Food Rebel: Monica Martinez
Artist/Owner of Don Bugito: Prehispanic Snackeria
San Francisco, CA
Chili and lime superworms
Don Bugito started as an art project. I’m a professional artist. You need creativity, I guess, to introduce edible insects into a food market. So Don Bugito started as a food project. We want people to learn how to grow insects in their homes, so we designed this little farm where people would take home and grow their own insects; but I think that was a little too advanced
too ahead, so we had to back up a little bit. Before that, we had to introduce the food or teach people how to cook with insects. So we looked a little back
I say we because
some people that helped me. I looked a little back into it and I also realized that I’m from Mexico; I grew up in Mexico. Grew up eating insects. So there is a giant culture behind this. Don Bugito takes a little bit of that, bring that into the United States and convert it to more like American flavors. Don Bugito is inspired in Mexican and Spanish cuisine. United States and Europe, they are the only countries that dont include edible insects in their diets. So Don Bugito is an old concept reframed as a new concept. Our goal is to introduce edible insects into the American food market as a protein alternative.
Why arent insects more popular in the American diet?
People think that insects are crazy and weird and gross, but most people eat lobster and they pay big bucks for this and also shrimp. Think about it, these guys are really gross. They scavenge the oceans. They clean the ocean and you can taste that flavor. Insects? They’re super clean; especially my insects. They’re farmed insects. They never actually touch the ground or dirt.
What are your biggest challenges in getting insects to be more popular as a food product?
The first challenge was to convince La Cocina to allow it into their incubation program. Check, right? The second one has been fighting with the FDA to try to regulate edible insects and let them into the mainstream. That’s the big one. The third one is to figure out a way to convince people that edible insects are not gross and they are an amazing alternative for protein and for stopping processes that really damage the planet.
What is the biggest problem with food in America?
I think the biggest problem for the United States right now is that we’re eating too much cattle. Too much meat. We have to reduce our eating of meat. So we have to start finding new alternative proteins. You cannot continue to eat three times a day, meat. No way.
What is the solution?
I’m trying to bring a solution into the food market, which is introducing edible insects. Proposing a new way, a new protein
I keep saying new, but it’s not new. Reinventing this protein. Revive this native types of foods. They are native types of foods.