Say Hello to Kokomo
New vegan cafe in Vancouver’s Chinatown
Inspired by the life-giving power of the sun and the easygoing vibes of the summer season, Kokomo seeks to nourish body, energy and heart through wholesome plant-based dishes.
It was the simple pursuit of healthy post-workout meal options, paired with a life-long passion for nutrition and plant-based living, that inspired owner Katie Ruddell to open her own vegan cafe. A long-time vegetarian, Katie has always enjoyed sharing her passion for wellness. Whether cooking dinner for friends and family or hosting recipe tutorials on Snapchat through her former role in brand strategy at Lululemon, Katie is happiest when connecting people through food. She is driven to make nourishment accessible for everyone and inspire the community to pursue healthful living. So it was only a matter of time before Katie turned this enthusiasm into a business and just like that, Kokomo was born.
To support her brand vision, Katie partnered with local chef Mark Singson to lead the Kokomo kitchen. Chef Mark has worked at some of Vancouver’s most prestigious restaurants including as sous chef at AnnaLena, which was awarded Air Canada’s Best New Restaurant of 2015. Although not a vegan himself, Chef Mark was drawn to the role at Kokomo because of the culinary creativity it presents. For Katie, it was their shared values of family and community, in addition to Chef Mark’s unmistakable talent, that made him the perfect fit for the role.
Kokomo opened its doors in June 2017 and is located in Vancouver’s historic Chinatown. A bright and airy space, Kokomo brings a taste of the sun-soaked California coastline to the neighbourhood. Step through the large garage door and guests are greeted by an open-concept eatery that evokes a feeling of summer; no matter what season it is outside. Lush green foliage and white walls are accented by a large plant-inspired mural painted in warm greens and pinks. The cafe aims to capture the fluidity between indoor and outdoor environments common in warmer coastal climates like Australia and California where Katie has fond memories.
A large communal counter encircles the space and invites guests to eat together; thereby supporting Katie and Mark’s core value of community building. Inclusivity is central to Kokomo’s brand philosophy and is evoked in everything from the design to the dishes. Menu items are all gluten-free, refined sugar-free, vegan and largely nut-free,* so that anyone can walk through the doors and enjoy a healthful meal that will invigorate the body and mind.
“It’s about creating one space where people can connect inward with themselves and outward with each other,” says Katie.
Guests can choose from bowls and smoothies made with nutritionally dense ingredients like hemp seeds, immune-boosting chaga mushrooms, anti-inflammatory turmeric, satiating beans and seeds, hydrating coconut water and fresh greens and vegetables.
The menu includes items like the Kokomo Acai bowl, where blended acai is served with fruit, house-made raw granola, coconut and mint; and the lunch-ready Coastal Macro bowl made with brown rice, greens, beans, marinated tempeh, roasted squash, cucumber, pickled cabbage and topped with ginger, edamame hummus and a Thai ginger dressing. Nourishment on-the-go comes by way of three powerhouse smoothies including the Power Malt; an energizing blend of banana, almond butter, cacao, hemp seeds, chaga mushrooms, majooli date, cinnamon and walnut milk. Juices are supplied by the Juice Truck and include a charcoal lemonade available exclusively at Kokomo.
Kokomo is also the only location in Canada serving Cocowhip. Developed in Australia, Cocowhip is a refined sugar-free vegan soft-serve made with coconut water and bio-fermented coconut powder. Fermented foods promote healthy gut and intestinal health. After discovering Cocowhip on a trip to Australia, Katie knew she had to add it to the Kokomo menu.
Inspired by summer and fueled by a passion for plant-based foods, Kokomo is open and ready to bring healthy, whole-food nourishment to the Vancouver community.
*Some Feature items may include nuts.
Hours: Monday to Friday 7AM to 3PM, Saturday 10AM to 2PM
Address: 611 Gore Avenue, Vancouver
Katie has always loved her fruits and veggies. Growing up in Singapore she would spend her pocket change on fresh watermelon slices, while all of the other kids ate fish balls. Meat just never felt right for her body and at an early age Katie began questioning where her food was coming from and why we eat what we eat.
This early interest in plant-based nutrition is today Katie’s passion and personal philosophy. Katie is driven to connect with her community and strives to do so through energy, nourishment and love. An active participant in the local fitness community and avid home cook, Katie enjoys sharing her passion for wellness with friends and family. However, Katie was often disappointed by the lack of nutritious post-workout meal options available in Vancouver. This gap in the market became all the more clear after Katie began reducing her dairy intake to combat chronic migraines and tension headaches. As she grew more interested in nutrition and the way good food can bring people together, the idea of starting her own eatery began to take shape.
Then, while working in brand strategy at Lululemon Athletica, Katie was invited to share her plant-based lifestyle with the company’s online community through social media. She conducted Snapchat takeovers and regularly shared her plant-based recipes. This opportunity to engage with an eager audience and share her passion for healthful living, reaffirmed her desire to start her own business. Katie credits the encouragement and culture of leadership that she experienced at Lululemon for playing an instrumental role in her decision to pursue her passions and create Kokomo.
The vision behind Kokomo stems from Katie’s many travels and love of all warm places. Influenced by her memories of the coastal climates of California and Australia, Katie knew that she wanted Kokomo to evoke the easygoing vibe of these perennially sunny places and bring the essence of summer to Vancouver year-round. Kokomo is designed to set the mind at ease and welcomes all those who enter to nourish their body, energy and heart through food and human connection. Kokomo is the embodiment of Katie’s core values of community, love, health and fun.
Chef Mark Singson was first attracted to cooking because of one simple fact: he likes to eat. After moving from Manilla, Philippines, to Canada at eight years old, Mark’s mom opened a restaurant and food became a prominent part of everyday life.
In fact, Mark’s first job was working at the family restaurant and he credits his mom for inspiring his passion for cooking, which turned his love of food into a career aspiration.
It wasn’t long after graduating high school that Mark began cooking professionally. Since then he has worked in some of Vancouver’s most prestigious kitchens including Coast, The Oakwood and most recently as sous chef at AnnaLena, which was awarded Air Canada’s “Best New Restaurant of 2015.” He also spent time advancing his culinary skills in Melbourne, Australia, at fine dining establishments St. Crispin and Vue du Monde.
Food was a fixture of Mark’s childhood and is deeply rooted in his sense of family. This connection between food and family has become a guiding force in Mark’s career and extends to his professional relationships. Mark views both his team and his guests as his family and is inspired to create an atmosphere of excitement and inclusivity for all.
This communal philosophy is also what inspired Mark to found FAM (Food. Art. Music.) Inc., a long table dinner series. FAM Inc. hosts events around the city that encourage guests to bring their family (whatever form that may take) and join in a collective dining experience. The latest iteration of the project was dubbed