Latin Times Magazine had the pleasure of catching up with Gloria recently -Gloria is one of our 2019 Latina Movers N Shakers! Latin Times Magazine: What part of Florida do you live in – are you from Florida? If not – what brought you to Florida? LTM: What part of Florida do you live in – are you from Florida? If not – what brought you to Florida?
Chef Gloria: I live in Fort Myers, Florida. I was not born in Florida. I was living in Europe when my uncle, who was a resident in Fort Myers area told me of the progress of the area and informed me of the many opportunities here.
LTM: Tell us where you were born and raised and where your family is from?
Chef Gloria: I was born and raised in Havana, Cuba. My family is from Cuba. The background of my father’s side of the family is from Spain.
LTM: Tell me what you do for a living.
Chef Gloria: I own a Mediterranean restaurant (La Trattoria Café Napoli) here in Fort Myers. I also have a Humanitarian & Cultural travel company where I take small groups of people to Cuba on Culinary and Cultural tours.
LTM: Tell me about what organizations you are a part of:
Chef Gloria: I am very involved in my community, helping many charities raise money, Southwest Florida Wine Fest, SWFL Community Foundation, Big Brothers & Sisters, The Ronald McDonald House, The Height Foundation, Taste of Love-Special Equestrian, Alzheimer Foundation, and more.
LTM: Tell us about the biggest highlights of your career:
Chef Gloria: I have had many fantastic moments in my career including the pleasure of cooking for the Bishop of the Catholic Churches here in Florida. Many other recognized wonderful moments, but perhaps my biggest moment was becoming a citizen of the United States. I always knew that my intentions of becoming an American citizen were for good reason. I am now very proud to live in, and serve my community.
LTM: As a Latina leader in the community, business or other…what has been your biggest challenge and how have you been able to overcome it?
Chef Gloria: Actually “making it” here in the community I feel was my biggest challenge. We as Latinas, all wish for diversity in our own community, but not everyone wants it in their own community. I was never afraid of conquering the American market, even when I had very limited use of the English language. I have been working hard to be accepted and respected as well. My honesty and generosity are what contributed in my reputation. I continue to work hard for even more success.
LTM: How important is being a Latina to you?
Chef Gloria: Being a Latina is my biggest Pride. People like to be around us because of our happiness, joy, our vivacious laughter and positive outlook. We have more challenges and higher bridges to cross, but only our graciousness and compassion for others make us shine. That comes from being a Latina
LTM: What is your favorite type of musica and what is your favorite song?
Chef Gloria: I am a fan of all kinds of music, but “my music”—the Cuban music is what melts my heart! No matter if it is salsa, son or rumba. What I really love is 40’s & 50’s music. That takes me back to my parents and grandparents’ music. They would say when music was music! We would listen to the old “RCA Victrola” American radio falling asleep to those melodies’ night after night.
LTM: If you could go back to let’s say 18-21, what are some of the pivotal decisions that you have made that you would do differently?
Chef Gloria: If I could go back in time, I always say that I would love to have been an immigrant at that time. That is the perfect age because you are old enough to not forget where you came from, not forgetting your language, culture or family, yet still young enough to start your future based on your education and family upbringing. A few years after this age is when I did exactly this, but I do regret that I did not do this a few years earlier in that I could have helped my family and friends even more than I have.
LTM: What do you think some of the best career choices are for young Latinas?
Chef Gloria: Latinas are brilliant, hard working human beings. Any career we choose would be good for us. More importantly is to seek to do what you really love. You must find your talent, then you can find your career. Don’t be afraid to start multiple careers. That does not make you selfish, nor too ambitious, that is what will make you a good entrepreneur.
LTM: Tell us about what kind of projects you currently have going on
Chef Gloria: I seem to always have a dream or a project in progress. Currently I am working on one of my biggest dreams—to have my own venue. A Cabaret-Theatre-Lounge—whatever you wish to call it! Just a place where I can bring off Broadway shows or music. As well as art exhibits. A true factory of art. Of course, highlighting the Latino culture and specifically expand the Cuban-American culture in our community.
LTM: What can we expect to see from you in the future?
Chef Gloria: The future for me is another word in the dictionary. I never have big expectations; I just make it happen! What is important to me is that I
LTM: What is your favorite comida?
Chef Gloria: I love ethnicity, I do not have a preference for any one type of cuisine—I like it all! As a chef I am capable of cooking most anything from any region of the globe. One thing that I do know—I like big memorable flavors, spices and exotic dishes!!
LTM: What famous person do you most identify with and why?
Chef Gloria: I can identify myself most with celebrity chef Jose Ramon Anders Puerta—of course he is simply Jose Anders to most of you. His perseverance to become the star that he is. I admire his respect for all cultures, and his compassion and generosity for his co-workers is unsurpassed. He also expresses that love and patriotism for this wonderful country as well. He has an amazing charisma about him! He was born the same year as I, and the first chef to introduce tapas to the USA. I think I was the first to do this in my small community as well.
LTM: What did I miss? Tell me something you want us to know!
Chef Gloria: I wish to inspire other immigrant or minorities, anyone with a dream. Hold on to your roots or your family traditions with whatever you aspire to do. Enhance your cultures, do not minimize them. I guarantee that will be a part of your success. Love your accent and do not be ashamed of where you came from. I always love to see people come to me and say “thank you for who you are and what you do”!