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Chef Lorena Garcia Dishes on Her New Vegas Restaurant & Becoming The Strip’s First Latina Executive Chef

When the doors at celebrity chef Lorena Garcia’s new restaurant, Chica, opened at The Venetian this fall, she became the first Latina executive chef on The Strip. Now, in her latest chat with Vegas, the chef dishes on why her eatery is ditching kitchen machismo for feminine energy, and opting to highlight Latin food with high-end flair.

Is it shocking to you to know that you’re the first Latina to become an executive chef on The Strip?
LORENA GARCIA: It is shocking to me. I’m honored, of course, by the title and being able to make it, but I was surprised to find out I was the first. I know that we have so many talented female chefs. We can be Hispanic or not, or American, or Asian—it doesn’t matter where we come from, but the fact that we only have four or five female chefs on The Strip does really surprise me.

I’ve read your cookbook New Latin Classics, and have eaten at some of your restaurants that feature its recipes, but does this new location have a different inspiration than your previous ones?
LG: Chica is really a compilation of all my travels and experiences from where I’ve lived in Latin America. Think Argentina, Peru, Brazil, and, of course, Venezuela, where I was born, and then add all the flavors of Central America, and Mexico—all the recipes I’ve created are really a fusion of all these flavors and these cuisines. So, all we want to do is elevate Latin cuisine. The dishes are really the foods we grew up with in Latin America, but presented in a high-end way.

Our tequila is from female tequila growers, our wines as well represent some of the unique female growers of grapes and wines in America. It’s a feminine restaurant, like I’ve said, it’s called Chica. We transform the aggressiveness in the kitchen into passion. That’s what I always try to translate to my team in the kitchen. Let’s get rid of this aggressive feeling we feel when we’re in a rush, and turn that energy into commitment and an attention to detail. Something switches in the kitchen when you can do that and these beautiful plates start coming out of the kitchen.

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