Jennifer Desrosiers, Founder, Laney & Lu Cafe, Exeter, NH

Chef Profiles by Rachel Forrest / July, 2017

Laney & Lu Cafe offers food and attitude Seacoasters are eagerly embracing. Founder Jennifer Desrosiers presents progressive ideas in drinks (like an invigorating Matcha or Turmeric Latte) and eats (like a protein-packed kale quinoa bowl and a sunflower seed burger), plus a new lifestyle shift that helps support the community as well. The eatery, named for Desrosier’s niece Laney Lu, is in a welcoming gray clapboard building with outdoor seating on a brick patio.

What influenced your healthful lifestyle ethic?
I grew up in Vermont way up in the Northern Kingdom, so I did have the advantage of growing up in an area where people harvested vegetables and had fresh meat. But I definitely felt I was a product of the 1980s. I remember when food started to shift to boxed food and saw myself gaining weight in my teens, but I was always very healthy and athletic. I never thought I could do this for a living in my 30s!

What were you doing for a living before Laney & Lu and how did you segue into what you’re doing now?
I was working with water bottling and the materials in big companies. I had no spiritual attachment to what I was doing but the money was good and the people were amazing, but I sensed early on in my career I was unattached to the mission of the companies I was working with even if the culture was something I liked. The industry just didn’t light my fire and I was becoming more and more unhappy. I started getting sick and had back pain, crippling pain, and was diagnosed with an inflamed kidney, and I asked my doctor if it could be diet related. I was still really healthy, what I call “skinny fat.” You look healthy on the outside. I turned to Paleo and eliminated inflammatory foods. I cut out soy and dairy and ate organic meats and I felt better instantly.

So your diet changes led to a lifestyle change?
I started reading about living differently, started yoga, and became a yoga instructor, then a health and wellness coach. My husband and I began to peel back the layers of our material lifestyle. We had money, houses, but we downsized and moved to Newmarket. I grew up in an impoverished area and people would tell me, “You’re not meant to be in this life here.” The push was always to get out and become a lawyer, a doctor, make money—that kind of “successful.”

And what led you to Laney & Lu?
I thought, “What do I love? What do I look for when I’m on the road?” Good coffee. An amazing salad. There’s so much momentum to do creative things in the healthful eating world. I actively started dreaming about opening a coffee shop in my mid-20s. Before we found our space in Exeter, we had offers on shops in North Conway and seven or eight other locations. I walked around Exeter and saw this little place and three weeks later we had it.

Your café is not just about the food and drink, but community and education as well.
The driving force is the community side of things. Eat consciously. Live vibrantly. It involves nurturing mind, body, and spirit and unlocking your greatest potential. People are coming to Laney & Lu and love the amazing, vibrant food. They tell us, “I felt so good at work,” after they eat. They’re more present, less lethargic. People can become a better part of the community and that helps the entire community.

Laney & Lu Cafe
26 Water Street
Exeter, N.H.

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