Welcome to "Mise en Place" – a series dedicated to telling Chef stories. Mise en place is French for "putting in place", and it is what chefs do every day in the kitchen... but how did they get there? What are the experiences, tastes, and moments that put a chef in their culinary place? That's what we'll uncover together through "Mise en Place".
Meet Chef Grace Ramírez
Chef Grace Ramírez understands that food is culture, and she shares the nourishing traditions of Latin American cuisines – remarkably vibrant, incredibly creative, and above all, comforting.
As a cook, activist, author, and broadcaster, Chef Ramírez has become a global leader, taking her Latin American heritage and charisma from the green paradise of her hometown in Venezuela to the vast audiences of Oceanía and the Americas.
She was recently featured in Cherrybombe's 100 Women in Hospitality and was named one of the Most Powerful Latina Women of 2021 by People en Español.
We sat down with Chef Ramírez to learn more about the experiences that have shaped her culinary style and what inspires her.
Where do you draw your cooking inspiration from?
From my family, the flavors I grew up with, and my travels. I'm a New Yorker, who was born in Miami, but my family is from Venezuela. My upbringing was as diverse as the continental landscape. My mother has lived in Mexico, Costa Rica, Colombia, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay, and her stepfather was of Peruvian origin.
With such a diverse upbringing, do you have a favorite cooking memory from growing up?
My grandmother in the kitchen making arepas for the family. There was a long oval table that could fit 12 and an island in the kitchen. She would lay out so many sides and different fillings at the center of the table – looking at the table from an angle even made it seem as though it was bending! My grandmother would gracefully just knead the masa while flipping 50 arepas and talking to us as if it was no big deal.
Do you have a go-to recipe you love to make or one that represents who you are as a Chef?
I have a chimichurri recipe that is very close to my heart for many reasons. From Argentina to NYC, this recipe has traveled with me in all of my endeavors. This recipe was created by my mother when she lived in Argentina, and since then I have carried this recipe with me in everything I do. It is perfect as a marinade or a dressing – on roasted vegetables, chicken, beef, fish, etc. This recipe is extremely versatile, which makes it my favorite sauce! This recipe has also been used by the chef relief team at World Central Kitchen and has become a recipe card for chefs to use.
The cooking world is so demanding. As a Chef, what makes you feel supported in big or small ways?
You must have a certain personality to be part of this demanding, but fascinating, industry. To me, it is where I belong.
First, you must be your most enthusiastic cheerleader for yourself. Second, always surround yourself with a good support system, people who are going to lift you up. And third, all the philanthropic work I do is what keeps me going. Working with World Central Kitchen and bringing food to those in need gives me purpose in what I do.
What's the best meal you've eaten recently?
Recently in Israel, I ate a falafel platter that had hummus, tabbouleh, with extra schug on the side, and freshly made warm pitta, which made it truly memorable. The platter had lots of flavors and textures that I love.
The place has been in the same alleyway since 1937, and the original recipe has been passed down for 3 generations! You can truly feel the love, pride, and tradition in each bite.
In your own words, what makes an excellent knife?
A knife is very personal. It is like a relationship; it needs to feel right for you. You have to fall in love with it. My knife literally makes me blush and giggle when I see it, because there is no kitchen tool that I love more than my knife. But, it needs to feel like an extension of your arm. I like a knife that has a sturdy handle and a beautiful blade.
And, we have to ask, what's your favorite knife?
Right now, I am in love with the WÜSTHOF Performer 6” Chef’s Knife because it feels powerful and versatile!