Meet the Chef
- San Antonio, Texas
- "Food should be accessible. Recipes don’t need to be complicated."
- The women in her life, the arts, and community.
Rebel Mariposa uses her cooking to promote the idea that food, the arts, activism, and health all come together. Her work in the food scene in San Antonio—including founding restaurant and art space La Botanica—have received recognition by city and state representatives, as well as the local media.
La Botanica was one of the thousands of restaurants we lost due to the COVID pandemic that hit the food industry so hard. Mariposa admits there is still a “mourning period” around the restaurant. “La Botanica meant so much to so many people,” said Mariposa.
Rebel Mariposa's Recipes
Annie Black talks to Chef Rebel about what's next for her and the community she loves, and her undying excitement with the "pop" of every new flavor.
What is your plant-based origin story?
It was a long journey really birthed around being activist and radical, and thinking about violence, and how consuming meat is violent on the Earth and on the animals as well as even in our bodies.
I believe that people eat in different ways all around the world, and I wouldn’t want to insult any indigenous, or cultural cooking. My friend has a term called “rancho vegan,” which is [like] if your grandma puts a bowl of beans in front of you and it’s still like, culturally [appropriate], maybe you eat it and it doesn’t necessarily mean, “Yeah, you’ve compromised your whole morals.”
Back in college I started thinking about how what we eat and consume [harms us all]. The meat industry, the dairy industry, exploitation of animals, exploitation of workers… that’s really where it started for me. I moved to California in 2006 and really got into working within the vegan world and eating vegan. I really do love sharing plant-based food, and teaching people about vegetables and herbs.
Where do you think healing and plant-based food intersect?
We’re all connected. I believe that humans [are] animals ourselves too. To think that what we are doing to the Earth doesn’t affect us… doesn’t help us… doesn’t keep us sick, I think is naive. When I think about healing, I don’t necessarily just think about the body. I also think about the spirit and the mind. If we have millions of animals being tortured, that’s not good for the spirit of the earth.
How do arts and community inspire your cooking?
I’m not afraid to experiment. I’m not afraid to take risks. I’m not afraid to kind of get in the kitchen and make mistakes, you know, as I’m learning a recipe or putting something together, just like you have to do when you’re an artist. You have to get your paints out, get your tiles out, trying to create something. It doesn’t always come out right the first time, but you have to keep trying.
You describe La Botanica—a restaurant, bar, and inclusive space that thrived on the arts and community— as “an oasis for those [on] the fringe.” It welcomed dancers and artists such as yourself, and was popular with the activist and queer communities. This feels like a major accomplishment in a state like Texas.
In Texas, it’s a big deal, because we have a lot of conservative politics. It was really holding a space that was really important for things that are deemed radical, which are just like basic human rights stuff.
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Who would you say is your greatest cooking influence?
From a young age, I just observed so many things. When I think about my cooking influence, I can see different aunts, my mom, my step mom. I can’t pick one. I guess I could just say the women in my life, mostly the women. Also, my dad. He’d teach me how to make pecan pies. I’ve watched so many different people cook. It’s amazing what you can learn, not just about food, but even life—these are the kinds of conversations that happen in a kitchen. It’s a really magical place.
Do you have any dishes that you’re particularly drawn to making all the time?
I love to just put a really good salad together. I’m a huge salad fan. I love to just go in my garden and pick the kale that I’m growing, eat it right there. That’s it! I love eating fresh things. I love eating a really clean pasta dish, with just fresh lemon and herbs from the garden. I think food should be accessible, and recipes and good food don’t have to be 15 steps and 25 ingredients.
What’s next for you?
I think I’m still just kind of taking it a day at a time. I’m working with [nonprofits like] SanArte American Indians for Texas catering dinners. It’s been nice to kind of hone in some of these healing properties and skills to help the community.