I grew up in a Puerto Rican family that has always celebrated food. Thanks to my abuelo, I have felt a strong connection with the kitchen ever since I was little. I remember waking up, and my grandpa would already be planning the menu for the day. As a kid, I was his “sous-chef,” either by stirring the soup or cutting ingredients.
For my family, cooking was never about following fancy recipes or emulating chefs on TV. Cooking was about bringing delicious flavors to the table. Even at school, I would have rice and beans in my lunch box, while my friends would bring sandwiches. My food was always different from everybody else’s, but I loved that. I’ve always been so proud of my heritage and my goal was to share this with everyone.
Growing up in Olympia, Washington, I had very few Hispanic restaurant options and no other Latino family around me that could celebrate my culture. This played a big role in my career and led me to appreciate the uniqueness of being Latino, motivating me to find ways to share my heritage.
I’m proud of who I am: an entrepreneur, chef and restauranteur. I walked my own path and have never let others’ beliefs limit me. As Latinos, we’re often expected to be the dishwashers or servers— never the chef. But, I thought to myself, “why not?” It wasn’t easy, but staying connected to my roots allowed me to achieve my dreams.
My goal was to create a space to make my culture accessible to everyone. I knew that technology would be my best ally. From collecting data and using analytics to provide a customized experience, technology allows me to manage my business by enabling me to achieve more, regardless of limited time and resources.
To pay it forward, I am also using technology to run an incubator program that has taught more than 20 chefs from different backgrounds the ins and outs of the restaurant industry, helping to give a voice to underrepresented cultures in this field.
I’m excited about the future of Latinos in the country. It’s time for us to mix key ingredients: courage, determination and faith. The recipe for success is in our hands.