5 Questions with Kai Kozlowski (Co-Owner of Companion Cafe in BK)

(the only pic I can find of Kai on the internet)

Kai Kozlowski was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin before he moved to NYC to attend New York University. Ever since he was a teenager, he wanted to own his own cafe. He started his dream working in cafes in Paris, where he lived abroad for a year and learned how to roast coffee. Then he moved to Los Angeles where he became a professional coffee roaster. After years of working in cafes, restaurants, and bars, two months ago, he finally opened a cafe of his own in Park Slope, Brooklyn called Companion Cafe. During the day, he serves delicious, simple, clean food and drinks, and at night, his business partner runs the tiki bar. When asked to describe his cafe in a few words, Kai said, “homemade sustenance and friendly vibes”.

Check out Companion Cafe (@companioncafe) and order the Soma Chai (with espresso and homemade hemp coconut milk) and the Mycelium Melt (available on gluten free bread). So freaking good.

1. What values and principles do you live by?

Never forget that the most important in your life is the relationships you have with other people. All we really have is each other and the connections we make with others.

You should always be trying to do something that is unique or different than what other people are doing. Be extremely skeptical of mainstream things. It’s good to swim against the stream.

If you want to do something big, you have to work really hard at it. And if you’re going to be working really hard, you should be working for yourself, not for someone else. It should be your thing. Otherwise, you’ll be giving everything to someone else and you’ll probably eventually hate them for it. The alternative is to be a worker bee and make what you need to survive. Be happy doing what you’re doing. Don’t be a slave to someone else’s dream project unless you’re going to benefit directly from the success of that project.

2. What’s one area in your life you’re actively working on or looking to improve?

The life pursuit of being a better communicator and having more empathy.

I’m always trying to find ways to be more empathetic. It doesn’t come naturally to me. When I was growing up, my parents didn’t stress it as a priority. Instead, it was the classic, ‘what can you do for yourself’ mentality, versus being concerned about the plight of other people. It was all about taking care of yourself.

The turning point for me was when I was 18, I went on a trip to India for two months. Growing up in Wisconsin in a well off family, I was pretty sheltered and not exposed to suffering. On my trip I saw how people were living and what true poverty actually is. That exposure completely changed how I view the world.

3. What's one new positive habit you've started that has made a big impact on your life?

Cooking. I started this habit when I was about 18. I got off my NYU meal plan and started cooking in my dorm room. I started educating myself about what I was putting into my body, why good food makes you feel good, and why bad food makes you feel like shit. It seems pretty obvious, but I thought, maybe I should be concerned about what I’m putting in my body. You’re not meant to be eating Fritos and drinking Coke.

I grew up eating horribly - lots of mac and cheese and frozen pizza. Coming to NYC exposed me to what good food is. I didn’t even know what an avocado was until I moved here at 18! When I first tried it, I thought, it’s kind of like butter but it’s a vegetable and it’s good for you. When I bought my first avocado at the store and tried to eat it, it wasn’t ripe yet but I had no idea. My freshman year girlfriend had to explain to me that you have to wait until it gets softer before you can eat it. Now I pay my rent selling avocado toast to people.

4. What is your biggest challenge when trying to be the best version of yourself, and what has helped you overcome it?

Asking people for help when I need it.

Being able to enjoy life, have fun and celebrate more. I can relax and be playful, but I work a lot. My girlfriend is always pushing me to go out and celebrate life more. I can do the same thing every day. I’m not the type of person who takes myself out to just enjoy life. I have a good friend who works really hard, and she’ll take herself out to a fancy Italian dinner herself, order a bottle a wine, read a book, and spend all the money she made to have a great night by herself. I want to be like her more.

5. What products or resources do you recommend that have helped you get to this point?

Vegetables. Especially broccoli, it’s my favorite food.

Marijuana. I would have a lot more aggression stored up in my body if not for marijuana.

A strong masseuse.

Exercise. I get a lot of shit out of my body by exercising. I mostly bike around Prospect Park now.

Acupuncture.

Animals. I have two cats. It’s nice to come home to them every day.

Real food. Avoid all the shitty things that people put in their bodies, including all forms of sugar, fast food, and processed food. Eat local and organic food because you can.

Good sleep.

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