WASHINGTON (DC NEWS NOW) — Two immigrants are adding some spice to their crafts, incorporating their culture into their cuisine and design.
For Arlington restaurant Buena Vida’s Executive Chef Jaime Pelayo, food has always been his first love, something that was taught to him by his grandmother.
“I remember those emotions, flavors and butterflies in my belly while eating these very flavorful foods,” said Pelayo.”One of my very first memories was in the kitchen. She was prepping…I was 5 years old. I remember reaching my hand through the table to grab whatever she was prepping.”
Born in Mexico City, Pelayo has taken his food and flavors across continents.
“I studied in Mexico at a good culinary school, then I moved on and went to work in Spain,” said Pelayo.
The chef took his talents to New York, Barcelona, and now, Arlington — bringing his Hispanic heritage with him.
“The entire menu is composed from many flavors from my childhood, or my time living in Mexico,” he said. “Flavors that I crave all the time.”
Across town in Alexandria, designer Gretchen Rivera is incorporating her heritage into interior design.
“I like tropical materials, so if something is made of rattan, I love it…I love any type of weave,” said Rivera.
Rivera came to the states from Puerto Rico as an adult, and she brought her business, Caribe Casual, with her.
“In Puerto Rico, I designed some restaurants and a coffee shop in the downtown,” said Rivera.
Rivera still has her hand in creating homes in Puerto Rico with the help of an assistant. Now, she’s working on some of her most exciting projects to date, simultaneously working on designing homes in Alexandria.
“I do bring something new, which is which is probably a diverse language,” said Rivera. “I can be eclectic.”
It’s that culture that led her to building her business, and finding her people in a new country. It took a decade, she says, but her heritage has helped her find a close-knit community and clients.
“I’m happy. I feel like I am finally home. Like I found my crowd,” said Rivera.