Evanice Holz started her food business Señoreata five years ago out of her Prius, popping up across L.A. and at Smorgasburg. As a first generation Cuban Brazilian American, her food reflects her Cuban heritage with a twist – all the dishes are plant-based, including a Cuban sandwich made with her signature mojo-marinated jackfruit lechón. On Sunday, June 5, she trades in her Prius for a truck on Food Network and discovery+’s Great Food Truck Race.
Shot on location from Laguna Beach to the Glamis Sand Dunes in Imperial County, celebrity chef Tyler Florence returns to host, as nine teams of aspiring food truck owners compete in a culinary road battle across Southern California.
Joining Holz in the competition are Chely Saludado, who has been with her since the pop-up sensation’s debut, and their friend Adri Law, all three of which are no strangers to working under adverse conditions.
“We started five years ago and we’re still working out of my car,” Holz tells L.A. Weekly over a sándwich Cubano and delicate fried plantain chips at Smorgasburg. “We pop up out of my Toyota Prius. This whole outdoor kitchen setup in front of you goes in my car. I might not be able to see all the way, but somehow it works. Right now it’s second nature because I’ve been doing it for so long, but you have to have quite the passion to sustain a business in this way. You’re gritting your teeth a lot. Strapping your boots on to get ready for a whole day. It’s not like in a restaurant where you turn off the lights and lock the door. When we’re done here, we have to clean it all up, pack it into the car and load it back into my garage at the end of the day. The day starts at 7 a.m., and ends at 6 p.m., when this event is from 10 to 4.”
The savvy L.A. native became vegan in high school but missed the Cuban dishes of her father and grandmother she enjoyed growing up, so she decided to veganize her family recipes. The traditional pressed sandwich is made with marinated jackfruit, the vaca frita features fried pulled blue oyster mushrooms, sliced onions and lime. The frita Cubana is a rubbed smashed impossible patty topped with vegan cheese, fried shoestring potatoes, grilled onions, secret frita sauce, pickles and garlic aioli on a ball park bun. On the sweet side, there’s a guava cheese pastelito in flaky pastry, with guava and coconut cream cheese.
“It didn’t take long to veganize the recipes,” says Holz. “When I got the recipes from my grandmother and my father, I realized that 90% of the recipe is plant-based. All I had to replace was the protein. Once I found the substitutes, it was really easy. Conceptually, when you’re going from being omnivorous to being plant-based, it seems very overwhelming. My whole culture is meat, but I realized that what balances everything is already plant-based. The work was kind of cut out for me, it was just about fine tuning everything.”
Building community was the biggest aspect of Señoreata on the show, honing in on her origin story and the ethos behind her dream. Introducing a rare flavor in the vegan space to different cities and doing what she normally does once a week on a daily basis left her with a refreshed energy and confidence.
“The casting people from the show reached out to me on instagram and I wasn’t quite sure if it was real at the time,” says Holz, who spends her time between L.A. and Joshua Tree, planning to open a small restaurant there in a community she describes as a true food desert. “We had no idea where we were going, if we were going across the country or staying in California. We ended up being the only plant-based truck on the show. All I could do was prepare my team to run the Smorgasburg kitchen here, so we could still operate. It was important for me that we were available since we’re only out once a week since Covid, which will change in summer, when we’ll have a big pop-up schedule.”
“It was such a great learning lesson, the experience on the show was wild,” says the former culinary student who dropped out because being a vegan prevented her from actually tasting anything she cooked. “You can prepare yourself as much as you can for the day, but once you actually start doing things, you’re thrown these curve balls and challenges. I learned attention to detail in absolutely everything and realized the stamina that it takes. We’re traveling and doing social media every night afterwards, no matter how exhausted we were. If I learned anything, I learned how powerful social media really is.”
So what does Holz, the first entrepreneur in the family, attribute the hard-working stamina and ambitious business sense to?
“It may sound lame, but I think it’s because I’m a Virgo,” she says. “I’m very detail-oriented and lean towards leadership. I think it comes from being an only child and having a do-it-myself mentality from being a first generation American, doing everything on your own.”