If you ever wondered how Jake Gyllenhaal prepared for his film “Road House,” you might want to look at Paulette Tejada’s cooking. The celebrity Chef cooks for Hollywood stars to help them prepare for their roles in physically demanding films. 

But her passion for food goes beyond Hollywood. It’s about true love.

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Ever since Paulette Tejada was a little girl, she has felt the immense power of food. The now-famous chef remembers being eleven, sitting at a table with her family, sharing a dish her mom cooked, and “just forgetting all of our problems for that one moment.”

It was as if cooking and sharing could erase whatever was happening in her family’s life. “All that existed at that table was love,” Tejada told FIERCE. Then and there, she decided she wanted to cook for a living.

“I needed everybody to feel that same love,” she remembers. 

Image used with permission of Paulette Tejada.

Paulette Tejada’s passion for food opened an unusual path

Paulette Tejada began doing stages when she was 18 in her hometown, Santo Domingo. While they were unpaid internships, those were her first experiences in a professional kitchen. Tejada then moved on to culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu in Miami.

She represented Le Cordon Bleu and The United States in Madrid, winning accolades worldwide. Afterward, Tejada did a stage in New York and traveled the world, learning more about her passion. She returned home to the Dominican Republic and put everything she learned into her business as a chef, gastronomic consultant, and even in cooking shows.

But then COVID-19 came, and everything changed

Like many people in the culinary industry, Paulette Tejada was left without a job. “I started doing delivery meal preps from my house to make a living,” she remembered. As is often the way of destiny, her clients loved the food so much that they asked her if she could create personalized experiences as a personal chef.

And the rest is history.

“I started doing that for high-profile clients in Santo Domingo, including our then-President Danilo Medina,” Tejada said. Word got around, and I was requested as Channing Tatum’s private chef while he was filming Lost City, and I was part of his physical preparation for his role.”

She then worked for Sandra Bullock and honed her skills with a nutrition course at Harvard. She has been now Jake Gyllenhall’s private chef since 2022.

Image used with permission from Paulette Tejada.

So, what does the life of a celebrity chef look like?

While Paulette Tejada never expected her career to shift in this direction, she still believes in the power of food. “What truly inspires me in these projects is the thought of ‘How can I make them love this highly demanding process? How can I make this the most fun possible? How can I make every single meal, no matter how healthy, the best meal of their lives?”

For Tejada, this implies waking up at 4 am to plan meals and get a head start on breakfast and daily snacks. She weighs every single ingredient to properly account for the daily macros and knows the products available at markets by heart.

“My day often ended at 10 pm. I made everything from scratch daily, including a different healthy dessert for dinner every night, which was a personal challenge,” she said. “I was cooking for the trainers as well as others on the team, so I really wanted to be sure to keep things fun for everybody.”

Despite cooking dinner for a house full of actors and filmmakers, “seeing the smiles of everybody” once they tried her food was the ultimate reward.

How Latin food is taking Hollywood by storm

While helping celebrities like Gyllenhall or Bullock might seem like a privilege, Paulette Tejada takes real pride in bringing the richness of Latin food to the table. 

“Latin food, in general, is fresh and uses many different flavor profiles, so it’s just fun, colorful, and exciting to experience,” she said. I take a part of my country with me whenever I make a dish, no matter where in the world I’m in.”

However, Tejada’s experience has yet to be a bed of roses. In fact, she confesses there are many misconceptions in the industry. Many of them “paint Latinas and Latinos as uneducated or somehow not really equipped as chefs to do fine dining,” she adds. 

“But I feel that being Latina, being Dominican, is my true superpower and that this rich cultural background that I bring with me is what makes my food different and unique.”

Image used with permission from Paulette Tejada.

Thinking about becoming a celebrity chef? Paulette Tejada has some words of wisdom

After years in the industry, Tejada says the biggest lesson she has learned is “to truly be informed.” Whether it’s food allergies or food sourcing, knowledge is wisdom. “Make sure everything comes from organic, trusted, high-quality sources.”

But if you’re new to the culinary world, her advice is empowering: “That struggle that you’ve been through in your life is what’s going to keep you level-headed in high-stress situations in the kitchen.”

“That struggle is what you will tap into when things don’t go your way, so use your struggle as a force to keep pushing forward,” she adds.

“If your culture was ripped off its voice, be their voice. Be proud of where you come from and use your cultural background as your superhero cape,” Tejada concludes.

And this is precisely what she’s doing outside Hollywood.

Paulette Tejada is slowly becoming an ambassador of Dominican food and culture, taking her knowledge to Food Festivals worldwide. Her dream is to bring Dominican food to every corner, showcasing the food and culture of the indigenous people of the Caribbean. 

We can’t wait to see where the world takes this badass Jefa!