The ever-vibrant Chef LaLa combines resiliency and dedication with passion and compassion to live her dream as a successful entrepreneur and inspire others through her philanthropy and dedication to the community.
The third-generation restaurateur, whose life changed course after a serious car accident, remains relentlessly positive about her ability to see the fruits of her success every day – whether in her business or in her humanitarian endeavors.
“If you love what you do you’re passionate about it. If you’re passionate you’re going to be dedicated, and if you’re dedicated you’re going to be successful,” said LaLa, adding, “When someone tells you ‘no’ it’s because he or she can’t spell. You need to ask, ‘What do I need to ‘know’ to get this done?’ Knowledge is power.”
That philosophy extends to LaLa’s extensive philanthropy work, where she aims to show individuals, particularly women, how to eat well and take proper care of their bodies. She takes special interest in addressing heart disease, the No. 1 killer in America today, and diabetes, which contributed to the deaths of three of her four grandparents.
LaLa serves as a spokesperson for the American Diabetes Association, and teaches about nutrition or shares other support to organizations like the American Heart Association, the American Liver Foundation, Para Los Niños, Project Amiga and many more. She also mentors kids through the Step Up Women’s Network, LA’s BEST (Better Educated Students for Tomorrow) and Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca’s VIDA (Vital Intervention and Directional Alternatives) Program.
“The giving attitude is contagious,” LaLa noted. “My strongest and best moments come when I can stand up and remind someone, ‘You’re worth it.’”
LaLa takes pride in her and other women’s resilience, which for her manifested itself most clearly in her early 20s. A former member of Pares y Nones, a girl band that opened for the group Menudo, she had a record deal and seemed poised for solo stardom. But then came a fateful day, when as a passenger in a vehicle broadsided by another, LaLa suffered severe injuries that left her physically unable to perform on stage, and she found herself losing her ongoing battle with her weight.
At this pivotal moment, though, despite the initial sense of overwhelming helplessness, she was able to recreate herself. “Life’s most defining moments are taken when you grow,” she noted of that time, which she said made her more empathetic to those who struggle due to any sort of physical ailments. She thought about what else she truly loved to do, and found the answer: cooking.
Despite the challenges caused by her accident, it was a natural transition for LaLa, as she came from a long line of chefs and business owners and demonstrated her own entrepreneurial spirit at a young age – in fact, she recalls selling lemonade in front of her house to waiting motorists in the 1970s’ gas shortage, and setting up a store with her brother, Danny, and sisters Myrna and Veronica to sell “American goodies” in a makeshift tiendita (store) during childhood summer visits to her grandmother’s home in Mexico.
With that foundation, LaLa enrolled in the prestigious Le Cordon Blue and went on to found her own catering company, Savor! Caterering, and along with her parents, Luis and Raquel, served well-known celebrities and officials, including two U.S. presidents and former Mexican President Vicente Fox.
Today, with certifications as a specialist in fitness nutrition, kids’ nutrition, and lifestyle and weight management, LaLa provides catering, recipe development and food service consulting. She’s the author of three books, Latin Lover Lite, Chef LaLaPresents Best Loved Mexican Cooking and Yummy for Your Tummy, and shares her healthy-eating insights through appearances on TV and in the community.
Respect for Yourself
Besides her success as a businesswoman and philanthropist, LaLa relishes her role as wife and mother (to 2-year-old son Maddox), advising other women, “It’s really important to balance home, business and self. Respect yourself, respect your body and treat yourself well.”
For all of her innovative giving and volunteering, LaLa has received Macy’s “Community Star Award,” as well as General Mills’ “Corazón de Comunidad” (literally “Heart of the Community”). In addition, California First Lady Maria Shriver inducted LaLa into the State’s Museum for History, Women and the Arts.
LaLa takes immense pride in recognition – particularly from her female peers – that teaches the lesson that the more you share with others to better the world, the more you find that others want to be a part of it.
That’s why she “gets chills” thinking about her 2009 NAWBO-LA Inspiration Award, noting it’s “amazing” to have an organization with such a strong vision and mission to support entrepreneurial women recognize her own efforts and achievements.
“I am always, always grateful,” said LaLa, who inspires with both deeds and words. “Even for the bad days. That’s why they call it the present – because every day you get a new one. Happiness is not money, it is not a career. As an entrepreneur you get to live your dream. You get to see the fruits of your success every day. You get to realize what you envisioned.”