The proof is in
Proof is also in
Entering that market with significantly less fanfare is
The family business makes a sweet-and-spicy black bean, plantain, and poblano burger that decidedly does not bleed. But, at eight months old, the company is selling 6,000 of them a month at stores from
It's an unlikely turn for the Lucci family, Argentinean immigrants who've been in the restaurant business in the
"I used to say to people, 'We're the American dream,' "
They had invested everything they had in Patagonia, and into sending their oldest son, Facundo, to
They closed Patagonia and declared bankruptcy.
"We lost everything that we had," Silvia said.
But they still had Cafe con Leche.
She urged him to try it, and he was instantly converted. He started making big pots of kale, quinoa, beans, seaweed, and flax seed he called "energy soup" for Silvia, who was recovering.
After cooking professionally for decades, developing vegan recipes became a challenge for Daniel: "It's easy to cook with heavy cream, butter," he said. "Anybody can do that."
Soon, Silvia and Facundo were also vegan, and Daniel had added a full vegan menu at Cafe con Leche. It sold well, but the response to his black bean burger, bound with plantain instead of egg, was remarkable. People kept asking for extra patties to cook at home.
Daniel had been bottling balsamic vinaigrette for years to sell at Tanner Bros.
He had graduated from college in 2013 with a few hundred thousand dollars in debt and a minimum-wage job at a recording studio in
So, last year, he did something he never imagined. He moved home and went into business with his parents.
He designed the packaging, made a website, applied for trademarks, and coaxed a formal recipe out of his father, always an improvisational cook. They made batches of burgers in the restaurant kitchen early in the morning. There were setbacks, including a trademark issue that came up after they'd already ordered 20,000 packages.
But, since formally launching LUHV this year, they've gotten the burgers into about 30 stores in the area, including
Daniel and Facundo run the production line once or twice a week. (They recently invested in a machine called the Patty-O-Matic, though it's designed for meat, so it jams often.) They can produce 10,000 burgers a week if the market demands it. They're hoping one day it will. "It was like the American dream started all over again," Facundo said. "When I was a kid, I saw the benefits of it, like the toys. But now I can see the American dream is a lot of hard work, but working together."
In October, they aim to open a LUHV factory cafe in
"People like it," Facundo said. "But I'm trying to get Daniel to give me something even more spectacular."
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