This Venezuelan Chef Shines a Light on Her Home Country

Chef Adriana Urbina’s pop-up dinner series Tepuy Dining is devoted to the food, culture and support of Venezuela.

This story is part of 1 Minute Meal, a documentary series that uses food to reveal the communities, legacies, dreams, realities and unseen forces that shape life in New York City.

Adriana Urbina, most recognizable as a winner of the Food Network show “Chopped”, has built a name for herself as a New York City chef over the past few years. Unfortunately, she has not been able to celebrate this success with her parents. That’s because she fled the country’s ongoing socioeconomic crisis as a political refugee, is legally and practically barred from returning home.

Urbina, whose longtime dream is to be a professional chef in Venezuela, didn’t expect her big break to be the result of giving up that dream. Yet, the nature of her arrival to the U.S. has become her main source of motivation, driving her to stop working in Michelin-starred restaurants and channel her fifteen minutes of fame into Tepuy Dining, a pop-up dinner devoted to the food, culture and support of Venezuela.

Named after the South American mesas referred to as “islands of the jungle” or “house of the Gods” Tepuy is Urbina’s shorthand for homesickness, as well as pride. Urbina uses the dinners to showcase a refined and rich version of Venezuelan cuisine, while informing diners about the history still being written in her home country. Additionally, part of the proceeds from each event is sent to non-profit organizations that deliver hot meals and food staples to children across the country. While Tepuy dinners are small and infrequent for the time being, Urbina sees them as the best she can do with her good fortune as a chef—and the best chance she has at preserving culinary traditions for a country where nearly a third of the population is skipping meals to get by.

© Music by Dorian Love.

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James Boo is a multimedia journalist based in Brooklyn. As Editor-in-Chief of Real Cheap Eats, an independent filmmaker, and a freelance food writer, James has devoted his storytelling career to the intersection of food and culture. You can see more episodes of this web series at oneminutemealfilms.com.