Bea Zuluaga Transcript

Elizabeth: Welcome to Creativists in Dialogue, a podcast embracing the creative life. I’m Elizabeth Bruce.

Elizabeth: Welcome to Creativists in Dialogue, a podcast embracing the creative life. I’m Elizabeth Bruce.Michael: And I’m Michael Oliver.

Elizabeth: Today our guest is good friend and longtime colleague, Bea Zuluaga, master chef, food and wellness entrepreneur, educator, world traveler, nonprofit administrator, immigrant from Colombia, master communicator across cultures, and more. So, nice to see you again, Bea. Welcome.

This interview will cover the role that creativity plays and has played in the various aspects of your life.

Michael: So, we like to start off our interviews with a couple of questions, and the first is this: So, in what aspects of your life do you see creativity having the greatest impact?

Bea: Definitely food, without any doubt. Yeah. Food. I grew up eating very different food than what people eat around us, and my mother was a excellent, creative person in the [00:01:00] kitchen.

Elizabeth: We will talk about your mastery in the kitchen itself in just a moment, but I also wanted to say that another aspect of creativity that we deal with is described by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s books on creativity, for example, Flow and Creativity, each of which focuses on acts that advance a particular field of endeavor like engineering or chess or cooking, culinary arts. Conversely, in his book, Human Motivation, the author Robert Franken focuses on creativity in relationship to problem solving and communication. Bea, how do you personally view creativity or the creative act?

Bea: Excellent question. I definitely believe that life is creativity. We create every single day, many things. And I think when you master any field in life is when you become a creative person. The other people see your creativity, I think, and in that sense, [00:02:00] the food per se, how I use food to solve the problem of hunger or malnutrition, or that is a creativity way.

It’s like, how you are going to change the way we are eating now. And we are feeding kids, which is my passion, how we are feeding kids and how we are going to change that. It’s, that’s a creative way to do it. You have to change things and the only way is creating different approaches to that food.

Elizabeth: I can personally say that you, Bea, and your work with food and wellness has definitely advanced the field of nutrition, of wellness, of engaging young children in new ways of dealing with food and the healthy habits that really change the trajectory of a person’s life. Can you talk a little bit about the resistance that you have encountered in your kind of pioneering work in food and wellness?

Bea: Yeah, definitely. And I—definitely the biggest challenge I had when I started working with food and children were the adults. [00:03:00] Can, my creativity was not even in the kitchen because children will eat whatever you give at the end of the day. My creativity become in how to communicate with teachers and parents. And how to make them change their mind about food. That is really what the creativity is. Because you create, definitely create a lot of stuff in the kitchen, but the reality is the children will eat whatever you put in front of them. Sooner or later, they will eat.

Elizabeth: Sooner or later, yeah.

Bea: But the adults, we have these ideas. They—”I never grew up with food for children.” “I eat the same things that my parents ate.” “We went to a restaurant that they ordered a plate for the two of us and they divide it, not like, oh, menu for children.” That’s a new concept. And we have these ideas, the children will eat differently. There’s no—

Elizabeth: Right. There’s a whole industry for children’s food.

Bea: It’s a whole—and we believe that’s the biggest challenge. We have the, it’s a big fight with the industry. Food industry has a lot of power and it has taken over. Then the biggest challenge for me was basically the adults trying [00:04:00] to understand. The first time I saw beets—

Elizabeth: Oh, beats.

Bea: Roasted beets in CentroNía, for example, the teachers threw them away. They were like, this is unbelievable. You are, not, the children are not going to eat this. 10 years later, children were eating raw beets from the salad bar.

Elizabeth: Wow.

Bea: Then it’s a matter of adults. I think the biggest challenge we have is us as adults that we have, we think we know, and the food industry has done an excellent job telling us, you don’t have to do anything, we do it for you.

Elizabeth: Good point, good point.

Michael: So, let’s pursue this, your life as a chef. I’ve had your food and it is absolutely delicious.

Bea: Thank you.

Michael: So I can attest to that. So maybe if you could just talk about how you became a chef and how you developed this passion for cooking.

Bea: Okay. Very accidentally actually.

Elizabeth: Really?

Bea: Even though I grew up with definitely excellent food and I learned to cook with my mother, I was the last in my house with her, and I definitely, with my girlfriend, we would take, write recipes and would go to her house and do food. But when I came to this [00:05:00] country 38 years ago, I came with three years of engineering.

Elizabeth: Right!

Bea: No English, but no degree either. Then I did acouple of jobs and I ended up in a kitchen and that was when I say, “Oh.” And I make a career, basically, I start working as a appetizer person in a restaurant. And one day the chef left. The chef used to have the Sundays off. And I was like, the cook say, “Oh, I want to go to a game.” I’m like, “Just go. I will take care of this.” And I did.

Then I start working for a retirement home with a lot of money and I did a career there. I started in salad bar, but I ended up managing one of the facilities, all the food that we’d—lobster and filet mignon. And then in that, I made my career, basically. I learned how to cook for, I make breakfast for 2000 people.

Elizabeth: Wow.

Bea: And they have a petit filet mignon. It was a big deal when we opened the kitchen. And then that was when I worked with a lot of volume, [00:06:00] that’s, that, then I start in a kitchen because I knew the language. A piece of meat doesn’t even speak at all.

Elizabeth: It’s very compliant. No language barrier there, yeah.

Bea: I remember when I started, my English was so little that I started the salad bar, and at that time it was a lot of things from cans, and I have a list of things that I have to put in the salad bar. I remember, I know, I didn’t know how beets, I didn’t know what beets were, and I would go to the storage room, and I start with my lesson. Beets. I was like, “Oh.”

