2024 is right around the corner, and maybe switching up your diet is in the cards for the new year. Vegan and vegetarian diets are becoming more popular among the Latino community, offering impressive health benefits.

Chef and entrepreneur Jocelyn Ramirez’s interest in and pivot to plant-forward living occurred when her family began facing health challenges. 

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“I knew there had to be a better way to eat and to live,” said Ramirez in an interview with FIERCE. “I began researching plant-based eating and fell in love with it.”

She trained at the Matthew Kenney Culinary Institute for foundational teachings in plant-based cuisine. Then came Todo Verde, her food seasoning company that provides authentic Mexican flavors from Puebla and Michoacán. Her first cookbook, “La Vida Verde: Plant-Based Mexican Cooking with Authentic Flavor,” was published in 2020. 

A spread of Al Pastor tacos with a packet of Todo Verde Al Pastor seasoning.
Image used with permission from Todo Verde.

Ramirez also shares recipes with publications like the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, Bon Appétit, and more. She takes her work to her community as an advocate for healthy living and also sits on the advisory board for Food Forward and the leadership board for the Los Angeles Food Policy Council.

The chef extraordinaire shares the inspiration behind Todo Verde, what she learned in her first foray into consumer packaged goods, and her advice for Latina entrepreneurs.

The most important part of her business is the flavors of her heritage

Starting Todo Verde was a transition for Ramirez, who left her career in higher education to pursue this new path. 

Her Latina roots inspired her to make plant-forward foods that are true to her culture. As she explored these new diets, Ramirez said she wanted to combine them with “the richness and nostalgia of abuelita-approved flavors.” 

“It was essential for me to infuse my lifestyle with the traditions and roots that define my culinary heritage,” she continued.

Her line of seasonings currently includes carnitas, al pastor, and tinga flavors. They can enhance flavors in tacos, fajitas, soups, and more. It was important for her to offer people an option that is not only health-conscious but that they could connect to culturally.

Launching a business meant surprises at every turn

Although her fine art, design, and business degrees helped some, launching Todo Verde was a challenge. She had never gone into the consumer packaged goods industry and didn’t expect so many logistical hurdles.

Extensive planning for things like production and distribution, sourcing ingredients, and cultivating relationships with retailers were new tasks for her to navigate. In addition to selling on the Todo Verde website, Ramirez’s seasonings are available in retailers like Bristol Farms and independent grocery stores.  

Although the Latino community is becoming more open to vegan and vegetarian diets, Ramirez says that selling it can be a challenge as well.

“I try to educate other Latine people about our deeply-rooted history of eating plant-based and encourage them to try simple swaps at home with the infusion of familiar flavors,” said Ramirez.

That said, Ramirez feels like the challenges are worth it. She takes pride in the culinary connection to her heritage through her chef and business endeavors.

Her culture influences and strengthens her work ethic

Since her culture is deeply embedded in her professional career, it’s also a source of strength for Ramirez. Growing up as a Latina, she learned to work hard, be resourceful, and honor those who came before her.

She is grateful for the generations before her who displayed their resilience. 

“Thinking about all it took to get our community to where we are today is a guiding light and a reminder that my challenges are opportunities in disguise,” said Ramirez. “Every step forward is not just for myself, but a tribute to the perseverance of my ancestors, and most especially of my parents.”

Her favorite quote is “eres exactamente poderosa como crees que eres.” That translates to “You are exactly as powerful as you think you are.” She wants Latinas to follow a path for their new businesses that they are absolutely passionate about. Growing a business takes not only time but also a lot of effort. Loving what you do is crucial!

Ramirez also recommends that Latinas lean on their community for support and not be afraid to ask for help. She knows from experience that unexpected opportunities have come about just from asking for insight from her network.

The same goes vice versa: “When an amiga asks you for advice or a favor, always be willing to go the extra mile for her,” said Ramirez. “We have to support one another and live in community.”