Yadira Garcia is much more than a chef. Or an integrative health coach. Or an advocate for dismantling a system where food insecurity thrives. Rather, she is a multi-hyphenate with an all-encompassing passion for educating and freeing communities of color from food systems that oppress them.
Because of her tireless work and her commitment to the cause, she’s often thrown into the spotlight, making “public figure” yet another role she comfortably embraces.
Chef Yadi has been featured on national television and local news broadcasts, as well as big digital platforms like Buzzfeed and Tastemade. And on social media, she connects with thousands of people every single day.
Raised in the Bronx but schooled on the Upper West Side, Chef Yadi realized early on that person-to-person, student-to-student, her friends from different neighborhoods really weren’t all that different. The only thing separating her community and that of her classmates from healthy food and living was access.
“I understood that no human is really any different,” she says. “It’s about privilege, and I have a lot of privilege now. And I intend to use it to empower my people.”
One way she’s making good on that promise is by tapping into her hustler’s mindset to reach as many people as possible. The byproducts of that—Chef Yadi’s brand deals and fame—are just bonuses in a life dedicated to keeping her family’s legacy alive.
“I hustled and aligned my way to being the woman I saw in my mind’s eye.”
“I hustled and aligned my way to being the woman I saw in my mind’s eye,” she says. “And I always thought about my trinity of power: my great-grandmother, my grandmother, and my mother who pushed me at every moment of my life. How dare I not become what I’m supposed to become.”
Further strengthening that generational connection is her partnership with Loisa, a plant-based company that takes household Latin spices and elevates them. When they first reached out to Chef Yadi, she’d already been picking up steam with cooking demos and workshops around New York, including teaching her infamous Sofrito Masterclass.
“I always thought about my trinity of power: my great-grandmother, my grandmother.”
Originally, Loisa only wanted to sponsor her classes, but true to form and operating first from a place of uplifting her own people, Chef Yadi suggested something other than a typical collab. She asked them to meet her at a local community garden where she had one question for the brand.
“I asked, ‘Do you want to help change the food system with me?” she remembers. “I was like, this is a movement. It’s happening. And if you want to jump on now, I’m willing to be partners with you.”
As a result, Loisa and Chef Yadi’s brand, Happy Healthy Latina, joined forces to bottle her infamous sofrito, earning her a key stake in the business.
“Some food companies are billion, trillion dollar entities,” she says. “What could we do with a percentage of the pie? It’s life-changing for us and for our community.”
As you see, leveraging her experience and connecting with people is what Chef Yadi does best. Yes, she’s inspirational and informative, but more than that, she knows how vital it is to have a real seat at the table. She knows the importance of positive representation.
Dropping next month is Chef Yadi’s very own digital show with Discovery and Food Network. Titled Naturally Yadi, we’ll see her in her element—cooking, talking about fresh ingredients, and of course, highlighting the importance of community.
“In these episodes, I’m cooking on farms, I’m talking about where your ingredients come from and how it ends up on your plate,” she says proudly. “I think about Naturally Yadi as a food justice show. People think farmers are white men in overalls with hay sticking out. Let’s go to farms and meet the people of color who are growing the food. And then let’s make some bomb cultural food.”
“Let’s go to farms and meet the people of color who are growing the food. And then let’s make some bomb cultural food.”
Produced by Januarie 1st, a Black-woman-led production company, Chef Yadi couldn’t be happier. Having done similar deals in the past, she was grateful for this opportunity where she could trust her instinct and have the freedom to act on it.
“I love Januarie 1st so much because they literally sat down with me and were like ‘Ok let’s create your dream show,’” she says. “I really believe the people who are supposed to hear my message are going to hear it.”
Chef Yadi credits her success to following her forebearers’ examples and respecting her roots. By staying in alignment with those roots, she’s been able to put on not for her own family, as well as for all the families who look like hers and come from where she comes from.
“What I used to question is not in question anymore,” she says. “I know that I’m walking in my purpose and in my passion. And it’s not my job to question that. It’s my job to move in that.”
“I know that I’m walking in my purpose and in my passion. And it’s not my job to question that. It’s my job to move in that.”
Her partnership with Metro by T-Mobile is one of those key collabs that seemed to show up right on time, giving her quality devices and the ability to connect to all of her associates and students.
“As a first generation LatinX and the first business owner in this country in my family, the learning curve has been steep,” she admits. “But Metro by T-Mobile deeply aligns with my personal and brand mission in how I create and handle my businesses.”
It’s a link that pushes her forward and allows her to share what’s next in the world of Happy Healthy Latina.
Aside from Naturally Yadi, Chef Yadi is most excited to simply keep trekking forward and keep educating her own people.
Looking over the ancestral altar she’s created in her home, Chef Yadi can’t help but tear up because it reminds that her work remains deeply personal, not matter how famous and popular she gets.
“Every time I move through here I think about the people that built these things, that used these things,” she says. “Each generation has to take it farther. I want people to access that palpable joy, that privilege that we have inside of us. If we’re alive, we have a chance to make a change.”