Betty Mankiller of Bikini Bites on Vegan Catering and Why More Chefs Should Cook in Bikini Tops

Loaded chili nachos with cashew cheese
Loaded chili nachos with cashew cheese
Eric Mendoza

No one wants to be the last person to discover something cool, which is one reason why you should head to the Black Rose Tavern's grand opening this Saturday, March 15. The Pico Boulevard venue, formerly known as The Joint, has undergone a makeover thanks to owner Ondrea Faillace's desire to transform from a club to a tavern, with music Friday and Saturdays after 11 p.m. Another reason is because the event will feature vegan items by Anaheim resident Betty Mankiller, whose all-vegan catering company Bikini Bites is making its Los Angeles debut. 

In fact, Saturday marks only the second time Bikini Bites will be available for the public. That said, the 31-year-old has prepared enough vegan food for friends that they began asking when she was going to turn her culinary creations into a business. Which she has sort of.  Rather than making a profit off Bikini Bites, Mankiller says all proceeds from Saturday will go to a Brea-based group called Cats In Tow Program - Muttsnstuff Small Dog Rescue. For the cook, the decision to donate can be attributed to her mother, who taught her to "give back whenever possible."

Betty Mankiller
Betty Mankiller
Sean Dunlap

Squid Ink: How long have you been vegan? And why'd you go vegan in the first place?

Betty Mankiller: I've been animal product-free for 17 years. Going vegan was an ethical choice. I find it extremely hypocritical to say that I love animals and continue to eat them.

SI: How does a fetish model who went to FIDM get into vegan catering?

BM: I have a very no-nonsense approach to animal rights and veganism. This can be off-putting to a lot of people when they misread my intentions. I won't idly stand by while people continue to perpetuate the suffering and murder of animals. As far as how I got into vegan catering ... I cook for my friends during the holidays, I have parties and invite people over to eat, drink and have a good time. I post pictures of the food I make on Facebook and between the two, people kept begging me to do something with my cooking.

SI: Where did the idea for Bikini Bites come from? More importantly, shouldn't more chefs - men and women - wear bikini tops when they cook?

BM: My friend was drunk and came up with the name Bikini Bites because I'm always cooking in a bikini top. It gets freaking hot in the kitchen...if you know what I mean. I am pretty sure everyone should wear a bikini top always. People might be more joyful, don't you think? I feel like people are far too self-conscious of their bodies. I am by no means perfect, but this is the body I've been given and I am going to rock it.

SI: All proceeds go to charity, right? Why? Shouldn't you take the thousands of dollars we all know vegan cooking generates and buy yourself a car?

BM: Yes, all proceeds go to charity. Right now, I am working with Cats In Tow Program - Muttsnstuff Small Dog Rescue and helping them with their trap and release program as well as their shelter dog rescue program. I was taught as a kid to give back whenever possible. My mother instilled this ideal in me when I was young. I've lived a very chaotic life and appreciate all I have - I don't need more. If I can help save animals by cooking awesome vegan food, what's stopping me?

I enjoy sharing my food and the message of veganism. I live simply so others can simply live and this means the world to me. I cannot tell you the joy it brings me to help the rescue and see all of the animals greet me and want attention when I drop off my donation. You've not lived until you see the love in a rescue animal's eyes. They know when they've been rescued. They're appreciative and their hearts are beautiful.

SI: Do I have to start a band to get you to cater or can dudes without earplugs get you to cook for them too?

BM: Anyone can get me to cater for them. Parties, shows - any event, as long as it's cruelty-free. I can write custom menus and can accommodate people with allergies and/or special needs.

SI: Do the venues have any say in your menus? Do your menus differ?

BM: The venues I work with let me do what I want because I am easy to work with and I bring a crowd wherever I go. I change the menus based on the event that I am doing. For my St. Paddy's show, I am doing Irish nachos. Not so Irish but great bar food.

SI: How did you team with the Black Rose Tavern?

BM: I was asked by the owner Ondrea about doing a custom vegan menu for them. I was put in contact with her through a close friend of mine, Andy Ford of The Razor KXRZ. Ondrea and I hit it off and she's a pleasure to do business with. Black Rose Tavern is very supportive of everything I do and they are donating two percent of their grand opening profits to Cats In Tow - Muttsnstuff.

SI: Besides a bikini top, what can people expect for Saturday? What's on the menu?

BM: A full bar including craft beers, a gluten-free blue cheese wedge, barbecue jackfruit sliders, meatball dippers and crab cakes. All vegan, of course.

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Black Rose Tavern

8771 W. Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90035



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