Lord of the Cabbage (First Edition)
A Night at The Red Cabbage Cafe in Puerto Vallarta
de Photos by David Bjorkman • Text by Victoria Thomas
Lola Bravo's concept for the Red Cabbage Cafe was to present the idea that the cuisine in a Mexican kitchen is as complex and varied as that in other great kitchens of the world, such as the Chinese, French and italian.
She wanted to showcase dishes long a tradition in Mexico, but rarely offered by Mexican restaurants, especially those in the United States.
Defying all the rules of marketing and restaurant logic, Lola put her restaurant in a small building that was originally a print shop in a traditional neighborhood completely off the beaten track. Having few windows, she decided to create a unique ambience of movie posters, fine art paintings and drawings from her own eclectic collection. Also, she created hand-painted black tables featuring play-on-word cabbage sayings such as "Lord of the Cabbages," "Gone with the Cabbage" and "Cool Hand Cabbage." And instead of tacos and hamburgers, she offered traditional dishes such as the exotic Chiles en Nogada and a rich Carne en Su Jugo.
With a breath of inspiration from the artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, long before they became fashionable, Lola opened The Red Cabbage Cafe in 1995.
Since then the Red Cabbage Cafe has flourished and its reputation for excellence grew. Food and travel writers took notice, and after some highly complimentary articles, including one in "Bon Appetit," The Red Cabbage had to begin taking reservations as it is full most nights in the high season. It has grown to become a Puerto Vallarta institution.
Photographer David Bjorkman and writer Victoria Thomas first met Lola Bravo in 1985 when they were routed through Puerto Vallarta on their way to cover the war in Nicaragua. They continued to visit her on subsequent trips back to Central America. By 1994, before they left on a year-long book contract to document the Seven Sacred Rites of tthe Lakota Sioux, they helped Lola paint the the black tables with the play-on-words cabbage sayings.
Relocating in Merida, Yucatan in 1996 they continued to keep in contact with Lola by phone and e-mail, while producing four books and seven photo essays about the rebuilding of the Maya pyramids, and a Museum Exhibit of photographs showing the emergence of the 3,000-year-old Maya Ballgame into modern times.
In December of 2007 they returned to Puerto Vallarta to document an evening at The Red Cabbage Cafe. The result is a photojournalist's view, in black and white, of the complex process of running a successful, eclectic Puerto Vallarta institution.
David Bjorkman has worked as a photojournalist and war photographer, magazine art director and book publisher. His photos have been published in more than 20 countries. As a photographer, he has been smuggled across borders at night and survived a chopper being shot out from under him. He has slept on the floor of a Lakota Sioux holy man's house for months while completing a book project. He has been a member of the Explorer's Club and photographed, while on an Explorer's Club expedition into the Darien jungle of Panama, the Choco Indian chief who taught jungle survival to the original U.S. Apollo astronauts. An avid Mayanist who has published six books on the topic, he has led tours to the Maya Yucatan region of Mexico, and scoured jungles for hidden pyramids. He holds an MFA degree from the University of Colorado, and has been a fine arts instructor and an artist whose work is held in private collections in the U.S and Europe, and has been exhibited in both galleries and museums.
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