David Martinez, Owner of De La Tierra Vegan Food Co.

Written by Robbie Brown
 · September 6, 2022

It’s in the high 80s, I’m sweating, and I’m having a sensory overload. There are luchadores behind me in vibrant and intimidating costumes doing flips and flying through the air. The consistent smell of beer and fresh food is teasing me, and I hear everyone screaming at a luchador that is pinned in the ring. I’m at the Gordon Biersch Night Market in San Jose and there are at least 10 different food trucks to pick from, all huddled around the main event. However, one truck stood out from the rest, tucked away in the corner. I read the words De La Tierra Vegan Food in a big and bold white font. You could tell that the truck had some history and character, just like its food. That night I ended up eating a jackfruit burrito larger than my head and I had zero regrets. A month later I connected with the owner David Martinez while waiting in line at a Jaguar Baker pop-up. We quickly bonded over food, and he agreed to do an interview.

RB: David, I know that De La Tierra Vegan Food Co. first popped up in the South Bay food scene around 2019. Tell me about your initial vision.

I started by veganizing my mom’s recipes which were things like tamales, tacos, burritos, and all of that. My vision was to sell food that was more natural. That’s why my business is called De La Tierra, “from the earth.” I wanted to always have things like beans, rice, jackfruit, etc. and not just fake meat, which you would find at most vegan restaurants. Vegan meats are more like a comfort food, and I always want to have vegan meat options, but alongside things like jackfruit. Jackfruit is my personal favorite.

I didn’t want to only sell Mexican food. When I thought of the name, I didn’t realize it would kind of get me stuck in that category. So I’ve tried to add burgers, French toast, and things like that. We are still playing with the idea of continuing to offer other types of food like these.

Jackfruit Tacos – Photo by De La Teirra Vegan Food Co.

RB: But you are known in the community for making AMAZING vegan Mexican food. If you do a quick search in Google, you’ll find constant 5 star reviews claiming how good your tacos are, how your jackfruit burritos are a must try, etc. What makes De La Tierra Vegan Food Co. so unique?

I’d like to think that our food is more “homestyle.” I don’t want it to taste like you stopped by your local taqueria, I want our food to taste like you stopped by your grandma’s house. I just want more vegan options out there. When people want to go vegan, they normally don’t know how. When they go out to eat there aren’t any options to pick from. My goal is to be at a lot of events in the community and to have vegan options for the people.

Burrito – Photo provided by De La Tierra Vegan Food Co., photo taken by vegoutsanfrancisco

RB: I know that you said jackfruit is your favorite, but let’s talk about your vegan ‘meats.’ Your menu normally features a plant-based asada, but one time you even offered plant-based shrimp! How did that come about?

With the plant-based shrimp, we collaborated with a friend of mine who owns Shrimp’n Ain’t Easy in San Jose. He sells nothing but shrimp and I told him that he needs to add a vegan option. People have even asked him for one. So we partnered for a pop up and cooked plant-based shrimp tacos using our grill but with his seasoning. I’m hoping he eventually adds the vegan shrimp on his menu!

RB: Tell me about some of the other collaborations you’ve done with businesses in the area. 

We were doing pop up events at bars with Vegan Veganos, Rosa from California Vegan Food, and Jaguar Baker. The two owners at Vegan Bistro – Donuts & Cafe also came out to sell some donuts. They really helped me out, they gave me a place to sell every weekend for 2 years. I have a lot of love for the owners Sam and Nathan, I saw them as mentors at the time. We are here because of them. We were able to build up and figure things out because of those opportunities.

Right when COVID hit, Sam decided to temporarily close Vegan Bistro – Donuts & Cafe. Thankfully I was already doing the paperwork for Cupertino’s farmers’ markets and started selling there for a little bit. I then went back to the Vegan Bistro once they reopened. On February 1, 2021, we got the food truck and we continued to sell at Vegan Bistro until they changed ownership. 

The whole vegan community is really supportive. We try to be the same way with everybody. Chef Reina even came out to the truck, taught me how to cook the vegan meats. She showed a lot of love, she’s a good friend.

Nachos – Photo by De La Tierra Vegan Food Co.

RB: What kind of events does your vegan food truck participate in?

We’ve been participating at the Gordon Biersch Night Market. We were at the SubZERO event which kicks off the SoFA district art festival. We’ve also been at Viva Calle. Right now, we are doing South First Fridays and you can also find us at the San Jose Veggie Fest which is at Discovery Meadow Park on September 17.

RB: Why did you become a vegan?

Originally, I felt addicted to meat, like I couldn’t go a day without it. It then became a stubborn thing, like a “I could quit if I wanted to.” So I gave up a week without eating meat. I was going to have a cheat meal with some chicken and the texture of it grossed me out, so I ended up spitting it out. With dairy, I never liked milk or eggs, so it was a super easy transition. I did miss eating pan dulce. I missed Mexican pastries, like conchas. Then I discovered Jaguar Baker. I was there every single weekend. So once I found my alternatives, it was super easy.

My reason for being a vegan changed when I learned about what was going on with factory farms. In 2017, I drove down to Los Angeles to attend a pig vigil with the Animal Alliance Network. I could feel the energy from the pigs. They were 6 months old, huge, and pumped up with hormones. They were in trucks on the way to the slaughterhouse, and we tried to show them love that they’ve never seen. Trucks carrying the pigs would stop and we’d ask if we could give the pigs some water. 

I’ve been vegan for 6 years now.

If you want to try the food from De La Tierra’s Vegan Food Co. food truck – and trust me…you do – you can find which events they will be at on their website. They also have Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook. Last but not least, some final words from David: Support your local vegan businesses as well as those that do go out of their way to have vegan options. It’s a challenge. A lot of people in the industry are having a hard time right now. If you are able to, come support. If not, spread the word. I’m hoping other vegan food trucks join us, I want more trucks out there! 

Robbie Brown

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