Talking Pleasure: Ryland Engelhart – Part One

I met Ryland Engelhart a couple of years ago when he and his brother Cary Mosier first opened Cafe Gratitude LA in the Larchmont neighborhood and I went to check out the food with my aunt. The food was scrumptious and the restaurant, like its sisters in Northern California, is a huge success, defying the odds of a tough business and economic climate. But, truly, what made the experience unforgettable and has me continually returning to the LA location, as well as the newly opened Venice location, is something more. Ryland talks about that “something more” in this interview.

I was thrilled to sit down with him one morning recently in Venice as the Cafe Gratitude staff bustled around us prepping to open for the day. We got philosophical about pleasure and intention in business, and our conversation was lengthy. Every morsel of it was so juicy, however, that I’ve chosen to share as much of it as possible; I’m breaking up Ryland’s interview into two posts. Part 1 is below and next week we’ll continue on with Part 2.

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1) How do you define pleasure?

Off the cuff, my definition of pleasure is “in-joyment” – joy within. It’s all an inside job, everything we’re looking for is sourced within. Pleasure – we have to meet pleasurable food with a pleasurable attitude or there will be no pleasure, we need to meet our partner with love or there will be no love, we need to meet our neighbor with kindness or there will be no kindness, we need to be having an experience of kindness in our heart before it’s a quality that’s shared. So, pleasure is the same way.

Ryland Engelhart

We’ve all had the experiences where we’ve had all the circumstances lined up and we’ve been miserable, we’ve been suffering, because our internal landscape, our attention, was on “something’s missing,” “I’m not good enough,” “this should be some other way”… you know, the fundamental human wounds that we’re all navigating and juggling.

So, pleasure is the apex or climax of when we are fully present and we’re actually allowing ourselves to experience the beauty that life is… Pleasure is when we’re awake to our magnificence meeting the magnificence of another person, food, sensuality, any of the sensations of the external world.

Unless we’re in alignment and we’re allowing ourselves to get that we are that enjoyment, there will be no enjoyment, there will be no pleasure.

2) Do you think pleasure is a necessary component of life or a decadence, a right or a privilege?

I’d say it’s neither. I mean, it’s a privilege in that it’s a blessing but it’s also a baseline human possibility. It’s part of our birthright to experience pleasure.

3) What place in your home brings you the most pleasure and why?

Two–no, three places… The kitchen, around the kitchen table, where communion takes place, where we share in breaking bread and serving each other and taking our time. It’s not about getting anywhere, it’s about the individuals who are there, sharing in this experience and expressing our love and gratitude and thanks-giving to one another for the meal, for our life. So, around the dinner table with food and fellowship.

The second place is bed. The nest.

And then, the shower – hot water – oh my god… the best thing ever.

4) What place here at the restaurant brings you the most pleasure and why?

At a customer’s table, showing up and being able to communicate, articulate, transmit the love and intention that’s happening here at Cafe Gratitude because there’s so much happening here.

I Am Vibrant (sauteed greens with garlic & pumpkin seeds)

There are so many layers of intention of what’s taking place and sometimes people get it upon walking in and sometimes people are just like “can I have a salad, please.” So anytime I can, or I see any of the staff here able to, share the intention of this place and customers have an “A-Ha!” moment… that’s it.

5) What place in the natural world brings you the most pleasure?

The forest. Being with the big trees. I’ve spent some time in Marin County so… in the redwoods. There’s so much beauty and strength and stability. This thought came through one time, like from a tree – I was looking for guidance, in the woods – I heard “Do as I do. Stand where you stand. And expand.” That’s the tree’s model of, you know, don’t try to run around the world finding something to do. Stand where you are, be present, think global, act local. Stand where you are and expand your greatness.

Another place is water – the ocean, lakes. So… in the woods and in the water… And sitting around the fire – channel 1 – the original TV.

6) What, if anything, does embracing pleasure allow you to accomplish in business that would not be possible if you restrained or denied the sensation?

Great question… This restaurant… If this was just a concept – our menu’s gonna have happy names on it and the food is gonna be vegetarian and organic – it would be a decent restaurant that some people would come to but it wouldn’t have the worldwide buzz or vibration that Cafe Gratitude does.  And it’s because this is our pleasure. Service is our pleasure.

We, as an organization, there’s an intention, an underbelly, that recognizes that the fulfillment of life is when we’re giving ourselves fully to service and… making a difference in the world, and that is our pleasure.  It is our pleasure to love, serve and remember that we’re all one. And how would we serve if we knew we were one, if we knew we were love and we were serving love. This wouldn’t be the same place without all that.

We give words to it – “the vibe is really good,” “clean energy” or whatever – but really it’s a palpable love and pleasure and joy that we are bringing to our work and to the world. It’s the only thing that has the engines keep on going.

We’ve continued to expand, not to serve more meals but, to provide enjoyment, pleasure, awakening to this beautiful life. Our life is a creation of our consciousness and we can meet life with pleasure or we can meet life with pain or sadness. It’s just a practice.

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We’re gonna pause on that awesome bit of wisdom, and pick up with Part Two of the interview next week (when Ryland will share how he practices meeting life with pleasure and I’ll reveal my favorite item on the menu) – don’t miss it!

Cafe Gratitude is on the web, Facebook and Twitter. Or, if you’re in Venice or Larchmont, pop in and say hi. Ryland bounces between them often.

Now, I’d love for you to share one experience – in your business or your personal life – that you’ve chosen to meet with pleasure instead of sadness or pain.


  • Bill Vogel

    Wow, I really get to be first to post on this topic?!?!? First, I want to say that Ryland is a DEAR friend of mine, as well as one of my MAIN inspirers. Ry and I worked together for about 3 years at the San Rafael Cafe Gratitude, until he left to open the first LA cafe.
    Here is one of the experiences I choose to meet with pleasure, rather than sadness or pain: As a 35-plus-year veteran of the restaurant business (almost half as a server), I love it when a co-worker approaches me with a request to “please take that table – those people are SO difficult (or bitchy, or cheap or whatever.)”.
    It lets me tackle the situation with all the charm and poise I’ve been working on for all these years. I can’t remember a time yet when I haven’t truly enjoyed lighting up the supposed “grumps, jerks, etc.” Like Ry, I believe everyone has their “happy” side… some people are just waiting for someone to drag it out of them. I love being that someone… Thanks for listening. Love you, Ryland Engelheart!

    • Emily

      Bill, I’m so glad you were the first one to comment! What a great story – it made me wish to be one of your customers. It’s so important to hold dear and fresh in our minds the power we have to not only affect our own lives through our choices in behavior, but also the lives of others no matter how bitchy or difficult they might be.

      And it’s Ryland the best? Love that you are friends!

      • Bill Vogel

        Yes, Ryland IS the best. Not 10 minutes ago, my girlfriend (who’s away at a transformational retreat this weekend) tried to explain how incredible her weekend has been like this, “for a sense of the feeling of it, imagine a Landmark Forum taught by Ryland”.
        He is the real deal. What say we make him president in ’16?

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