Meet Kelly Mulligan, mother of 2 and the chef/owner of Island Produce Café in North Palm Beach. It is the only vegan restaurant in Palm Beach County that cooks without oil. Her plant-based meals and juices are prepared fresh from locally sourced & sustainably grown ingredients. She offers grab & go selections, weekly meal prep and dine-in options in her cozy little cafe on Northlake Blvd.
A breast cancer diagnosis changed her life dramatically and sent her on her journey of healing through food. She’s been on a strict diet for 8 years now and feels great. At 62, it enables her to work 60 hours per week and stay energized. One of her secrets is juicing and wheatgrass. This second chance at life has inspired her to give back and help others through her experience. She advocates a healthy diet to anyone who will listen. Many people her age are suffering from chronic illnesses and find it hard to understand that there can be a simple solution. To help those around her, she started a healthy eating club. She would make weekly trips to the Green Market on Sundays and purchase vegetables. She would prep them for her neighbors enabling them to eat healthily without spending too much effort. Eating healthy foods saved her life and it is her mission to share that gift with others.
Thank you, Kelly, for sharing your inspiring story with us and your love of The Palm Beaches.
Q: What inspired you or led you to your current career?
A: “When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I had a double mastectomy and then I did 6 months to chemotherapy. After the treatment, I was very naive and thought I was going to be just fine. I didn’t realize the permanent side effects of the chemotherapy and the cancer treatments. After I finished my treatments, I was very sick, very weak and mentally very down. My husband of 25 years decided he didn’t want to be married anymore so I was trying to figure out what I can do, how I can feel better, and how can I get my health back. That led to a co-worker giving me the book The China Study. After I digest that book, I realized that I needed to change my eating if I was ever going to get well. It was a series of 3 years of trying to figure out how to eat right. By reading books, watching movies, and experimenting in the kitchen I found my way. In high school, I got a job cooking in a small, 50-bed hospital. That’s where I learned how to cook. This cafe is a place where people can come and get a healthy meal and learn how to eat right.”
Q: What is your favorite restaurant in The Palm Beaches and what do you love there?
A: “I can’t say that it’s mine because it’s not really like I just come here and eat. Part of dining out is the whole experience. Honestly, I don’t have a favorite restaurant. If you are really strict about what you want to eat, there aren’t many food choices.”
Q: How long have you lived or worked in Palm Beaches?
A: “I relocated here from Los Angeles to West Palm Beach in December 2009. My son played for the Cardinals in the minor leagues and spent 3 years at the Jupiter Stadium. ”
Q: Who is the most interesting person you’ve met here in The Palm Beaches?
A: “That’s a tough one. There’s no one I can think of right now.”
Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world right now, where would it be? And why?
A: ” Since 9/11, traveling isn’t what I used to be. It’s so difficult now. I would say, if time were on my side, I would like to take a United States of America road trip and just see every tourist trap location in our country, like the biggest ball of twine. I think that would be fun.”
Q: What is your favorite movie OR what is the first movie you remember seeing in a theatre?
A: “I really like that movie, Field of Dreams. I don’t have a recent favorite movie but one of my old favorites, that I haven’t watched in 5 or 6 years, is It’s a Wonderful Life. I used to watch that every Thanksgiving. And if you’re feeling down and wanted to laugh, you can watch City Slickers with Billy Crystal.”
Q: What advice would you give a crowd of people?
A: “Pay attention, be aware, don’t take things for granted. Don’t believe everything you hear. Do your research, find out if it’s the truth or not because we’ve been in a capitalistic society so there’s a lot of things that you’re allowed to have that are not good for you. Just because it’s sold don’t take it for granted that it’s a good product.”
Q: What is something on your bucket list?
A: “The most important thing on my bucket list right now is building an inheritance for my brothers, sisters and my children to leave them a gift when I go.”
Q: What is your favorite music/ 3 bands you would like to see (dead or alive)?
A: “My music taste has changed over the years. I’m pretty well rounded in the music department. I like 60’s and 70’s rock because it was my teenage years. I love old-time country music, indie rock, pop, and reggae. I like music that is pleasant to the ears and not a lot of noise.”
Q: What current/former local business makes you the most nostalgic about Palm Beaches?
A: “I love Johnny Longboats on Singer Island. The first time I went there, I was on vacation. It reminds of Disneyland because of all the stuff hanging all over the place. Pirates & sharks hanging from the ceiling. Whenever I go in there, it makes me happy. I just wish they had vegan choices.”
Q: Choosing anyone alive and a non-relative with whom would you love to have lunch? Why and where would you have lunch?
A: “Dr. Colin Campbell because his book The China Study saved my life. I want to thank him, his wife and his children for their work that they’ve been doing. We would have to eat here and I could cook for them off of their recipes. See if I do as good a job as their wives do.”
Q: What is your favorite thing or something unique about The Palm Beaches?
A: “I love Singer Island. I love going over to the Pump House at the Inlet and just watching the boats go in and out. I love the blue water. I also love the Flagler Museum. I like to go in the Winter when they serve English high tea. That’s so much fun.”
Q: Where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years?
A: “I see myself owning more than one location of a whole food, plant-based restaurant or place for people to go get good healthy food.”
Q: (Even for friends or family), what is something interesting that most people don’t know about you?
A: “My family thinks I’m a nutjob.”
Q: What 3 words or phrases come to mind when you think of the word HOME?
A: “Cozy, Secure place and place where you can be 100% yourself without worrying about offending anyone else.”
Q: If you had a full-time staff member that was fully paid for, who would you choose? Chef, Housekeeper, Driver, Coach, Physical Fitness Trainer, or Nanny?
A: “I would definitely pick a Coach. When I was in real estate full time as a career, I had a real estate coach which I paid a thousand dollars a month to. Which, for some people, is bazaar thinking, however, my income tripled in the first year with a coach. There is a definite plus to accountability and having a plan and following it and having that accountability person to keep you on track – especially when you’re a wife and a mother.”
Q: If you were cast into a major motion picture and had your choice of anyone to be your co-star, who would you choose?
A: “I don’t know who would be a compassionate person to work with. But, I really like Julia Roberts. She would be somebody that would be a good experience to work with.”
You can visit Island Produce Cafe at 797 Northlake Boulevard | North Palm Beach | In the Book Exchange Plaza just east of Prosperity Farms Road. Hours: Monday–Friday: 11:00AM–6:00PM and Saturday-Sunday: 10:00AM–2:00PM
The Faces of The Palm Beaches is a project to showcase the amazing people that live or work in our community. Who do you know that should be nominated?