The culinary world has historically been an all-boys club. Chef Dayanny de la Cruz has been the changing that narrative and shattering glass ceilings in gastronomy and specifically inside the culinary SPORTS arena for decades. We sat down with this incredible woman to hear how she did it and what keeps her motivated to continue to change the game today.
A Latina Powerhouse
Dayanny was born and raised in the Dominican Republic. She moved to the United States at the age of 24, where she earned a Master of Culinary Arts from Grand Rapids Community College, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Hospitality Management from Eastern Central University.
Step by step, she built her resumé at some of the most elite sporting event kitchens in the country: the New York Open, the Kentucky Derby, and the NBA’s All-Star Game.
Dayanny ran the kitchen at Miami’s “Hard Rock Stadium”, home to the NFL’s Miami Dolphins, until recenly she became the Vice President of Culinary Position for Levy Restaurants.
But if you can believe it, that’s not all. She was also the first woman to run the kitchen during the Formula 1 Grand Prix, and then again broke records by becoming the first female Chef to cater for the Super Bowl in 2020!
Here, Chef Dayanny shares her journey with COCINA…
What are your personal or professional achievements as a Latina woman living in the US that you are most proud of?
Personal: “Being able to raise three beautiful souls (my kids) as a single mother in a society that labels you as a failure because you don’t fit the ideal profile. All this while growing, learning, and exploring a career predominantly led by man.”
Professional: “Being the first one to crack the ceiling in sport and leisure with the Super Bowl LIV. It was an honor to lead and pivot that moment.”
Can you describe the road to get to where you are today?
“Bumpy, full of sacrifices, amazing, lonely but more than anything full of momentum! I understand now that the journey is more important than the destination.”
What is the most challenging part about being a Latina in the US?
“I can speak as an Afro-Caribbean person about how I would like for us to have a more clear representation of who we are. We need more seats at the executive tables.”
And the best part?
“To be a woman is this business and to be able to change the narrative it’s the biggest blessing.”
When it comes to Women’s [History] Month, what does this trailblazing Latina think should be celebrated or recognized?
“Being unique. Being authentic. Owning our compassion and empathy. Being smart and bold is the new orange.”
Who are 3 women who inspire you? Why?
“My mother is one, with all the things she did for us so we could fly high. My grandmother is the other one: she was a leader and a rock for me with her compassion and vision of the future.”
And Michelle Obama – “Her motto is ‘I want to leave things better than how I find them’ and she inspired the world in the process.”
What advice would you give to your 12-year-old self?
“Do not listen to the voices that ask you to be perfect. Your super power is how beautifully imperfect you are.”
Thank you, Chef Dayanny, for sharing your inspiring thoughts with us!
If you liked this article, check out our other interviews with Latina Chefs!
(Editor’s note: opinions and statements have been edited and condensed for length and clarity).