In the summer of 2018, at Gracias Madre, a vegan Mexican restaurant in West Hollywood, she started to see him differently. Scarlett Curtis sat across the table from her longtime friend, Jason Cervantes, who was then the director of food and beverage at Hotel Maya in Long Beach. She met him in 2008 when they both worked at Kincaid’s on the Redondo Beach pier, her as a hostess and him as a server. From then on, whenever he wasn’t in a relationship, he was trying to get her to see him differently.
He’d take her to see reggae and jam bands play. He’d tell her about the girls who pursued him, hoping to make her jealous. “Ew,” she’d reply. “Gross.” Sometimes he’d work up the courage to tell her there would be fireworks if they kissed. He’d promise that if he was wrong, he’d never try again. She’d roll her eyes and tell him she saw him as “more of a big brother.”
At Gracias Madre, he wore the same purple hoodie he’d been wearing for years and told her stories about high school that she’d already heard. But something in her shifted. She thought about how he drove them there from Redondo Beach, even though he wasn’t a vegan, because he cared about her allergies and food sensitivities. His quirkiness was suddenly charming. His persistence seemed endearing. He got “really sparkly and handsome,” Scarlett recalled, laughing. “I was getting this little girl butterfly in my stomach and going, what is going on here? At that moment I was like okay, alright. Alright. I think I like him.”
Two years later, a coronavirus would reshape the world. Jason and Scarlett would quarantine together in their apartment in South Redondo. They’d get engaged. They’d cook up a concept for a restaurant that combined their passions and backgrounds so seamlessly it seemed inevitable.
In May of 2022, they’d open lil’ Vegerie, a restaurant in Redondo Beach that both joins and heralds the growing movement to make vegan food more accessible, more affordable, more familiar, and more delicious.
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