Mama Vega’s Bistro is the star of what is fresh, vegetarian
Restaurateur takes healthful cooking—and dining—to a new level
PALMDALE, Calif.—On Palmdale Boulevard, Charmene Vega, creator of Mama Vega’s Salsa and owner of Mama Vega’s Bistro, is truly practicing cooperative economics. The 10-year business owner and entrepreneur has taken her creative genius to a new level of innovation and economic conservation.
After departing from her location at the local Kaiser Medical Center, she opened shop inside an established restaurant.
Yes, that’s right. She currently shares a store location with a Mediterranean-themed kabob house. She said it works for everyone involved.
“I wanted a kitchen and venue conducive to everyone,” she said.
“So I figured, you have hours [that] your business is closed, but you pay rent for the whole day. How about I put my food in the time slot your store is closed. And the food is different and it’s not competing with each other. So we have a symbiotic relationship. We both benefit.” The Bistro is presently open from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays, but times are subject to change.
Vega’s health bistro is a niche favorite among health foodies, especially during the rise in health consciousness. But what makes her food so special is that it’s nothing like you’ll ever taste anywhere else.
Vega makes food to order according to each customer’s dietary and taste-bud needs. If a party of four comes in to her shop, one who is diabetic, another vegan, and another suffering from sleep deprivation, Vega is sure to whip something to accommodate each palate.
Her recipes are home-created, produced locally and organically grown, and menu offerings range from soul to Greek. Only about two weeks at the new location, Vega is commissioning local farmers and gardeners to participate in her health movement by contributing to the fresh tastes on her menu with backyard- and farmyard-grown fruits and veggies. The restaurateur also plans to produce her own small farm within the year.
Vega sets herself apart because each of her employees is on their way to becoming a certified food handler. In fact, she encourages her servers and cooks to create their own recipes for the venue.
“All of my staff are TB-tested, drug-tested, obtaining food handler’s licenses, and are trained in nutrition,” Vega shared. And in the near future, she plans to get them to deliver call-in orders via bicycle.
Mama Vega strives to reflect a life and style of conservation and health consciousness by recycling and choosing biodegradable to-go containers.
But these are merely steps in Vega’s dream to educate and liberate diners in the dark dungeons of food ignorance.
The chef began her journey as a child of mixed heritage—Black and Puerto Rican—living in New York. Her mother, an herbalist, worked long hospital hours as a hematologist, leaving Vega at home and needing her to help prepare meals.
“... my mom would come across people from all over the place at the hospital,” Vega reminisced, explaining the diversity of food dishes she prepared. “My mom would make me cook and tell me what I needed to make and do these steps and hang up and call back and do more steps…. There were no cookbooks or recipes.”
She would also whip up food familiar to her father’s traditional Puerto Rican roots.
Cooking became a part of everything she did growing up, and as a young adult she’d frequent luxury restaurants and compliment the chef, asking what ingredients he or she used to make a dish so delectable.
“They never thought of me, a 19- or 20-year-old, as a threat,” she said with a smile. She would then jot down the chef’s secrets on napkins to record them later in her cooking journal to mix and match flavors for a unique recipe all her own.
Vega attended college initially as a pre-med major, but eventually graduated with teaching credentials. For years she worked as a special education teacher at various grade levels and became known as Mama Vega. Vega had never cooked for mass numbers of people, let alone commercially, but one day in class she had a revelation.
She began giving her overactive students chips and her homemade salsa during class down-time and began to realize that they became very calm afterward.
“The way I was making it, they were eating it up and weren’t getting the sugar rush. They were calm,” she said, wide-eyed. “And these were ADD and ADHD kids. So I saw that there was something going on.”
Her salsa, which is a recognized five-a-day food (meaning part of a recommended serving of fruits and vegetables, not condiment), was made fresh and nutritious. She soon began marketing her flagship salsa. For years now major local grocery stores like Gelson’s and Whole Foods have carried her product. Recently, Albertson’s and Costco picked it up as well, along with three other signature sauces: Hillbilly Sauce, Hillbilly Spice-Rub, and Guacatillo Salsa.
Vega emphasizes the versatility of her products, which prompted her to begin catering and eventually open the bistro. She said she wanted people to know that her salsa provides a full serving of vegetables and can be added to just about anything as an ingredient.
Vega is passionate about teaching and cooking, and she is happy to dispense health and cooking advice. She believes that what she’s doing is both a service and a gift.
“My family’s philosophy is if you don’t share it, you lose it,” she said. “I like to share stuff and I like to try to help people. It’s one of those things that I like to do, and I know that I’m helping people. It’s second nature to me.”
Vega has been asked by First 5 L.A. to cater upcoming events in the Antelope Valley and throughout Los Angeles County.
Mama Vega’s Bistro is located inside of Lilit’s Kabob House at 2250 E. Palmdale Blvd. Learn more at mamavega.com.
Boys with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may be at risk for obesity later in life, according to a new study — which, if confirmed in larger studies, may have implications for more than 4 million kids in the United States living with the disorder.
Researchers at NYU’s Langone Medical Center have been following more than 200 kids for four decades. They found those who had ADHD in their early years were twice as likely to be obese at age 41.
Keller Williams Realty, in conjunction with Palmdale and the Antelope Valley Mall, announced the results of their recent Red Day events.
Between their food drive and Red Day Walk, the groups raised $12,645 in cash and more than 10,000 pounds of food for local charities including South Antelope Valley Emergency Services (SAVES), Grace Resources, the WAVE Foundation and the American Cancer Society.
SANTA CLARITA, Calif. — Peter Sagan of Slovakia sprinted past Australian Michael Matthews to win today’s third stage of the Tour of California, the nation’s largest cycling event.
Sagan completed the 110.3-mile stage from Palmdale to Santa Clarita in four hours, 20 minutes, 31 seconds. Each of the next 99 cyclists were credited with the same time.
“The last three kilometers were crazy with all the sprinters who wanted to win,” Sagan said.
PALMDALE, Calif. — The eighth edition of the Tour of California begins two days of racing in Los Angeles County today with a 110.3-mile stage from Palmdale to Santa Clarita.
The 121 cyclists will leave from Marie Kerr Park at 11:20 a.m. for a stage that will feature racing through the hills north of Santa Clarita along San Francisquito Canyon and a 22-mile climb up Lake Hughes Road, followed by a gradual 18-mile descent down Spunky Canyon and Bouquet Road.
LOS ANGELES, Calif. — The Southland again will bake in dry heat today, creating what the National Weather Service (NWS) called an “elevated fire danger” falling short of red flag conditions.
“A strong upper-level high-pressure system in combination with weak onshore flow near the surface brought record-breaking triple-digit heat to portions of the valleys and foothills on Sunday,” noted an NWS advisory.