Before Delly Tatiana Ortiz, better known as Chef Tati, found her passion in the culinary industry, she was studying to become a dentist in her native country of Colombia. This past summer she became somewhat of a celebrity on the New York University campus, where she works as Executive Chef for Chartwells Higher Education Dining Services, with her video cooking series, “Tuesdays with Tati.” Read Chef Tati’s story to learn how her philosophy on food and life reflects the theme of this year’s International Chef Appreciation Week, “Food Unites Us, Chefs Inspire Us.”
What does Hispanic & Latinx Heritage Month mean to you?
No matter where you come from, Central or South America, Spain, Mexico or places beyond, our heritage is what connects us to our ancestors. It reminds us of where we came from. It makes us who we are today and inspires us to continue to raise our future generations with the same reverence for our heritage to ensure it is not forgotten. People of Hispanic descent have always been extremely hardworking, and it is important to celebrate not only our culture but also the people. We have contributed so much around the world, and it is important to remember that every day, not only during Hispanic and Latinx Heritage Month.
How do you plan to celebrate Hispanic & Latinx Heritage Month this year?
With food of course! I remember the day I first made sancocho with my friends and family over an open fire with wood on my mother’s patio after she moved to New York. Sancocho is a hearty soup, almost like a stew with potatoes, yuca, corn, plantains and meat and there are different variations throughout the Spanish Caribbean and Latin America. Because of that day, we’ve held this tradition each year where we all get together and spend a day to remember our heritage, where we came from, and how far we’ve come.
Latin America has more than 30 different cultures/countries, which means everyone celebrates their heritage differently. But, the one thing that we all have in common is food – it is the way we express our culture and experiences. We may all be different in many ways, but we can all bond over a few empanadas and coffee.
How do you bring your authentic self to work and encourage others to do the same?
I come into work with an attitude that I would like to see reciprocated from my team – enthusiastic, motivated, focused and, on occasion, a little silly. I lead a group of extremely talented people and I want everyone to enjoy working together, not just as a team, but as a family. We are all vulnerable and we all have days that are difficult. I define myself as proactive, not reactive. My expectations and standards are set extremely high because I don’t believe in failure when it comes to things that are within my control and the control of my team. The most important thing is to always remember that once the day is over, we move on and forward, together.
The 2021 theme for Chef Appreciation Week is “Food Unites Us, Chefs Inspire Us.” How do you try to inspire others in your cooking?
I use my heritage and experiences being a Colombian chef to help introduce new flavors to the people I am cooking for. I do this by creating a fusion between non-traditional ingredients and typical dishes.
Food is more than just a meal – it is a means of connection amongst people. No matter where in the world you are from, you can bring your country to the table through a dish. We can be vastly different, but through food we can have a deeper understanding of everyone as people.
Here is a sample of Tuesdays with Tati. Follow @nyu.eats on Instagram for more.