Chef LaLa Mixes Flavor with Health

By Sylvie Belmond

OOO LaLa—Laura Diaz, also known as Chef Lala, promotes healthy eating through her “Latin over Lite” cookbook as well as numerous television and personal appearances.

OOO LaLa—Laura Diaz, also known as Chef Lala, promotes healthy eating through her “Latin over Lite” cookbook as well as numerous television and personal appearances.Though frozen dinners and microwaves have made it easier to feed busy families, many still prefer more traditional cuisine.

“The food network made cooking cool again,” said Laura Diaz, an Agoura Hills chef featured on national television and in magazines who cooks and promotes healthy Mexican food.

Diaz, aka Chef LaLa, is currently negotiating with two TV networks to host a bilingual national cooking show, “U’ LaLa.” She’s also the owner of the catering company SAVOR! which caters political events, board meetings, wedding parties and other events.

Diaz also caters home cooking to families. These meals create intimacy among the family and are generally healthier because the cook selects ingredients based on the family’s nutritional needs, she said.

Her culinary empire was born out of her family’s love for cooking. Diaz grew up surrounded by food in a family of restaurateurs who owned several venues in the Los Angeles area. “My father mastered the kitchen. He could take any meal and make it fabulous,” she said.

But Mexican food was poorly represented in the restaurant industry and often it wasn’t healthy, said Diaz.

The idea to bring together taste and nutrition began when Diaz was seeking a career after high school. She began studies as a repiratory therapist and during this time, she connected diet with health. Many diseases can be prevented through proper nutrition, said Diaz.

She grew too emotionally attached to her patients to work in the field, so she decided to return to the kitchen to challenge traditional Mexican culinary by cooking healthy while retaining traditional flavors.

In 1989 Diaz opened Taco Talk, a restaurant in Beverly Hills, but she still aspired to learn more. She sold Taco Talk to her father and enrolled in Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Arts program in Pasadena and Paris. While attending school, Diaz formed SAVOR!

Upon her return to America, she established relationships with local politicians, entertainment groups and corporations by using the public speaking skills she had acquired when she was a member of a Latino singing group during her teen years.

Her stint with the singers had introduced Diaz to the diverse Latin community. “We all speak the same language, but eat different foods,” she said.

Over the years, Diaz, was asked to appear on several television shows and philanthropy events to reveal her secrets. Her peers inspired her to create her cooking show, she said.

The concept was developed with Diaz’s two sisters, Myrna and Veronica, who brought a solid background in public relations and marketing to the show.

The sisters’ passion is rooted in the lack of recognition for the Latino community and its foods.

“You can reach into the nostalgia of your past and culture when you are cooking,” said Diaz.

She already looks forward to sharing her love for cooking with her son and is thankful for her blessings.

“I’m living my dream and I like to share my gift,” she said, having just returned from a trip to Texas where she hosted a fundraising event to help a battered women and children’s shelter.

Diaz also mentors teenagers about the importance of staying in school. She volunteers with the Boys & Girls Club, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Vital Intervention and Directional Alternatives program and more. She’s currently promoting her first cookbook, “Latin Lover Lite,” which has been selling well in national book stores.

The Chef LaLa venture continues to grow. Diaz is working on more books, including one that will feature gluten-free recipes to help people with autism.

Diaz hopes to promote healthy eating habits for young children.

She’s now working in partnership with Sunkist to create a Sesame Street character named Rosita who will appear in vignette messages to encourage children to eat fresh fruits and vegetables.

Her book is available at local bookstores and through her website at She said Acorn readers will get a free apron if they mention this article when they order the book online.

Diaz will autograph her cookbook at Borders Books, 125 W. Thousand Oaks Blvd. in Thousand Oaks at 7 p.m. Thurs., Dec. 15.