Making a career leap from practicing physician to restaurateur might sound crazy to some, but to Matt Clayton, it’s completely logical.

In fact, the former River Falls general surgeon’s decision to leave his field and open a restaurant – the “plant-based” J. Selby’s (169 N. Victoria St., St. Paul), which is expected to open this fall – was in part inspired by his time in the world of health care.

“It’s pretty clear to me that the dietary habits of America are contributing tremendously to the amount of obesity and diabetes and heart disease problems that we’re seeing – and to a lot of the healthcare crisis as well,” Clayton said. “A lot of physicians have taken to trying to do education and what not. Personally, I love to cook. So I thought rather than following the line of what everyone else is doing, I’m just going to show people that you can eat plant-based food and it tastes great. 

"That’s my mission.”

Clayton said he hopes construction on his project will begin next week and anticipates opening the eatery's doors in late November or early December. Patrons can expect a plant-based menu free of meat or animal products. Just don’t call that concept “vegan.”

“We’re not going to use the ‘v’ word,” he said. “That’s a very scary word to non-vegans. When you say the ‘v’ word to non-vegans, they start to cringe a little bit and they imagine a plate of twigs and leafy greens and things that are only remotely edible. So the preferred nomenclature at this point is plant-based.”

Clayton expects to be open for lunch, dinner and brunch – the latter of which he calls “non-existent” locally in vegan form. The menu will feature appetizers, sandwiches, coffee, beer and wine and possibly kombucha on tap and will be managed by chef Rick Berdahl (formerly of Aromas Pizza in St. Paul), who seems to be the logical fit, from Clayton’s perspective, as well.

“He’s been a vegetarian for many years and had been considering making that final leap,” Clayton said. “When I posted for a chef, he just said it was the sign he was looking for and made that last conversion.”