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Goa G.O.A.T.S and their hipster ahead-of-time cafes

Goa G.O.A.T.S and their hipster ahead-of-time cafes

| @indiablooms | 07 Jun 2023, 12:53 pm

Moshe Inbar of Artjuna and Mojigao and Jill Ferguson of Cafe Prana  are two foreign (read from Israel and the US) restaurateurs in Goa who introduced the whole 'cool hipster vibe' into their joints decades ago with clean eating and organic cuisine. They have been living and working in India for decades and working on concepts and ideas that are truly inspirational and ahead of their time. Shikha Mishra meets them in her recent visit to Goa

Most of us probably feel that until sustainability comes in the form of a drive-thru, they should be kindly counted out. Who has the time to reduce carbon footprint, recycle more, and eat kale to save the planet! But there are some who have hit the sweet spot. They are living the good life amidst the pristine beaches and palm trees of Goa, all the while donning their superhero capes and saving the planet! Correction—not superhero capes; superhero aprons! Let me introduce you to Hero No. 1. Moshe Inbar—an Israeli entrepreneur and founder of two unique establishments in Goa, India – Artjuna and Mojigao.

After touring Southeast Asia and Australia, Moshe arrived in India 25 years ago to source leather goods as part of his work, but went to Goa to party. Life took an unexpected turn when he had a psychotic attack around 2004 and it was then that the vision of Artjuna emerged—curating products from local artists around different sculptures, paintings and crafts into one creative space. Fast forward 16 years later; Moshe's journey has led him to become the founder of not only Artjuna but also Mojigao – two award-winning restaurants creating some buzz in North Goa!

The writer with Moshe Inbar and Jill FergusonThe writer with Moshe Inbar and Jill Ferguson

With these, he has established himself as an innovative food-prenuer who has taken his love for nature, creativity, and social responsibility to create successful ventures way before they became greenwashing buzzwords. Artjuna, founded in 2009, is a café, boutique, and art space that promotes sustainable living, healthy eating, and local art.

The cafe features an extensive menu of organic and locally sourced food, and the boutique offers a range of products that are handcrafted by local artisans. Not just that, Artjuna also hosts regular workshops, concerts, and events, including yoga classes and flea markets.

Moshe says: “In 2004, the idea of Artjuna became a reality. My wife, a designer by trade, and I decided to take on this project ourselves; acquiring pieces from notable artists that ranged from sculptures & paintings, to unique handicrafts items.

After two years in business we realised it's what was necessary for success so ventured into our own food enterprise too!

"Through an adventurous spirit and courage with risk-taking my travels have taken me around India all the way up to motorcycling trips through the Himalayas – making every second count here at Artjuna!”

It was this adventurous spirit that made him take another plunge with Mojigao. This sustainable boutique hotel is located in the serene village of Assagao, Goa.

The hotel features 11 eco-friendly rooms that are designed to blend seamlessly with the surrounding nature. “After acquiring the Mojigaon space in 2018, I began to landscape it with my own two hands as part of what became a slow but rewarding process.

Growing up in Elhad – Israel's southern tourist hub - allowed me to gain experience deep within the hospitality industry which has been invaluable when venturing into properties myself.” The hotel’s restaurant, Bistro, offers a fusion of global and local cuisine, using organic produce grown in the hotel’s own garden.

Mojigao also offers various wellness programs, including yoga classes, meditation sessions, and Ayurvedic treatments.

Inbar’s vision for Artjuna and Mojigao is to create spaces that promote conscious living, where visitors can connect with nature, art, and each other. Inbar’s commitment to sustainability is evident in both establishments, where he has implemented eco-friendly practices, such as using solar power, rainwater harvesting, and composting. His dedication to social responsibility extends beyond his business ventures.

The other aproned superhero, who runs about 7 business and social ventures, had to be a woman, right?

Only a woman can multitask like that! Jill Ferguson, a prominent restaurateur who co-founded Prana, a popular restaurant located in the heart of Anjuna, Goa.

For more than a decade, Cafe Prana has been serving delicious and healthy meals to both locals and tourists, earning a reputation as one of the best vegetarian restaurants in the region.

Originally from the United States, Jill Ferguson first came to Goa in the late 2012, drawn to its vibrant culture, natural beauty, and the relaxed pace of life. It may sound like the typical westerner finding Indian spirituality story, but it's so much more. In fact she moved there for the water sports!

Jill says “My partner Rahul and I started Vaayu Vision in Ashwem as a Water Sports Centre. We wanted to help people build a relationship with the ocean. Because we felt like when you have a relationship with your environment, then over time you want to also protect it. Customers started asking for food and we said, "of course that makes sense!”.

That was Prana 1.0, with an emphasis on using fresh, organic, and locally sourced ingredients. After running that space for 9 years, Prana Anjuna has been shut down, but Prana Mardem is still thriving.

One of the things that sets Cafe Prana apart from other restaurants in Goa is its feel! According to Jill “My partner and I were in college in California. So surf culture had to be on the menu. Taco, smoothie bowls, all of those things.

That's kind of where it came from. It was really about what is the type of food that we really love and want to eat after a good session out in the ocean”.

Cafe Prana’s unique and welcoming atmosphere reflects Jill's warm and friendly personality. Set amidst the lush fields of Goa, away from the touristy beaches, the restaurant's interior is decorated with colorful murals and art pieces, creating a cheerful ambiance that attracts people of all ages and backgrounds.

Whether you're looking for a quiet spot to read a book, catch up with friends, or simply enjoy a delicious meal, Cafe Prana is your oasis.

“Why we do Vaaya and Prana is that we want to give people moments of calm, of peace, of joy. The world's got a lot of heaviness. It does. And vacations are supposed to help bring lightness. So our job is to create spaces where people feel that sense of energetic calm.”But remember, Jill was doing her bit even before other brands started green-washing you with their “Organic” spiel!

The restaurant has also been involved in various community initiatives, such as supporting local farmers, sponsoring cultural events, and promoting sustainable tourism. A passionate advocate for social activism, Jill has been involved in numerous campaigns and initiatives to promote social justice, environmental sustainability, and community empowerment.

Through her social activism, Jill has demonstrated her commitment to making a positive impact in her community and beyond.Great ideas are often born prematurely. What follows as a natural corollary is a gestation period. And if one has the tenacity to ride out that phase of uncertainty and unrequited investment, one blooms into a pioneer.

A not-so-exaggerated description of these two empowered visionaries. Moshe and Jill...the Goa OGs! 

(The writer is a journalist who worked in India, UAE and USA. She writes on travel, hospitality, and food and consults with brands on their Marketing and PR strategies.)

(For media collaborations with our multiple portals and platforms, write to the Editor, IBNS at /  👉  Media Deck)

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