Mariel Street of Liberty Burger on the Peace Corps, a Burger with Conscience and Article Clippings from Her Restaurant-Legend Dad
When Mariel Street opened Liberty Burger on Forest Lane last November, she took a different approach to building burgers -- specifically different from the burgers served at her brother's spot Snookies. Street is a hippie at heart and instead of traditional greasy burgers and fries, she wanted a burger with a principles. Her restaurant's ethos includes, "food quality, social contribution and environmental responsibility."
Her brothers Gene Jr. and Dace Street soon got on board with their little sister's concept, as did long-time family friend George Holwerda, who was the first employee at the Black Eyed Pea, one of her father's, Gene Street's, many restaurants (other spots include Good Eats, Cantina Laredo, Cool River and III Forks.)
Now they're putting the final touches on a second Liberty Burger at what used to be Snookies on Keller Springs Road, which will be a larger, full-service version replete with a bar and infused spirits.
Before Mariel decided to open her own restaurant, she studied linguistics and business at UT Austin (she's fluent in at least five languages), then did 27 months with the Peace Corps. Here's our chat about the quite interesting first 27-years of Mariel Street's life:
Where did you live for your 27-month stint in the Peace Corps?
A tiny island in the south pacific in the Republic of Vanuatu, it's on the edge of the map. It takes 24 hours to fly to the country, then you jump on a six-seater plane, then take a two-day boat ride. Once you land on Mystery Island, there's one more boat ride over to the main island.
[Type "Mystery Island, Republic of Vanuatu" into Google maps and you'll see the edge of the world.]
What are the amenities like on Mystery Island?
No roads, electricity or running water. They spoke their own island language. I trained at the main island for the first three months with the Peace Corps where they helped me learn the native language and the lingua franca, and how to start a fire to cook food. They also gave me medical supplies, and then they sent me on my own.
Are the indigenous people there self-sufficient?
Absolutely. They could live without a paper economy forever. Most everything was done in trade. If a single white man never went back there, they would be fine.
What was your specific mission there?
What was the goal of providing a self-sufficient indigenous tribe an education?
That was a question I had going there. Of the 500 people on the island, only 8 had ever left the island. But, they requested a Peace Corps volunteer because the elders began to realize that they needed to understand their government more. For example, they didn't have the ability to read and understand what they were doing when they sold their land for commercial development. So, not being able to read your own laws that your government is making and understand the impact of decisions that are made is really important.
They would get a national newspaper delivered every few months, but they used it as toilet paper because they couldn't read it.
How long did it take you to adjust to life there?
There's a honeymoon phase for the first few months where everything is really cool; you love sleeping in the sand, starting a fire everyday and going fishing at 5 a.m. Then, after three months everything kicks in. You're sick of being hot, you want some chocolate, you're over having to have to go hunt for wood especially after it's been raining for 50 days straight, and you're sick of sand. To this day I still have a hard time going to the beach. But, then you just get over it and you accept it. The three- to six-month period is when most people [in the Peace Corps] go home. If you can make it to six months, and start to form relationships, it starts to feel normal.
Do they have any alcohol over there?
They drank cava, which isn't alcohol at all, but more of a sedative and only men were allowed to drink it. But, we use to make moonshine. We'd ferment pineapple, yeast and sugar.
They had yeast out there?
We'd have to pull it in from the capital.
Who taught them how to do make moonshine?
I don't know. Missionaries have been there a long time...
Maybe Peace Corps volunteers?
I wouldn't doubt it.
While gone, what did you miss the most?
Burgers, beer and Blue Bell.