Paola Velez is a pastry chef and social justice activist from New York with Dominican heritage. She has worked for restaurants such as Milk Bar and Maydan in Washington, D.C., and she co-founded the organization Bakers Against Racism, as well as the donut pop-up shop Doña Dona in 2020.
Velez grew up in The Bronx, New York. Her mother worked as an accountant for the Tex-Mex restaurant Mary Ann’s, which was owned by her mother’s cousin. She spent her childhood summers visiting her grandparents at their family home in the Dominican Republic. During her summers spent in the Dominican, she gained an appreciation for fresh produce, learning how to grow her own vegetables and fruit, and experiencing her grandmother’s home cooking.
Velez was educated at Le Cordon Bleu in Orlando, Florida. After graduating in 2009, Velez studied for two years under Jacques Torres, an expert in the chocolate industry, at his factory in Brooklyn, New York. Velez moved from New York to Washington, D.C., in 2016 to work as a pastry chef at Milk Bar under chef Christina Tosi. With her gained experience, Velez transitioned to the position of Lead Pastry Cook at D.C. restaurant Arroz. She also functioned as the pastry chef for the Iron Gate Restaurant in 2018, and for Kith/Kin in 2019. Velez led the kitchen at Compass Rose and Michelin-starred Maydan while serving as the restaurant’s Executive Pastry Chef. After being furloughed during the Covid-19 pandemic, Velez joined Food&Wine Magazine to create the online streaming show, “Pastries with Paola, ” in which she shares recipes inspired by her Dominican heritage.
Awards & Press
- Food & Wine Best New Chef