discover its vegan and sustainable cuisine

We talk with Laura Cardenasco-founder of La Piahaya, a vegan cooking project that has made local and foreign palates fall in love with its natural flavors and its iconic pink tortillas. This is what she told us:

Where are you from?
I am from Caracas, Venezuela and I have been living in Mexico for seven years.

Why did you move to Mexico?
The situation in Venezuela is critical so migration is very common. I had already come to visit Mexico and I really liked the country. It seemed to me an incredible, intense place and I always felt very welcomed by Mexicans and of course, I fell in love with Mexican gastronomy -I think there is no one who has come and who can say something different-. It is a magnetic country, if it had not been for the current situation in my country, I would probably be in Mexico anyway.

Photo: El Universal / Edgar Silva Fuentes S.

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Did you already dedicate yourself to cooking in Venezuela?
Yes and no, my training is as a political scientist but I always had that little heart for gastronomy. Before coming to Mexico, I had already been working for three years with a venture that dealt with cheeses, creams, vegan yogurts, based on nuts, and I fell in love with that idea of ​​being able to offer something that people consume, it is something special, it was very different from any other job that I had, and I felt that way of being able to connect with people, to meet people, to make new friends.

When I came to Mexico, I did want to keep my business in some way, I didn’t continue with the cheeses, I tried it but it didn’t work very well and then we started with the pitahaya.

When did La Pitahaya start?
Seven years ago. I arrived in February, in April I met Guillermo García who is my partner. Life brought us together to do the pitahaya. We met and that same day we talked about the project, the second time we met, we gave it the name and decided what we were going to sell; for day three, we went out to sell in his vocho. We were selling on the street for several months, with all the adventures that this implies, then we started going to bazaars, then we were able to rent a tiny place, then another, until we moved to Roma.

Photo: El Universal / Edgar Silva Fuentes S.

are you vegan
Yes, for 13 years I have had a plant-based diet, I do not consume any animal as such, however, between those thirteen years there have been periods between vegetarianism and veganism.

Part of this change in consciousness has been seeing that not all vegan things are necessarily going to have a positive impact on the life of the planet and on the life of animals and that, on the other hand, there are products that if they are made in a responsible, on a small scale, carefully, with good practices, they do not have to have a serious impact. It has been a process of much learning, of delving into the subject of nutrition and not just saying “I don’t eat this”.

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What other conscious practices do you carry out in La Pitahaya?
We do as much as we can. We try to ensure that most of our products are fair trade, for example, beans. We eat a lot of beans, because our main dish is enfrijoladas. We buy these from La Comandanta, which works with cooperatives that work with native beans and that is money that you know reaches the cooperative.

We have been working with incredible jamaica for a year and a half, it is from some girls who are in Jala, Nayarit, it is totally organic, the quality of the product is undeniable, they work only with us because they have a very small production.

Photo: El Universal / Edgar Silva Fuentes S.

The prices of this type of input are higher than the commercial one, but they are products that I consider worthwhile. As a restaurant, you are not deciding a kilo, you are deciding tons a year. These decisions can be the difference between the money paid reaching a Mexican family or reaching a foreign transnational that does not care about human rights.

The agave and coconut we use are also organicthe salt is organic from a cooperative in Colima, we try to do everything we can. We compost, we recycle, our cleaning products are biodegradable, we do not use processed foods, cans, plastics, etc. do not enter, which reduces our production of garbage, in addition to allowing us to take care of the ingredients that reach the food.

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How were the pink tortillas born?
It’s a very funny story. Guille and I were in our first store, we did everything. He would ride his bicycle through the dough, to a mill that works with national and nixtamalized corn, which was what we were looking for for our restaurant. He bought beet juice at a juice store, which they gave him in a bag, he put it in his backpack, where he also brought the bag of dough.

Photo: El Universal / Edgar Silva Fuentes S.

I was in the restaurant, I called him because we already had clients and I needed the dough. He fell into one of the thousands of potholes in CDMX and the juice spilled. Upon arrival, we opened the dough and saw it all stained. We decided to knead it and use it, since it was just juice, and the color of the tortillas was incredible. Everything made sense the pitahaya and the color pink, were already part of the concept. From that day and until today’s sun, tortillas are always roses.

What influence of flavors does the menu have?
It was flowing, at the beginning Guillermo’s mother helped us, she taught us to make the main sauces and stews, to look for those Mexican flavors, characteristic of the dishes we have, because neither he nor I are chefs by profession. We have a relatively short menu because each and every item is made here.

Photo: El Universal / Edgar Silva Fuentes S.

It also has Venezuelan influence, because in the end everything is crossed by what one is. What tastes good to me and what I look for is part of my upbringing, of my family, of what I ate, of what my grandmother prepared. Specifically, I could say that our enfrijoladas are the most Venezuelan, because of that mixture of cheese, beans, and plantain. It’s something very Caribbean, in Venezuela you eat plantain every day, in at least one meal, it’s something you can’t miss. In Venezuelan gastronomy, everything has something sweet, even salty food, has a sweet touch and it is something that we try to reflect in the dishes of the pitahaya Because it’s something I grew up with.

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