourites… what are Dan’s you might ask?

When it comes to the smoothie bowls, Dan’s go to dish is the Loved Bowl. But with a twist.

“I like to modify mine, so I have it with almond butter! I do that a lot, I modify my favourite dishes to suit my likes and body. It’s the same with lattes, I’ll add in a shot of ginger, especially with the cold weather coming!”

And a poke bowl?

“I also love the Amazing Bowl. It’s this blend of tuna and salmon with mango. It’s really refreshing. Or the Passionate Bowl, modified with white rice. I modify it the way I like. And that’s they way it is here, you can build your bowl based on your diet. Because no one is made the same, everyone is made differently.”

Are we ever! Different tastes, different diets, different dietary needs. Vegan, Vegetarian, Celiac, Meat Eater, Fish Lover, Iron Deficiency, Nut Allergy, Soy Allergy. Or maybe you just hate avocados. That’s all okay! At Calii Love, you order what works for you.

Calii Love is not just a restaurant. It is a community. Each eatery is like an island of happiness and love, dropped in the middle of Toronto. A splash of colour in a city of grey. Calii Love can fuel your body and feed your mind. It can lift your spirits, and change your point of view. A very powerful thing indeed. Life is what you make it. Change your perspective, change your life. It may be as simple as stepping into a surfer’s paradise…