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ESSENCE Eats: This Chef Left the Air Force To Pursue Her Culinary Dreams

New York based chef, Chef Santana, serves up latin favorites with a twist at premier events around the city.

SHOW TRANSCRIPT

[MUSIC] Hi, I'm Santana Benitez, I'm a chef in the lower east side. I also do, freelance catering, and private [MUSIC] Hi, Thank you so much for having me. Of course, thanks for coming. Before I got into cooking, before I became a chef I was actually in the Air Force for like six years. And I decided when I got out I wanted to do, I actually wanted to be a food writer. And I wanted to go to culinary school to kind of get my background and kind of understand what the culinary world is about. And as soon as I started, I was like, "I think I'd rather do this." [MUSIC] So where are we? So this is the pop-up gallery right here on the Lower East Side. Right now an exhibit [UNKNOWN] the Tony Peralta, the Peralta Project did the exhibit Rolos and Icons. Which basically highlights iconic Latina figure, but puts them in rolos, kinda like a- I love it. Look at that. An homage to the Dominican women uptown. So- Right. And it's really what you specialize in, is intimate gatherings. Yeah, I actually prefer them. They're crazy. It's a lot of work, but I think they're really fun. Yeah the pressure is really on when it comes to special events. I always say no matter how prepared you are those last, like three to four hours are just chaos. It's like packing things up, remembering serving spoons, backup things. How are you gonna keep food hot? How are you going to keep food cold? Dealing with traffic and dealing with people. It's insane but it's fun. It's great. We're making it happen. [MUSIC] Coming out beautifully. Thank you. I can't wait to dine with you guys. As you can see, Chef Santana and her team are hard at work back there, but in the meantime, I get to sample I'm about to dig into shiitake stew with red quinoa. [MUSIC] My God, it's so great. [MUSIC] How do I feel when I'm preparing a meal? It's actually always the same. I think the foundational thing is when I cook for people I wanna. Cook it high would like, you know, when I play my standards of loving to the food. Cuz that's definitely my main thing. I want the food to be really delicious and beautiful and I just ant it to be in the center that I would want if I were gonna seat down and eat. [MUSIC]