The chef at La Diosa is blind, and man, can she cook!

May 6, 2015 • Posted in blindness, Blogroll, careers/jobs for people who are blind, guest blog, memoir writing, Uncategorized by

You might remember my post about Laura Martinez, a blind woman who graduated from Le Cordon Bleu and worked at Charlie Trotter’s here in Chicago until the five-star restaurant closed in 2012. After two frustrating years trying to persuade another restaurant to hire her, Laura has opened La Diosa, her own restaurant at 2308 N. Clark in Chicago. I ate there for the first time last Thursday. It. Is. Fantastic.

The food was so delicious, and the staff (Laura and her husband Mauri) so charming that I returned there for lunch Monday, and I’m having lunch there again today, too! Joan Stinton, a writer in one of the memoir classes I lead, took a CTA bus to La Diosa with Whitney and me on our inaugural visit last week, and she generously agreed to write a guest post about our experience.

Everything in its place

by Joan Stinton

She is adorable in her oversized toque and dark glasses. She wears the traditional white, double-breasted jacket and dark trousers of a chef. Her hand rests gently on the arm of her husband, Mauri. This is Laura Martinez, a graduate of the Cordon Bleu, a survivor of Charlie Trotter’s kitchen, and now, the owner of a tiny restaurant in a vintage building in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood.

That's Chef Laura on the right, alongside her husband and fellow restaurateur Mauri.

That’s Chef Laura on the right, alongside her husband and fellow restaurateur Mauri.

Laura, blind since birth, has always wanted to cook. It sounds kind of crazy at first: sharp knives. Hot stoves. The kitchen can be a very dangerous place even for a sighted person.

But if you think about it, it makes sense. Sound. Touch. Taste. Smell. These other senses serve anyone well in a kitchen environment. In addition, a professional kitchen is a very organized place. “Mise en place,” the rigor of “everything in its place,” prevails. Chefs set up their work stations with meticulous precision. Knives, plates, spices, condiments: always in the same order, in the same place, every day. A chef is disciplined enough to prepare an order blindfolded. In a way, La Diosa is a perfect environment for Laura.

I got to meet this chef and her husband Mauri last week at their cozy restaurant. La Diosa is about two tables wide and four tables deep, and the menu has traditional Hispanic dishes and, true to her time with Charlie Trotter’s, exotic fish specials.

But this was not the first time I’d crossed paths with Laura.

After my husband Brian retired a few years ago, he became quite a foodie. When a local charity auction offered “A Day in Charlie Trotter’s Kitchen,” I saw an opportunity to give him something he would really enjoy. I won the bid. Brian would be in the kitchen during an actual restaurant shift. I made a dinner reservation with a few friends for that night so we could eat with Brian and hear all about his big day.

Brian was quite giddy when he sat down with us for dinner and recapped his afternoon. One detail stood out for him. At one point amid all the activity, he heard the words, “SHARPS, SHARPS” behind him. He turned and saw a petite, blind chef, arms stretched forward, holding knives pointed downward, walking confidently through the kitchen. The sort of image that sticks with you, I guess! That woman was Laura Martinez, of course. Brian said it would be easy to assume that this blind chef had an insurmountable obstacle, but she was clearly right at home in Charlie Trotter’s kitchen.

And so it is at La Diosa. Laura is right where she belongs—mise en place, everything in its place.

Beth here. I’m heading back to La Diosa one evening next week with my husband Mike and some other friends. Stay tuned to the blog for a review of their dinner menu.

Diane On May 6, 2015 at 9:31 am

Everything in its place. I love it. Will try to get to La Diosa this weekend, thanks for the recommendation.

bethfinke On May 6, 2015 at 10:20 am

It’s an easy ride on the #22 Clark Street bus — that bus stops at Clark & Belden, just steps away from La Diosa.


Heidi Thorsen On May 6, 2015 at 11:45 am

Love this story. If you happen to speak with the chef, please tell her that this Washingtonian from the Pacific Northwest looks forward to visiting Chicago soon and will surely drop by. In the meantime will recommend to family living in the Chicago area.

bethfinke On May 7, 2015 at 9:07 am

Thanks for letting your Chicago people know about La Diosa , Heidi. Odds are if they head over to La Diosa, they’ll find me there –I can’t stay away!


taraisarockstar On May 20, 2015 at 10:01 pm

I was hoping she was able to find work! So exciting that she has her own restaurant-that is a chef’s dream! Roger and I will definitely check it out too. So happy for Lauren and we wish her all the best!

bethfinke On May 20, 2015 at 10:55 pm

For other blog readers reading through these comments,It’s worth my saying here

that Tara Rock Star’s husband Roger, the chef at South Water Kitchen in Chicago, is the one and only chef to have given Laura Martinez an interview and an “audition” for a job after Charlie Trotter’s closed. I would have loved to have added that very important fact to this blog post but blog posts have to be short!

Tara, you know things couldn’t work out for Chef Laura at South Water Kitchen, but I hope you and Roger do go over to La Diosa sometime, well worth the trip. If you can’t get a babysitter, bring the boys, the place is child-friendly, and I know your sons have lots of experience at restaurants!

Much much love,


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