Chef Yadira Garcia of Loisa Is Amplifying Her Ancestors' Legacy Through Food Activism and Education

The co-owner of the seasoning and kitchenware brand honors the Latin community by making her mark in the culinary world.

yadira garcia of loisa
Photo: Courtesy of Loisa

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Like cherished heirloom recipes passed down between generations, the lessons that Yadira Garcia—a chef, food activist, Happy Healthy Latina educator, and Loisa co-owner—has learned from her family's long line of matriarchs inform her work and everyday life. Her mom taught her fearlessness when she moved to a new country and worked to feed and clothe those in her community. Her grandmother instilled the importance of education; she was the founder of a school serving underprivileged children in the Dominican Republic. And her great-grandmother, the owner of sugarcane fields that Garcia would visit growing up, showed her how to run a business.

Garcia learned these important skills by her loved ones' examples, but she found her own way, too. She got comfortable in the kitchen by making homemade pasteles with these matriarchs while listening to stories about their family history around the dinner table. "Being involved in my community, storytelling through food, and creating joy and education feels like a trinity that found me directly through my ancestral influence," she says.

To this day, Garcia keeps pilones, tostoneras, and other kitchen tools handed down to her from the farmers, educators, and cooks in her family. She looks to them as she paves the way for the next generation of chefs—and works to connect the Latin community inter-generationally through Happy Healthy Latina and Loisa.

loisa flavor trio seasonings
Courtesy of Loisa

Partnering With Loisa

Garcia got acquainted with Loisa nearly one year after Kenny Luna and Scott Hattis, the co-owners, began selling their brand's renowned seasonings in 2018. She and Hattis met over coffee in a community garden in September 2019 and began working together from that point on. "Loisa first supported my community culinary education programs by donating spices for my East Harlem students to cook with," says Garcia. "It was very clear the more I engaged with Scott and the team that we were aligned from a values and vision standpoint."

Before the end of 2019, she started dreaming up their first product together, Sofrito. And by January 2020, Luna and Hattis offered Garcia the opportunity to formally join as a co-owner. "We were all-in, and the rest is what I call culinary history in the making!" she says.

Sharing Authentic Stories

Being a member of the Loisa team has been special namely because Garcia is able to play a role in building a brand that authentically caters to the Latin community. "As a first-generation Latina, I've grown up with every brand under the sun that markets to us, but doesn't always listen to us," she says. "We are investing in our community with initiatives like our 2% for Justice commitment and also by uplifting and telling our stories through articles and recipes at"

For Garcia and her team, their purpose also goes beyond their brand's offerings; they work with each other and their audience. "We are always listening, and our community members are much more like stakeholders than consumers to us, in how we value their opinions and experiences, which has a direct impact on what we do," she says.

Yadira Garcia

We do this work through a lens of reclaiming and sharing knowledge, but also by promoting and supporting food equity and access for our communities.

— Yadira Garcia

Latin-Inspired Kitchenware

Garcia and the Loisa team have further pressed their authentic stamp on the culinary industry through their kitchenware line. "It's why we offer organic spices and make salt-free versions of our Adobo and Sazón and why we care about the ingredients we use, not just the finished dish," says Garcia. "In creating our new kitchenware line, we designed everything from scratch from that same foundation of passion and care, thinking through overall quality, usability, material choice, and especially durability."

Their goal was to modernize Latin kitchen tools with intention. As for one of Garcia's favorite pieces from their line? The Tostonera. "As a cook, the Tostonera, made of responsibly-sourced bamboo, is a dream. It has a hinge that is internal and interlocking, plus a non-slip silicone base on the bottom and curved edges, so it feels good in your hands when pressing!" she says. As a lover of the heirloom tostoneras passed down from her family, she could never replace these keepsakes; she views Loisa's Tostonera as a modernized extension of her cooking tool arsenal.

loisa seasonings and kitchenware
Courtesy of Loisa

Food for Thought

Garcia's mission is to continue taking up space; she hopes to educate others through original storytelling and by amplifying her ancestral history. Plus, she aims to use her inclusive platforms to highlight and support often unsung food heroes and organizations. "Our African, Caribbean, and Latin American countries have made deep, indelible contributions to culinary and agricultural history," she says. "We do this work through a lens of reclaiming and sharing knowledge, but also by promoting and supporting food equity and access for our communities."

For those embarking on their own business journeys, Garcia recommends leaning into community wherever you are—which is a lesson she learned from her parents. "You don't have to be great at every aspect of business, but there are a lot of skills needed to continue succeeding," she says. "It's okay, and I would say imperative, to find people that are mission and value-aligned, but have different skill sets to build something bigger than all of you." This is how she feels about the Loisa team, and believes their dynamic allows the brand to grow.

Holding Space for the Future

Both for herself and her family, Garcia relishes in living out her dreams. As a woman chef of color, she has built culturally-conscious culinary education for community-based organizations, schools, and food justice initiatives that connect community members to urban farms and community gardens. "Meanwhile, I am also helping to develop these products, tools, and recipes I grew up with, using pride, joy, and sustainability as anchors," she says.

And when she looks to the future? She sees growth and intention, which will propel her inclusive work at Loisa and beyond. As Garcia says, everybody is welcome at their table.

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