Denise "Larana" Cerreta Interview: James Beard Award for Humanitarian of the Year
Diana Landau | January 09, 2023
Carl interviews Denise "Larana" Cerreta this week. Larana is author of the new book, "The Dead, The Rose and My Yellow Brick Road" and at age 61 is on her fourth (or is it fifth?) act. In addition to taking off a year to follow a Grateful Dead tour and writing about it, Larana has had a successful acupuncture practice, a very unique cafe, founded a global non-profit foundation and most recently has opened up an apothecary in Canton, Ohio. "I march to my own drum and follow my passions!" she tells us.
Larana grew up in Canton with a very large Italian-immigrant family on both sides. Lots of cousins, great food and holidays were a big part of her childhood. "I didn't realize how special that was until I got older," she tells us. As a teenager, she was always inquisitive and cared deeply for humanity. These qualities were woven into her career paths.
As an adult, she owned a successful acupuncture practice in Salt Lake City. (Fun fact: Acupuncture helps with pickleball injuries!) Larana says she felt privileged to help so many people. She closed the practice when she was 41 and took a leap. She wanted to do something new and she started a cafe. "With lots of trial and error, I wanted to provide a way for people to eat good, organic food within a community." Larana was a pioneer in the "pay what you can" movement, where customers paid what they felt they should or could. (The CEO of Panera was so inspired by her example that he tried it at Panera with the "Pay What You wish" program in 2010). In 2017, her One World Everybody Eats Cafe received the James Beard Foundation Award for Humanitarian of the Year.
Food insecurity affects 800 million people globally. At the same time she was running the cafe, Larana says her heart opened again and she knew what to do next. She started a non-profit foundation called "One World Everybody Eats" to help others launch their dreams of building community through providing good, organic food. She envisioned One World Everybody Eats cafes to create spaces where people come together, eat in dignity, and form strong bonds that foster an interconnected community. Now (un)retired from the organization, she says they continue to hold inspiring annual summits for the cafe owners around the world.
On a spiritual journey to Santa Fe, Larana decided to change her name from Denise to Larana. "I found my new self," she says. She always wanted to follow the Dead and Company (formerly Grateful Dead) on tour, so she decided to embark on a "Celebration of Life" tour at the age of 57 and give herself that gift.
Always an inspiring, creative entrepreneur, Larana has now opened Miss Larana's Alchemical Apothecary in downtown Canton. Customers can create personalized skincare and beauty products using organic ingredients and essential oils to blend lotions, lip balms, bath orbs, and more. "I feel like I have an 'Aha!' moment every day. It's important."
Larana's (Un)retirement Advice:
"I like the lottery theory: Think about what you would do if you won the lottery and then do it! It gets fear out of the way and cuts to the center of what you really want."
"Don't talk yourself out of crazy ideas that come to you. It can be a good thing."
"Health is so key! Yoga is really important as we age for flexibility. I also recently bought an electric bike and now ride 20 miles a day. I feel so invigorated!"
Diana Landau is the Content Wrangler for Pickleball Media. After 15 years in corporate marketing, in 2012 she pivoted to write and wrangle content for Niche Media's weekly blog. She now manages the “I Used to Be Somebody” blog.