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I accidentally stumbled upon La Diosa (Spanish for “goddess”), a little café in Lincoln Park that I did not remember having seen before. I was first curious about the name, and since we had already had lunch, we decided to go in for dessert.
I had no idea that I was really in for a treat.
We were greeted by La Diosa‘s owner Laura Martínez, a young Mexican chef trained at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts. We exchanged pleasantries in Spanish (the restaurant had just opened in January). The pictures on the wall prompted more questions. I learned that Martínez honed her cooking skills while interning, and later working for Charlie Trotter.
As if these accomplishments were not already impressive, Laura Martínez happens to be the first blind chef to open a restaurant in the US.
The entire concept behind La Diosa, from the menu to the name, are both her idea and her dream. Losing her eyesight as a baby, Martínez is convinced that her condition pushed her to succeed. “Being a chef was not the easiest path for anyone in my situation, and I did not want anybody to tell me that I was not able to do something. I am the only one in my family with a degree,” she said.
Her kitchen is completely open and pristine, and watching her prepare empanadas with great precision, is nothing short of amazing. Her husband, Maurilio, doubles as both Martínez’s eyes and her sous chef. “Sometimes it can get frustrating, you wish you could see when it gets busy so that you can move faster,” she added.
Why La Diosa? Martínez said the name is a nod to her faith. As she spoke, I could not help but be reminded of her strength and resolve. Plus, if I could ever imagine of anyone embodying supernatural powers, it is her: Martínez masterfully wields a knife without sight.
If you visit La Diosa, please say hi to chef Martínez from us. We recommend that you try her tequila-cheese pie or the flan. The hot chocolate is heavenly indeed.
2308 N. Clark St.
8 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday
9 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday and Saturday
11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday
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