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Daughter's life-threatening illness inspires couple to open popular whole foods cafe in San Diego

Posted at 6:20 AM, Sep 28, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-28 10:51:54-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- Parakeet Cafe in San Diego's Little Italy has a menu as unique as the decor, with dishes like charcoal waffles, mushroom toast, and eggs with roasted poblano hollandaise.

Carol Roizen and her husband opened the restaurant after their daughter's terrifying diagnosis.

"When she was about four months, she developed something on her skin. She had blisters on the diaper area and also on her legs," said Carol.

Tests revealed their daughter Michelle had Langerhans cell histiocytosis — a rare degenerative disease when a body creates a surplus of white blood cells, creating tumors.

"He [the doctor] ended up saying, 'It's in the skull; it's not the worst case, but we need to start treatment this week, and treatment at that time was chemotherapy,'" Carol recalled.

It terrified the family because treatment would require an IV straight to the heart.

"For me, it was super traumatic, I think I don't remember half of it," said Carol.

The family flew from Mexico City, where they lived then, to Texas for treatment. It was successful, but doctors warned Michelle could relapse at any time. The only thing Roizen said she could control at the time was her diet, attending culinary school to learn ways to incorporate more nutrients into meals.

"I started learning and, in my mind, mitigating the chemicals coming into her system by feeding her the right food," said Carol.

In 2017, the family moved to San Diego after the altitude and pollution in Mexico City caused Michelle to get sick frequently. When they arrived, Carol noticed that America's Finest City was the healthy food paradise she thought it would be.

That inspired her to open Parakeet Cafe in La Jolla. They started with juice and then added whole food meals to their menu.

"If you use high-quality ingredients and things that grow in nature, they are already so full of flavor, color, and excitement that you just need to be creative and compose something awesome."

It was full circle for Carol and her husband. Unprocessed foods with natural ingredients became medicine for their daughter. Now, they were paying it forward, offering delicious and nutrient-packed cuisine with a Mexican flair to their new community.

"We learned food is medicine, but our purpose is for people to understand that's not a punishment. You can eat super clean and healthy and enjoy it," Carol concluded.