We’re happiest when we’re sharing our food, our culture, our vibes, with others. And we couldn’t do that without every one of our CAVA team members. It’s a fanaticism that can’t be faked – it’s a passion we just have to share.

So we’re hearing straight from our team about how they savor life – not just while they’re on the clock at your go-to CAVA location, but (perhaps even more importantly) while they’re off it.

Today we’re hearing from Lula, our graphic designer:

Tell me a little bit about how you got to CAVA.
I heard about CAVA when I was helping out a friend who had a stand at the Rockville farmers’ market years ago. At the end of the day, we would give out food to other vendors who were promoting their products, and I remember many times when the CAVA team sent me home with lots of yummy dips.

I applied for this job soon after I graduated college, and I never dreamed I’d get it.

What did you think this job would be about? What were you looking forward to?
To be honest, everything. I stalked CAVA’s Instagram and was like, “Oh, this couldn’t be any more perfect,” because I love food, and to be able to combine design with that sounded awesome.

I never thought I would be one of those people who got their dream job right out of college.

Cava Grill Employee Feature Lula Junior Designer

How did you get into design?
Design came into my life at a time when I was really bored. I was studying literature and I wasn’t completely happy with it. I love literature, but I couldn’t see myself going that direction for the rest of my life.

Over winter break a few years ago, I said, “I need to do something with my life.” So I got Photoshop and I started watching a ton of tutorials. I had created a blog and was thinking that I hated how it looked and wanted to make it look nicer. So I redesigned my own blog, and I gradually started getting blog design requests and getting paid for it.

I went to Montgomery College to figure out what I wanted to do and test the waters, and then a friend of mine applied to MICA and got in. She was telling me how amazing their design program was, and with the courses I had already taken and the portfolio I had built, I was able to get in.

What’s your go-to source of design inspiration now?
I’m really into Bon Appetit, which does such an awesome job of combining food and design. Their layouts are amazing and I get really excited about anything that’s paper. Paper is so much more real.

Cava Grill Employee Feature Lula Junior Designer

What was your upbringing like?
When I was two, we lived in Lisbon. My dad was a farmer and my mother was a teacher. And then my dad got a call about a job in the Ivory Coast, so we moved there from when I was 2 until I was 12. Then we moved back to Lisbon for just a few months before my dad got a job here in DC.

When my dad was farming, he worked with bees a lot — but he had a lot of different degrees, so that’s how we wound up in the Ivory Coast, and now in DC, his job is sort of a mix between a diplomat and an economist.

Did being born in Europe and traveling a lot in your childhood influence your outlook on life?
Definitely. Growing up in Africa, you grow up in a very different way than many kids in America. You see some not so nice things. I grew up with values being really important.

And I also think that all of the traveling I’ve done has allowed me to experience so many different cultures and foods.

My parents never allowed me or my sister to say we didn’t like something before we actually tried it.

Cava Grill Employee Feature Lula Junior Designer

Any crazy examples of foods you’ve tried?
I remember one time we were deep in the woods in the Ivory Coast, and we stopped at a little shack where they were cooking everything outside over an open fire. My dad said, “Try this…” I was 9 years old at the time, and my mom later asked me, “Do you know what you ate?” And I said, “Yeah, some sort of meat.”

And she said, “You just ate rat.” But you know what? I liked it.

I probably wouldn’t have eaten it if I had known, but I tend to like everything!

What do you miss most from your former food experiences?
I really miss the fish. And they also have this smaller grain called attieke, which is kind of like couscous, and it was the best thing.

Cava Grill Employee Spotlight Feature Lula

What’s your favorite dish to make?
I’m really into curry right now. I love anything spicy. I put spice on everything.

Did you grow up learning how to cook or is getting into the kitchen a new experience for you?
I never liked cooking until a few months ago when I went vegan. That opened up a completely different world for me. I used to hate cooking, and now I love being in the kitchen.

My best friend is vegan and she kind of inspired me to go vegan and just do it for two weeks just to see. I just love it now and I don’t see any reason to go back. I thought it would make me feel more limited, but honestly it’s more fun.

Have you had any really bad kitchen failures?
I made some cookies and I wanted to make them really lemony, so I grabbed some Crystal Light powder and poured the whole thing into the batter. Of course the cookies were disgusting — like, a whole other level of disgusting.

I think I did it because I figured it would add a nice color. They definitely were yellow. But they were also really strange. Just awful.

What’s your favorite thing your mom or dad made to eat?
My dad makes the best paella in the world. He has a huge pan and everything for a perfect paella. It’s so good. I definitely miss it now that I’m vegan.

Cava Grill Employee Feature Lula Junior Designer

Where do you want to travel next?
My go-to is Portugal because so many of my family and friends are there, but if I had to pick another destination I would pick Egypt. I’ve always wanted to go there.

What are your favorite places in Portugal?
Definitely Lisbon. I love visiting my family house. It has been in our family for 500 years. It’s beautiful and there are all these legends and myths about it. I definitely think it’s haunted.

What’s something that not very many people know about you?
I used to eat ants when I was little.

I had a corner where I’d find them. It went on for quite a few years, and I started to get my sister in on it. This might be really weird, but the small ones didn’t taste like anything — the bigger ones have more poison in them I think, so they were spicy and I liked those better. I don’t know why we did it.

Cava Grill Employee Feature Lula Junior Designer

What has been your proudest moment in the past year?
Getting my job with CAVA was pretty mind-blowing.

So many people complain about their jobs, and I’m so lucky that I enjoy mine so much. I find any excuse to talk about it.

What do you order when you go to CAVA?
I always do a grain base and some salad, usually the mesclun mix. I got the supergreens once, and I usually hate kale, so that was a breakthrough for me that I liked it. I also get the falafel, and then two regular hummus, some harissa, and then a ton of toppings (except the Crazy Feta, since I’m vegan) — no shame in getting all the toppings!