Mediaplanet: When did you first fall in love with cooking?

Lorena Garcia: I first fell in love with cooking when I was 6 years old. I walked into the kitchen to make breakfast for my family. Before everyone woke up I had a picnic ready for them in the living room. 

MP: Who inspired you to become a chef? 

LG: I always paid special attention while watching my mom make her famous chupe [a signature soup] and her hallacas [Christmas tamales.] While watching cooking shows on television I felt that if I studied and worked hard enough, I could be like Emeril Lagasse and Mario Batali.

MP: Do you feel food plays a large role in Hispanic culture?

LG: Our food and our language is what identifies our culture. The role of food in the Hispanic culture is paramount in identifying the differences between various cultures.

MP: Do you feel that Hispanic culture is beginning to blend with American culture?  Why?

LG: I do feel that Hispanic culture is becoming part of American culture because we are seeing a larger integration of the Hispanic community throughout the United States. Everyday I see more and more Latin inspired restaurants opening and staple Latin dishes are on fusion menus throughout the nation. 

MP: What is your favorite dish to cook? 

LG: I love to make fish tacos because they’re so versatile. They allow me to play with so many different ingredients. The infusion of different ingredients and presentation that I give to the tortilla makes it unique.  

MP: As an outspoken advocate for the improvement of the overall health and wellness of the Hispanic community in the U.S., can you explain what can be done to help our nation work towards a healthier tomorrow? 

LG: We can begin to work towards a healthier tomorrow by taking control of the way we eat and our lifestyle habits.  It starts with making a small difference and change in our own homes and being an example. 

MP: Have you personally done anything to help reduce health disparities within the Hispanic community? 

LG: My program Big Chef Little Chef focuses on motivating kids and their parents through hands-on cooking classes and workshops in the public school districts of Miami. I also teach the cafeteria workers skills and cooking technique to help them in the kitchen.