Being a chef and cooking for a living requires many things. Above all, there needs to be a great deal of passion and love for what you do. Chef Denise Vallejo is providing that and so much more by literally weaving her magic into every single thing she cooks and creates. A true culinary sorceress, she created Alchemy Organica as a way to serve the people of Los Angeles a deliciously unique offering of ancient Mesoamerican gastronomy.
Vegan, organic, plant-based indigenous food that will completely blow your mind and awaken every part of your senses, and make you seriously reconsider eating carnivorous based dishes on the regular. Most people associate Mexican cuisine with heavily meat-laden dishes consisting of pork, beef, chicken and seafood.
Already a vegetarian, she shifted to a plant-based vegan diet in 2008 after seeing her father’s health decline and her late aunt’s cancer diagnosis. “I knew if I didn’t start planting better seeds for my health, I could potentially end up the same,” she tells L.A. Weekly. “When you go vegan, you start paying attention to everything you eat. You start reading labels more closely and you scrutinize foods. My magical practice is part of everything I do. There really isn’t any separation from that and who I am, so the magic within my cooking has always been there. All of my food has my magical fingerprint.”
Vallejo is at the forefront of bringing the vegan movement to the streets. Alchemy Organica has already amassed a huge yet still underground following through her Koreatown pop-ups where she and her partner, The Warrior (a.k.a. Diego) serve dishes like Mexicali-style seitan asada Tacos on handmade tortillas made with organic corn masa from Boyle Heights’ Kernal of Truth Organics. And of course those scrumptious quesadillas with their own house-made Oaxaca-style cashew cheese. Vallejo says that most non-vegans say that their quesillo is better than dairy cheese. They often have this cheese available for purchase at their pop-ups, in addition to the plant-based meats which they sell by the pound.
The shared love they have for each other and passion for their beliefs infuses itself within every fiber of the business. The street pop ups are geared towards introducing the local community to organic, plant based, transitional foods and offer a sliding scale for low income families. “We want to create access to healthy food in the hood,” she says.
They’re also extremely passionate about educating people about not only indigenous eating, but pulling back the historical curtain on how colonialism altered our foods, indigenous traditions and ways of eating. Vallejo says that the food she recreates “taps into the ancestral memory of a lot of people and opens up the platform to talk about why we see so much trauma and pain being carried in modern times. We’re fighting now to get back to these old ways and creating a new generation that understands the healing wisdom of plants.”
In addition to the pop-ups, they also have a fine dining supper club that they refer to as Astro Gastronomy, which offers a menu inspired by the Zodiac sign of the season. These beautifully unique omakase-style dinners sell out almost as soon as they’re announced and have many a celebrity in attendance, as well as their die-hard patrons.
Their Scorpio-themed Dia de los Muertos dinner earlier this month had offerings such as a Black Magic Tamal made with charcoal-infused blue corn masa, beet and black lentil picadillo, roasted cauliflower and mole negro and Oaxacan black bean soup, which they will now offer occasionally at their various pop ups.
“Being a ‘witch’ is such a loaded word,” the chef says. “People have different ideas of what that entails. Being outspoken about the brujeria I do with food is liberating. Now I feel I can embody my true will. My zodiac menus are totally influenced by my occultist background. I’m able to channel concepts and ideas and intuitively create a whole menu mood based on my knowledge of the signs and planetary energies. Combining that with ancestral foods and dishes just takes it to a whole new level.”
The thoughtfulness, attention to detail, and pure tender loving care can be seen and felt with everything the sorceress creates with her food. Being able to use her love of cooking to put fourth her culinary truth and share her knowledge and political beliefs is something very important to her. “Our people carry so much inter-generational trauma. Teaching people to decolonize through their diets makes such an impact. It’s the first step and it’s a huge one,” she says.
Alchemy Organica is available for catering and private events. Catering inquiries can be sent via email at – info@alchemyorganica And if you want to know where they’ll be popping up next, in addition to any future supper club announcements, follow them on instagram @AlchemyOrganica.