Casa Coquí

VEGAN PUERTO RICAN

Welcome to Casa Coquí, a vegan Puerto Rican restaurant concept in Southern California. Check out our proposed menu, learn about our journey to opening our first location, and find out about our upcoming events. 

VEGANO SPOTLIGHT: Taylor Chapman NaraBemi

TAYLOR CHAPMAN NARABEMI

Occupation: Chief Administrative Officer at NaraBemi Unlimited LLC
Vegan Since: 2013
Heritage: 55% German, 20% English, 20% Scottish, 5% Irish, and Honorary Latino

MY VEGAN STORY

Taylor Chapman NaraBemi - BEFORE (back in high school) & AFTER 

Taylor Chapman NaraBemi - BEFORE (back in high school) & AFTER 

Although I’m of caucasian roots, my family first moved to The Greater Los Angeles Area in 1910 and has always been influenced by Latin American culture. I first met my wife, Jeshanah NaraBemi, at Cal State L.A. and through her I've witnessed the warmth of Puerto Rican culture. I often make the joke that I grew up east of L.A. and married a Latina because of it.

Long before I got married, however, I first experienced diversity through food. I remember going on frequent family outings as a kid to Downtown Los Angeles, where we visited historic places like Olvera Street, Chinatown, and Philippe’s. Philippe’s was a must for my mostly German family as they loved pickled pig's foot. Yes, I said it, that is one of the German delicacies I was raised on. Definitely not vegan! Nor is it any wonder I graduated high school weighing 315 pounds, so my journey towards veganism began almost a decade and a half ago. 

At the age of 21, in tandem with September 11th, 2001, I became extremely depressed. I decided to make a change and began exercising and eating healthier. By 2004 I cut out all fast food from my diet, and by doing so, effectively reversed my depression. Several years later I watched a documentary called Food, Inc., that motivated me to question what "healthy" meant and start buying more organic foods. 

As a member of the California Army National Guard, I deployed to Iraq in 2011. What a great life altering experience for me! Some of the options were utterly disgusting. I was faced with eating greyed canned steaks and hardboiled eggs sitting in water all day. I refused. Just by heeding my palate I inadvertently got my first taste of complete plant-based eating. I felt awesome. Even in a war-zone, my energy and mood skyrocketed. I avoided non-dairy items, and stuck to beans, fruits and vegetables. Oh the ridicule I received from fellow Soldiers! But I survived, and THRIVED.

Once during deployment, I hoarded avocados, tomatoes, limes, onion, and cilantro, and made a huge batch of guacamole for our whole section. If I didn’t become an Honorary Latino by growing up in LA, or marrying my Puerto Rican wife, then I certainly did after that! I came back to the States in great shape. I had gone from 315 pounds at the age of 17 to 183 pounds at the age of 30. At home, I attempted to reintroduce grass-fed organic meats into my diet, but this was wholly unnecessary, disgusting, and rough on my body. That's when I finally beat my meat addiction. I soon realized a plant-based diet was my only way of life. Once I made the leap to veganism in January of 2013, I found more reasons to stay vegan for the rest of my life. 

I love the idea of compassion. I love the message veganism sends to the rest of the world: there is a viable plant-based way to be human. I love the fact that my wife and I share a vital bond of veganism. We didn't realize it at the time, but we actually got married on Earth Day years before becoming vegan. The universe has a way of showing you what to do if you listen and are present with yourself. Being vegan is not just a fad or a way of life for a few, but the FUTURE of our culture as human beings. This is why my goal now is to bring more vegan businesses like Casa Coquí to life. By empowering more vegan entrepreneurs, plant-based options will become even more prevalent in the marketplace. Our company, NaraBemi Unlimited LLC, is designed to do just that, by providing administrative and operational support to vegan startups. Look me up on Instagram @prosperousvegan as my journey of developing vegan businesses begins with Casa Coquí. 

LIFESTYLE TIP

I highly recommend you focus on a lifestyle change rather than a fad diet like Weight Watchers, eating low-carb, or only juicing. None of these options are a truly sustainable way forward to a better life. Each one in its own way will spark resentment towards self, trigger cravings, and cause a rubber-band effect with your weight and mood. For me, sticking to a plant-based way of life has led to long-term emotional balance and endurance. Get in tune with nature as one of many earthlings. Doing so will eventually lead you to veganism.