Rahanna Bisseret Martinez has already accumulated a lifetime’s worth of cooking experiences, and she’s still in high school.
The Top Chef Junior finalist has seen her culinary star rise not only because of her talents in the kitchen, but also because her poise and maturity give her a presence people might not expect from a 16-year-old. She recently criticized the Los Angeles Times for its disregard of the Black influence on the city’s culinary landscape, then conducted a Q&A with the paper in which she laid out a strong argument for her position.
“When I was younger, I always ate at Black-owned businesses, women-owned businesses, people-of-color–owned businesses. That was just the food culture I was surrounded with,” Bisseret Martinez tells Specialty Food. “[Now] I still notice those restaurants, but I also notice that non-P-O-C– and non-women–owned restaurants were getting much more praise, or attention.”
Bisseret Martinez currently runs a catering business and hopes to one day open her own restaurant, after she studies business in college. A native of California whose family is of Mexican ancestry and previously lived in Louisiana, Bisseret Martinez says her culinary style is a blend of all those influences. “It can sound like the whole kitchen sink, but I like how each of those places have something in common with each cuisine,” she says. “It’s really cool to see how they all come together.”
She has also worked with some of the nation’s leading chefs, including Emeril Lagasse and Nina Compton in New Orleans, among others. “I love working in professional kitchens,” says Bisseret Martinez. “But since we’re in a pandemic, I’m focused on mutual aid, just giving back, and doing as much as I can.”
Mark Hamstra is a regular contributor to Specialty Food and SFA News Daily.
Photo credit: Nico Ovid