Shining a Light on Extraordinary Female Chefs
In an era when diversity and heritage are increasingly celebrated, female chefs are stepping into the spotlight with a story to tell that is uniquely theirs. In this ongoing series, we share how their culinary passion and spirit continues to reshape an ever-evolving industry.
“We’ve heard from guests who have never tried these flavors before and love them, as well as from those who grew up eating this food and tell us it reminds them of home.”
Lorena Garcia’s Chica restaurant in Las Vegas and Sarah Dworak’s Wodka Bar in Cincinnati may be miles apart, but both are driven by a powerful connection to their legacy cuisines, and are eloquent ambassadors for generations of cherished culinary traditions.
A high-profile celebrity chef and gifted entrepreneur, Garcia has carved a path like few others. Born in Caracas, Venezuela, Garcia’s journey encompasses years of experience at restaurants across the globe, star turns on television’s “Top Chef Masters” and “America’s Next Great Restaurant,” two bestselling cookbooks, and an enviable track record of successful restaurants showcasing her Latin-American cooking. The 2017 opening of Chica at The Venetian in Las Vegas was particularly notable, earning her the title of “first Latina woman chef” on the famed Strip. There, she daily relishes the chance to blend and reimagine the flavors of Venezuela, Peru, Brazil, Argentina and Mexico.
At Chica, the grill kitchen has been turning out succulent Meyer lemon rotisserie chickens and Peruvian octopus to appreciative diners since day one, and the ceviche bar continues to gain followers intrigued by the tart, fresh flavors on offer.
“We’ve heard from guests who have never tried these flavors before and love them, as well as from those who grew up eating this food and tell us it reminds them of home,” says Garcia.
“I’m selling memories. So many people told me how they would make pierogis like mine with their grandma, just like I did when I was growing up.”
For Sarah Dworak, recreating the taste of her Polish home for Cincinnati pierogi lovers has sparked almost a decade of business success, with her biggest leap—the Wodka Bar—still ahead. Babushka Pierogies grew from its modest beginnings in 2012 at a pierogi party for family and friends to a venue at the prestigious Findlay Market House, with Dworak and her partner making up to 4,000 hand-crafted delicacies a week.
“I’m selling memories,” she describes. “So many people told me how they would make pierogis like mine with their grandma, just like I did when I was growing up. It’s labor intensive and not readily available, so this is my way of keeping the legacy alive.”
Now, Dworak is taking her memories a step further with the opening of her long-time dream, a vodka bar featuring infusions for flights and cocktails, zakuska (cold foods that traditionally accompany vodka shots) and, of course, a selection of her best-selling pierogis.
“Vodka is a huge part of Eastern European culture,” says Dworak. “Every shot of vodka requires a toast. You become really good at making toasts! I want to recreate that feeling of sitting around a table with family and friends, sharing food and enjoying conversation.”