“I roasted the cashews. Do you want me to soak them?” asks a breathless cook at the Back2Roots Bistro in early August, the hectic day before the vegan restaurant’s opening. “No, leave them untouched,” answers Derek Anders Jr., chef-instructor from WCC who’s working as a consultant to tweak the menu and train the staff.

The dessert menu is mostly Anders’. The cashews will be used for the dairy-free cashew panna cotta with gingered lemongrass served with pumpkin seed and almond crumble and mango puree. Anders also invented the vegan chocolate terrine with no added sugar, accompanied by date syrup and blueberries.

Anders was about to start rehearsing the staff on front-of-the-house procedures. “We know we have a fairly small dining room and want to create traffic patterns that make it easy for staff to reach the tables,” he explains. Anders says he and owners Swaroop Bhojani and Pradeep Chowdhry “have been putting in twelve-hour days for the last three weeks or so.”

Despite the long hours, Swaroop–he rarely uses his last name–and “PC,” as Chowdhry is known around here, are smiling and gracious. They’ve totally reworked the space since buying it from Ananth Pullela last winter. Formerly done up in loud shades of fast-food red and green (bespeaking its past as a Quizno’s), it’s now an inviting, elegant sit-down restaurant, with gleaming white walls, white tablecloths, and spring-green napkins and other accents. At least from the street it is. Inside, that front table proves to be window dressing, and at the moment, most tables are being used as workstations, while chairs and boxes of supplies are stacked against the walls.

Swaroop’s enthusiasm for food as medicine has already spawned the popular Hut-K Chaats on Packard and a spinoff at Mark’s Carts. Chaats are Indian snacks; it’s possible to put together a meal there, but it’s not what you’d call a “date night” restaurant. Except for a liquor license, which Swaroop is considering, Back2Roots is.

Swaroop needed a partner to pull off this more ambitious restaurant, and PC was his choice for a couple of reasons. First, PC teaches entrepreneurship at EMU. Second, like Swaroop, who controls his Type II diabetes with Hut-K chaats, PC has a tale of treating a life-altering illness with diet: “I was diagnosed with Stage 4 kidney cancer two-and-a-half years back. I was given three months to live. The doctor said, ‘Pack your bags, quit your job.’ I started checking out the other things that I could do in addition to chemotherapy. I thought changing my diet could be of some help. I found Swaroop and made an incredible recovery.” This is the short version of the story–twenty-four hours out from opening a restaurant, he has other things on his mind. “I feel great,” he adds, and bustles off.

The first week, Swaroop planned to open Back2Roots for lunch only, but he promises that by September they will have ramped up to the hours listed below. In addition to serving healthy vegan meals, he says the restaurant and its website will be a community resource for promoting wellness. He hopes to offer classes, workshops, counseling, and outreach.

Back2Roots Bistro, 108 S. Main, phone number unavailable at press time. Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. back2rootsbistro.com