Student launches Latin vegan pop-up restaurant

Georgia State student Rosalia Parra is an entrepreneur and chef, providing a new twist to traditional Latin food. Photo by Vanessa Johnson | The Signal

Rosalia Parra is a student who is making her culinary dream come true and balancing school at the same time. Parra is a vegan, Latin-American fusion chef. Her company is named Maiz y Canela (Corn and Cinnamon). She got her start in the industry when a bunch of her friends went to a music show that another friend was hosting.

The friend hired a food truck to sell tacos but the cooks for the truck never showed up, leaving him in desperate need of someone to serve food for seven hours and enough of it to feed all the attendees. Parra stepped up right away. Even without any experience in catering, she was up for the challenge. She just had to let her friend know that if she was going to do this, she was going to do it her way—all the food would be both Latin and vegan.

But this was easy for Parra as she had always loved cooking.

“I remember telling my dad when I was younger, ‘Dad, I want to be a chef,’” Parra said.

Parra is a finance major and a transfer student at Georgia State, and for the past two years she has been vegan. While many might consider being vegan to be difficult, she disagrees, especially with the notion that Latin food can’t be made vegan.

“It has been really simple to make Latin vegan food because a lot of the ingredients are already vegan”, Parra said.

For example, some of her favorite menu items include Enchiladas de Frijol (rolled corn tortillas filled with black beans and topped with salsa verde) and Postre de Chocolate (chocolate pie). Parra is still able to incorporate common Latin foods such as chorizo, a spicy pork sausage, in her dishes. She just prepares the soy version, and her customers are none the wiser.

All the ingredients she uses for each meal are fresh—even the sauces. She tries to keep her menu interesting by switching up what she cooks at her pop-ups. These pop-ups are where she cooks her food at different venues and restaurants, just like where she first got her start. Parra recently served her food at Ria’s Bluebird across from Oakland Cemetery.

For Parra, pop-ups are a great way to introduce people to vegan food and she doesn’t need her own restaurant to do it. She just makes the food, sets it out and the delicious smells sell themselves.

Parra had no idea that one night helping a friend would grow her into a savvy, successful businesswoman. So successful, in fact, that at one of her recent pop-ups, she had to place customers on a waiting list. And the food is so loved, she doesn’t have to advertise. Much of her success is thanks to word of mouth, with many of her friends and even strangers posting her flyers all over group chats and on social media.

With all of this, Parra was able to quit her job and pursue her vegan dream.

She does not have her own location yet but in the next five years she sees herself graduating with her degree in finance and hopefully having a restaurant or a stable pop-up residency in a coffee shop. Parra attributes her success to the strong women in her family who support her business and ultimately want to see her thrive.