Meet Las Chulas, the sisters behind Los Cabos’ first vegan cafe

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This article originally appeared on Vegetarian Times

Los Cabos, the ultra-popular Mexican vacation hub that stretches from Cabo San Lucas to San Jose del Cabo, is famous for its food scene with world-class restaurants such as Nobu, Cocina de Autor and Manta. But the destination’s food culture never specifically catered to vegetarians — until two young Mexican sisters decided to open a restaurant that reflected their plant-based values.

Natalia Vera and her sister Ivana Vera were 24 and 22 respectively when they opened the first vegan restaurant in the tourist hotspot in April 2017. They named their passion project Chula, Mexican slang for beautiful. “We thought of a short, easy word that anyone can say that represents female empowerment,” Ivana said. vegetarian time. “It ended up being a great nickname since everyone in town calls us Las Chulas.”

Natalia was the first to become a vegan, at the age of 16. Throughout her youth, she was curious about where her meals came from, which led her to study nutrition. She realized that she had a gluten intolerance and that eating animal products was making her sick. “I wanted to give my body the best and I feed on plant-based meals,” she says.

Ivana found it harder to give up eating meat. She was a self-proclaimed animal lover – but also a burger fanatic. “From cows to dogs, including cats and pigs, I have always admired animals. But I contradicted myself, I ate them, ”says Ivana. “I also had a hormonal imbalance and terrible acne.”

Ivana’s hormone and acne issues disappeared after she adopted a plant-based diet created for her by her nutritionist sister, Natalia. Along with alleviating her health issues, she now says she feels like a true animal lover. “I love being vegan because I give animals a voice and don’t support industries that harm our planet.”

Both sisters say they have been inundated with questions from loved ones claiming to be concerned about their health as vegans. Mexico is a meat-centric culture and it was hard for their community to understand how they weren’t protein deficient. “Everyone was worried about our diet and thought being vegan was radical,” says Ivana. “People are more aware of veganism, but it’s still a hotly debated topic because people have grown up thinking differently,” adds Natalia.

Chula is part of a burgeoning vegan scene across Mexico – a scene that harkens back to the plant-based practices inherent in Mesoamerican indigenous peoples. “Ten years ago, it was difficult for me to find products in the supermarket or find something in a restaurant that I could eat,” says Natalia. Los Cabos now also offers an all-vegan burger restaurant, Mi Vegano Favorito, and vegan options are available at many restaurants, including a tasting menu at Don Sanchez Restaurant and a cooking class at Los Tamarindos.

One of the motivations behind opening Chula was to create an establishment for locals curious about vegan food. With this in mind, the Vera sisters have decided to keep prices accessible. Locals in Los Cabos tend to be overpriced on the expensive food scene. The Vera duo staunchly refused to be part of this gentrification – even if it meant lower profits since Chula uses organic ingredients that are expensive to buy.

“We wanted to have a little café where we could spread a more eco-friendly way of life and show how delicious eating plants can be, that choosing organic is better for you and that taking care of your community is essential” , explains Ivana.

Natalia uses her experience to ensure the dishes are nutritious and balanced. “All dishes contain complete proteins and all food groups. The quality of our ingredients is very important to us, nothing was bought in packages and everything is made from scratch”, explains Natalia. Open for brunch Tuesday through Sunday, Chula offers a mix of vegan interpretations of Mexican and American plates.

“The basis of Mexican meals is plant-based, so it was very easy for us to offer a wide variety of traditional dishes without giving up flavor,” says Natalia. A bite of chilaquiles with cashew cheese or a tortilla chip from the dizzying stack of nachos instantly proves Natalia’s point. Other brunch items on the menu include almond butter waffles and a grilled carrot lox bagel with a cream cheese smear of cashews and capers. Leaving without dessert is a mistake; desserts include a decadent selection of homemade peanut butter cups, cashew cheesecake, and golden milk energy balls. With Natalia’s gluten intolerance, the sisters have always cooked gluten-free dishes.

Los Cabos’ first all-vegan menu has drawn a steady stream of customers, and the sisters have moved to larger spaces twice since opening. Throughout the moves, the Vera sisters maintained the Chula vibe with a dusty rose wall adorned with white cacti inspired by the surrounding desert.

Ivana strongly believes that being vegan goes beyond your plate. Once you question where your food comes from, you can’t stop. Zero waste can go hand-in-hand with greater awareness.” Chula serves as a community space for local artisans to sell their crafts and zero-waste vegan products, including soaps, soy candles, an item refill station toiletries and the Chula Closet of pre-loved clothes.

RELATED: Hongos Forever: Modern Mexican Vegan Chefs ‘Awaken Ancestral Memory’ With Mushrooms

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