Celebrity Chef Grace Ramirez Brings Latin American Flavors to Damen Dining Hall

Food Network veteran Chef Grace Ramirez took photos, shook hands and chatted with students and staff at a meet-and-greet hosted in Damen Dining Hall, Mar. 28.

Food Network veteran Chef Grace Ramirez took photos, shook hands and chatted with students and staff at a meet-and-greet hosted in Damen Dining Hall on Mar. 28. 

She was celebrating the introduction of a new food concept by Aramark — the company which runs Loyola Dining — called “La Latina Cocina,” inspired by Ramirez’s 2015 cookbook, “La Latina.” 

The collaboration is a response to Aramark’s research on Gen Z’s preferences, showing 67% of respondents would rather have authentic cultural food. Loyola is one of seven college campuses nationwide to host the food concept, which will last until the end of the spring semester, according to an Aramark press release

“We are delighted to have an expansive and continued partnership with Chef Grace Ramirez across multiple universities,” Cindy Valdez Barrios, an Aramark collegiate hospitality representative for Loyola, said. “Stay tuned to our social media channels to see when La Latina Cocina pop ups in Damen Dining Hall with new recipes being introduced each semester.”

Ramirez was born in Miami and raised in Venezuela. She currently resides in New York City, where the majority of her food relief efforts take place, according to her website

Ramirez currently works with World Central Kitchen, a chef relief team that has sent her around the world. She has provided meals to hurricane victims in Puerto Rico and frontline workers in New York City during the pandemic, along with participating in other food outreach programs, according to her website.

Ramirez said she is happy to see Latin American food more widely available to students with the adoption of her recipes at schools across the country.

“The reason why I’m so proud of it is because it’s the first time that we have proper Latino representation at this scale, all over the country,” Ramirez said. 

In addition to the new taco station, Ramirez took over a corner of the dining hall with a table of desserts, a pink and black balloon arch, recipe booklets and a raffle for Dining Dollars. Students could grab a tres leches parfait and a cup of lemon mango agua frescas for a sweet treat.

Two diners in Damen said they appreciated the new additions to the menu, including chicken or mushroom tacos, rice, beans and chips with fresh salsa. Jacob Hardesty and Claire Senft, both first-year students, stopped at the desert table together after eating dinner from Damen’s La Latina Cocina.

Hardesty, a marketing major, said he liked the citrusy dessert options as a pick-me-up. 

“I enjoyed how fresh the food was,” Hardesty said. “It was a very needed refreshment for the day.”

Senft, a psychology major who was dining with Hardesty, said she preferred the savory parts of her meal from La Latina Cocina. 

“I really liked the tacos, actually,” Senft said. “It was all fresh, the people serving them were very nice. It’s just a nice thing to change it up every now and then.”

Before her cookbook and programming on Hogar de HGTV and Discovery en Español GO, Ramirez was a contestant on the first season of “MasterChef USA” in 2010. She was eliminated, but was encouraged to stay on her culinary journey. 

“I didn’t have my game right in terms of timing, so I got kicked out, but Gordon Ramsay said to me, ‘You have the passion, you have the fire, you should go to culinary school and come back,’” Ramirez said. “I thought I had failed, but you know, life is all about that.” 

Ramirez said her next passion project will seek to teach women how to work and cook in a restaurant, or even start their own.

“It will be a mixture of everything I love,” Ramirez said. “You know, it will be helping the community, celebrating Latin American food and culture, but also giving people an opportunity and a set of skills for them to start their own business.”

Featured image by Holden Green | The Phoenix

Maddie Franz

Maddie Franz