This Sunday, the Food Network’s The Great Food Truck Race aired its historic finale, crowning Los Angeles’ Senoreata as the competition's first vegan winner. The beloved Cuban pop-up entered this year’s “Hottest Season Ever” as the show’s first plant-based contestant, and following weeks of intense and close competition, Senoreata’s founder Evanice Holz alongside teammates Chely Saludado and Adri Law proved that plant-based cooking deserves real recognition.

For the final episode, the Senoreata teamed faced off with Maybe Cheese Born With It for the chance to win $50,000. The final three challenges spanned two days and included replicating the opposing team’s specialty dishes, pairing a new menu item with a craft beer, and finally, creating a next-level spicy dish.

Senoreata’s historic win brings home a trophy for vegans nationwide, but also, creates a new standard for The Great Food Truck Race. The Cuban concept won by the highest margin in the show’s 15 seasons, earning $9,911 over its competitor’s $4,222.

“This show has been airing for 12 years, to be the first plant-based concept to make it to the finale, while also serving a massive niche cuisine with Cuban food, feels indescribable,” Holz told VegNews. “When I was in high school watching Food Network, I wish I saw a Latina-owned business and team of three women of color that I could relate to shattering glass ceilings. I’m really moved by it and that my company has made that kind of impact on food.”

“I’ve been watching Food Network since I was a kid, and to be on there was always a dream growing up. It’s such an honor to not only represent my Cuban culture but to also represent plant-based [cuisine] on nationwide television on such a reputable network that everyone knows. Seeing Señoreata up there shows me how far I’ve come in five years building this business from the ground up.”

Holz is Veganizing Her Traditional Family Dishes

Missing her family’s Cuban cooking, Holz founded Señoreata in 2017 to recreate the meals of her childhood with fully plant-based ingredients. Initially, the vegan entrepreneur hosted the pop-up kitchen from her car, and now, Señoeata has gained a cult following. Holz noted the difficulties of launching a pop-up, but the chef was determined to produce her plant-based take on Cuban American cuisine.

“We started five years ago and we’re still working out of my car,”  Holz told L.A. Weekly. “We pop up out of my Toyota Prius. This whole outdoor kitchen set-up 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 the event is from 10 to 4.”

When Holz went vegan as a teenager, she started asking her father and grandmother for recipes and transformed them to fit her new vegan diet. Now, the vegan chef delivers Cubano sandwiches with jackfruit lechon, vegan Croquetas, plant-based ropa vieja, and more.

“It didn’t take long to veganize the recipes,” Holz said. “When I got the recipes from my grandmother and my father, I realized that 90 percent 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.”

Currently, customers can find her food at SmorgasburgLA on Sunday and at various locations around Southern California. Señoreata updates its locations and pop-ups via its Instagram. Holz and her team will showcase their best vegan eats every Sunday at 6 p.m. on The Food Network.

“I think we might inspire other people to put more plant-based dishes on their menu because they see, ‘Oh, maybe there’s something to this,’” Holz said to VegNews. “I know there’s still a lot of people who think plant-based food is something foreign, but I think if you release the stigma behind vegan food, [we can] unwrap it, bring it back to basics, and serve it in a way that is culturally relevant.”

Vegan Cooks Take on the Food Network

Holz and the Señoreata team joined a growing portfolio of vegan and plant-based chefs that have taken on Food Network television shows. Last May, Gordon Ramsay invited two plant-based chefs to compete in the “Young Guns” season of Hell’s Kitchen. Both Josie Clemes and Emily Hersh became the first two chefs to showcase vegan and vegetarian cuisine exclusively in the show’s 20 seasons.

This January, legendary celebrity chef Bobby Flay learned a lesson from his show’s first vegan contestant. For the first time in the show's 30-season run, Beat Bobby Flay invited vegan chefs Tamearra Dyson and Adyre Mason to compete against him, with Dyson ultimately triumphing over the Food Network star.

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