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#GirlsWithKnives Spotlight: Vegan Mexican Chef Denise Vallejo

Los Angeles-based Denise has worked as a private chef for celebrities, managed all-vegan restaurant kitchens, and even owned a small-batch vegan baking company. She’s also well versed in the occult sciences and Mexican folk medicine. Her oft sold-out Alchemy Organica pop-ups celebrate Mexico’s rich gastronomic heritage with dishes like pozole, huaraches, and flan — all plant-based, of course.

Dine With Denise

How did you find your way into the historically male-dominated culinary industry?

I have loved cooking since I was very young. Once I adopted a vegan lifestyle, I became obsessed with “veganizing” the traditional Mexican dishes I grew up eating. I knew I eventually wanted to have my own business, so I started working in vegan kitchens.

What has a defining moment, positive or negative, in your career?

I’m very proud of the fact that many years ago I co-founded a supper club featuring vegan Mexican and Peruvian cuisine with two other women of color. This was before seeing the boom of veganism within the Latinx community. Preparing these cuisines with a plant-based and upscale touch was practically unheard of then.

Tell us about the women who serve up culinary inspiration in your life.

I’m constantly inspire by my “BFFs” (Best Food Friends) and colleagues Antoanet Aburto and Genise Castañeda. Antoanet is a vegan Peruvian chef in Portland and she regularly hosts charity dinners. Genise broke ground with a vegan taco truck and Plant Food For People, paving the way for so many Latinx-owned food ventures. I’m very fortunate to be surrounded by these amazing women of color.

What advice do you have for other women trying to build culinary careers?

Self-care is crucial. Women are socialized to spend a lot of time taking care of others. Working in kitchens can be brutal and the hours are long. Making sure to take the time to care for yourself is imperative to avoid burnout. My other advice? Don’t take shit from anyone.

Dine With Denise

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