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Las Vegas vegan chef hopes to have her own restaurant again

By most objective standards, Mayra Trabulse should have her own restaurant. The woman known simply as Chef Mayra in the local vegan community has experience, a fan base and an intimate knowledge of a dining niche most agree is underserved. And yet in the three years since she was forced out of her popular Pura Vida Bakery & Bystro by eminent domain, she’s yet to secure funding to open a new eatery. But she hasn’t stopped working toward it.

Mayra came to Las Vegas after cooking in Florida, and it’s here that she converted to a vegan lifestyle. That led to a career as a private chef, both here and in California, before returning to Las Vegas in 2006.

“That’s when I started branding Chef Mayra, and started introducing veganism to the streets, so to speak,” she says of that period. “That’s when I used to go to First Fridays with my crock pot and serve food — my bean dip, anything to start talking about veganism.”

From there, she began a career catering weddings and baking cakes. In 2011, she opened Pura Vida on Western Avenue, just down the street from Little Darlings strip club. At the time, The Go Raw Café and Chinatown’s Veggie House were the centers of local veganism. And her new 10-table restaurant soon grew too popular for its location.

“People wanted it,” Mayra says. “And then when the Wynn went with their vegan (menus), oh my God, I blew up. And I didn’t have money to grow.”

In 2014, the restaurant closed when the landlord was forced to sell to make way for the Project Neon highway expansion. But the chef’s three years without a restaurant have not been without kitchens.

While planning her next brick and mortar project, she’s been catering and consulting. She’s helped develop meatless burgers for the locally-based Protein House chain of fitness-focused restaurants. She spent Saturday serving plant-based products she developed for GFY Burgers and Fries to music fans at the Jam at the Barn festival in Blue Diamond. And on Friday, she’ll serve a vegan gala dinner to attendees of the Health, Healing & Happiness conference at Tuscany Suites.

Mayra says working with the Tuscany team may have opened opportunities for further work there, which could lead to more hotel partnerships. “I really believe that if we have a property that does all-vegan (options) cheaper than the Wynn,” she explains, “then we can have PETA or (other) major groups do conferences in town.”

But her long-term goal remains to have her own restaurant, offering something more than current vegan places — which she often describes as “cute.”

“I want to bring a different take on vegan,” she says. “I don’t think it should always be restaurants looking like that — really hippy-ish. I want to bring food and wine back, just with a side of vegan … to feel like a restaurant, and have ambience.”

Contact Al Mancini at 702-387-5250 or amancini@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AlManciniVegas on Twitter.

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