City Cast

Chef Profile: Paola Velez

Kaela Cote-Stemmermann
Kaela Cote-Stemmermann
Posted on September 27
Chef Paola Velez.


Paola Velez is an award-winning, D.C.-based pastry chef who you may recognize from shows like “Selena + Chef” and “What Am I Eating” with Zooey Deschanel. We chatted with her about her favorite local restaurants and how she’s celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month.

Some Background:

Velez moved to D.C. six years ago, working in the kitchens at Iron Gate, Milk Bar, Kith/Kin, and Maydan. The pastry chef describes her style as “whimsical, playful Americana foods - bursting with sazon and Latino flavors.” She’s working on her first cookbook, slated to come out next year.

But for Velez, food is about more than just eating. It’s about creating a third space for people to relax and connect, especially in D.C. “The thing that makes D.C.’s Hispanic culinary scene so beautiful is the love and support we all have for one another. We are continuously learning and growing our community.”

Paula Velez’s famous pecan-plantain sticky buns.

Paola Velez’s famous pecan-plantain sticky buns. (VINA SANANIKONE PHOTOGRAPHY)

Where in DC is Velez Eating?

Lutece and Anju are Velez’s favorite spots in the District right now, both helmed by Latino chefs: Lutece with Chef Isabel and Anju with Chef Angel. “Both restaurants are unique in flavor and execution,” said Velez, adding that “maybe the upcoming Pascual will join this duo!”

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month With Food

Velez encourages people to think outside the box. Support can be monetary, but it’s also about following, sharing, and visiting your favorite local eateries and businesses. “Most importantly, don't just support Latino businesses in D.C. during Hispanic Heritage Month — support them year-round. I promise, you won't be disappointed with a little sazon in your life!”

An Unexpected Bonus

Check out Velez’s new Urban Outfitters clothing line, designed to honor the undocumented workforce in the restaurant industry. The embroidery proclaims "te quiero mucho," or “I love you a lot” in Spanish.

Hey DC

Want to know what's happening in D.C.? Sign up for our free newsletter, Hey DC. Packed with local news, curated event recs, local life hacks, and more, it's your daily toolkit for getting the most out of the city you love.

Food & Drink

See All

The latest in DC