Café Est?

| Mon Aug. 17, 2009 4:03 PM EDT

Even by Berkeley standards, Café Gratitude is considered hippy-dippy. The menu items are organic, vegan, and mostly raw, and ordered via affirmations like "I Am Beautiful," "I Am Luscious," and "I Am Sassy." On my first visit there last week, I was offered a free algae shot and asked what nourished me the most that day ("Ummm…the food here was pretty nourishing," was the best I could muster.)

So it wasn't surprising to read in the East Bay Express that the café is connected to Landmark Education, the radical self-realization company recently profiled by Mother Jones.

When I ate there, I found traces of the Landmark Forum—a corporate descendant of the famed 70's movement est (Erhard Seminar Training). The bookshelf by the front door was stocked with copies of The Secret, and a card at my table contained creeds such as "Look at your life and see what you say you 'should' or 'have' to do, that you don't enjoy...Consider you are the one creating it as a 'should' or 'have' to."

In theory, there's nothing wrong with this—coconut water with a side of self-help never hurt anyone. But as the Express reports, the café discriminates against staff not on board with Landmark's ways. It also requires managers to attend the introductory Landmark Forum and cough up half the $500 fee, and in at least one case, fired a manager who refused to do so.

And this is hard to stomach. If you're going to endorse open-mindedness and acceptance, shouldn't you be, well...open-minded and accepting?

Read Mother Jones' article on Landmark here.

Read the East Bay Express article about Café Gratitude here.

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