Our Green Affair is a family affair
If you’re looking for a healthy meal with a cheeky twist, look no further than Our Green Affair, a restaurant that takes health foods to new, sexier heights.
Having recently celebrated their one-year anniversary, owners (and sisters) Jackie Gaistman, 25, and Jeanette Gaistman, 23, said they want people to know that healthy food doesn’t have to be boring. The sisters were born in Mexico City, but raised in San Diego. Their father had opened restaurants in Mexico, so they grew up surrounded by the food and hospitality world. But after a health crisis, the entire family changed their lifestyle and embarked on a new, healthier relationship with food.
Jeanette was only nine years old when she was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, an bowel disease that causes inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract. The disease is chronic and there is no cure. In extreme cases, Crohn’s can cause life-threatening complications. The disease affects everyone differently, with some living mostly symptom-free with occasional flares and others who struggle with debilitating symptoms. Lifestyle changes, like eliminating foods containing lactose, gluten and sugar, can help manage the disease.
For the Gaistman family, where food was a central part of their lives, the diagnosis was difficult.
“Our life revolved around (food),” said Jackie. “Prior to Jeanette getting diagnosed, we were the family that would have breakfast and while eating breakfast, we’d be like, ‘So, where’s lunch?’”
While the family had always eaten relatively healthy, there were still a lot of processed foods in their diet.
After Jeanette’s Crohn’s diagnosis, the entire family decided to get more serious about the food they were consuming together. They embarked on a healthier path where everything they ate was homemade, clean and high in nutrients.
“It was really my family that got me through everything because they were the ones that pushed me to follow the strict diet, which I hated,” Jeanette recalled. “They took me to 20 different doctors to figure out which one was the right one for me. So it really was a family effort, even though I was the one that was diagnosed. We all went through it together.”
When asked if there was ever any hesitation in changing her eating habits to suit her sister’s diagnosis, Jackie’s answer was an emphatic “no.”
“Honestly, we were never hesitant. We’re an extremely close family. I wasn’t going to be the one going through physical pain, but for me, my little sister was nine, it was heartbreaking. If I could do anything to help her stop that pain, I legit would have done anything. I never even thought that it was a little hard for me. It was innate for me to do anything that I could to remove some pain for her or make it easier for her,” Jackie said.
“We knew exactly what I was putting into my body,” Jeanette said. “It wasn’t like I had to read labels to make sure it’s gluten free. My mom was making everything from scratch, so she knew everything that we were putting into it and that’s what we wanted to share.”
Still, Jackie hadn’t considered a career in the restaurant world until much later, after college. She’d been working in real estate, but was feeling unfulfilled. She wanted to do something bigger, something that could help other people. The idea of going to culinary school and opening a restaurant seemed like just the opportunity.
“Creating this and sharing this with the world was a passion project that I wanted to do eventually. I knew I wanted to do this, I just didn’t know when the right time was going to be,” she explained.
After attending culinary school, Jackie and her father began developing the concept what would eventually be Our Green Affair. The name is a nod to the idea that healthy food can be sexy and exciting.
The entire menu is filled with bowls and salads with catchy names like Hot Chick, one of their best-selling bowls made with hot chicken, avocado, carrots, cilantro, corn, goat cheese, tomato, tortilla chips, quinoa, spinach and Caesar dressing, and Thai Me Up, a salad made with roasted chicken, cabbage, carrots, chayote, mango, Japanese peanuts, arugula, lime and spicy cashew dressing.
Loaded potatoes, soups and desserts round out the menu.
Even the decor of the restaurant is designed to draw in the Pacific Beach crowd, with Instagrammable neon signs with phrases like, “DTF: Daily, Tasty, Fresh” and lush greens filling the space.
“When you walk in, it sort of looks like a club,” said Jackie. “We’re trying to make healthy eating something that’s a little more exciting. It tends to get a bad rep. Most of the time, people are like, ‘Oh, this is so bland, there’s not a lot of flavor.’ So we’re making it sexy in order to push the boundaries. We really just want to get people talking. For us, it was important to rebrand what healthy food was. So that’s why we stepped away from the typical healthy food spot. We really wanted it to pop.”
While Jeanette’s initial involvement in the restaurant was minimal, when COVID hit shortly after the restaurant opened, she began working more closely with her sister to design the feel of the restaurant. They lost most of their employees due to the shutdown order, but the experience made their family come together, once again, to keep Our Green Affair afloat.
“I’m not going to lie, it was pretty disheartening at first,” said Jackie. “But we didn’t really even have time to feel bad for ourselves, which made it better because if we wanted to survive this, we needed to think on our toes. Our whole family came in and they started helping. It was all us. We were able to change our menu, see what works and what didn’t. COVID brought Jeanette on to the team and without her, I don’t know if I could do this.”
Jeanette’s background in hospitality marketing means that every aspect of the restaurant, from food and recipes to branding and marketing, is done in-house, as a family. On weekends, their parents can be found washing dishes and helping customers.
After surviving their first year through a global pandemic, the sisters threw a party in mid-April to celebrate their anniversary. They wanted to thank the PB community for keeping them in business through one of the most trying years for any restaurant.
“We love the PB community,” said Jackie. “The community has helped us stay alive. They welcomed us with the biggest and the most open arms. I don’t know if we would have been able to survive this if it wasn’t for this community.”
Sign up for the Pacific Insider newsletter
PACIFIC magazine delivers the latest restaurant and bar openings, festivals and top concerts, every Tuesday.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Pacific San Diego.