But yeah, that’s the way I started my career. I started my career basically in a kitchen, working in a restaurant and in a retirement community. Then I left and went to India for a year.

Elizabeth: That’s right.

Bea: Then I come back, and I keep working in food, but a completely different way. I wanted to change. I—

Michael: It sounds like you are what you eat. Or you think the way you—

Bea: Most definitely.

Michael: And at some point, I guess you developed that sort of philosophy about, around food. Could you maybe speak to that a little bit?

Bea: Yes, definitely. Like I say, since I [00:07:00] grew up eating so well because my mother had very balanced meal, like if she will make beans, for example, she’d start with no meat. And in Colombia it would be like, oh my God, no meat. We were a meat-eat country. I mean we will eat breakfast, no breakfast, but lunch and dinner, we’ll have eat any kind of meat, pork, chicken, beef, whatever. Then my mother will have vegetarian.

Then, in that sense, and after I, I went and spend a year in India and I become vegetarian for a little while when I came back. Because in India the great majority of people are vegetarians. And food become like a more important thing, what I eat. I started eating local, I started going to the farmer’s market and that change completely my diet because I was trying to eat only what was at the farmer’s market. And that definitely changed my diet.

And since I started working with children, that was when I changed completely how we needed to feed children because I was working in a program in DC, Fighting Hunger, [00:08:00] and I went to school and every week, every time they have hot dogs, they have ketchup twice. And I was like, how come nobody take that typo? Like every week I will see that thing.

Elizabeth: This was under Reagan, maybe.

Bea: And I found out that one was the condiment and the other was the vegetable—

Elizabeth: The vegetable of the day, right.  

Bea: Oh, I was like, Washington DC? We are no—and that was when I said, “Oh no, we have to change this.” This is something that we cannot keep living like this, right? It’s just ketchup up twice!

Michael: I think, I think that was Ronald Reagan.

Bea: That, and when I start working with children and I saw that in the menu. I was—and then really children at that time, they were exhausted with the chicken nuggets. They will go to the trash. I will go there for dinnertime and the children were just tired of that food. Then that is when I realized, no, we have to change that. And that is when I start working with children and food. Right here was my change, the ketchup.

Michael: The ketchup.

Bea: That was the—oh!

Elizabeth: Life-changing.  

Bea: [00:09:00] The apple, it wasn’t the apple. It was the ketchup?

Elizabeth: Oh, I love that. I love that. Oh, your whole pivots on ketchup.

Bea: My, my own ketchup covered the—

Elizabeth: Right, right ketchup on head, splatter in the face.

Bea: Yeah. That basically was when I realized there has to be change.

Elizabeth: Speaking of, to elaborate on your passion, healthy food for young children. You and I know each other through the amazing award-winning food and wellness program that you launched at the community-based organization, CentroNía, where you and I have both been affiliated or were both affiliated for many years, as well as our collaborations in Ghana. And you’ve gone to Columbia and other parts of Latin America, and you also launched a business, Food with Bea.

So, talk some more about the creative process, the kind of artistic process of imagining and developing both those initiatives and then also just the lushness, the incredible [00:10:00] artistic dimensions of food. It’s so beautiful, it’s so lavish in its artistic abilities, artistic qualities. So, can you talk about how this kind of cornucopia of the natural world influenced your passion?

Bea: Yeah. Food is life. And we are what we eat, just like Michael said. And it’s, we get used to the same thing all the time. And like I was saying, the food industry, and it’s not just in this country, I think internationally, middle class are eating exactly the same thing all around the world. We are eating the same thing. And now it’s a big movement, per se, the chefs and everybody’s cooking and doing all these masterpieces of food, but with no focus and really solving the eating problem. It’s not just cooking, it’s how we are eating and what we are eating, what is the importance?

And that, the creativity for me, like you say, food, and we have so many things around that we do not eat, and it’s how to incorporate that [00:11:00] and that, like for me, my creativity now goes, I am thinking about food forests in the cities. How to grow more food in our communities. We are starting in Long Branch, where I live. People have to grow food in their gardens. That is creativity. I think what my focus now is how to bring more local food to every person and in the community. And we have to find creativity in order to bring that. How, and communities can do so many things. We can do so many things when we put our minds together. Like in neighborhoods, if you say, oh, I love tomatoes and my, I have tomatoes, the other has beans. And you can exchange things. And there’s so many movements in the country on that. And I think in that, the creativity in food has grown plenty. Same thing with the school meals.

Elizabeth: I was reading an article recently about the Netherlands, which is a tiny little country, is one of the largest exporters of food in the world.

Bea: They—I read the article [00:12:00] as well—it’s unbelievable and it’s the creativity of growing food. They have a very small country, but they grow food vertical.

Elizabeth: Vertically, yes.

Bea: Then that is the creativity. That is what we have to grow. I went to Cuba many years ago, maybe in the eighties, and one of the things they amaze me a lot was that Fidel, when the embargo came, he was like, oh, I going to produce, food close to home and everywhere you will find those mercados with all these fresh fruits. They didn’t have chicken, of course. I’m not saying that it was great, but they do have fresh fruits and vegetables in every single city thing. It is creativity, in so many ways. But, in this country we have plenty of food, but we have very poorly food. I mean, in terms of nutrition. And that is what we have to find. That’s what we are fighting. How we are going to change our diets. And it’s all these generations from the fifties after the men went to war and the people didn’t grow up cooking at home.

Michael: And that [00:13:00] leads to the link between, as you’ve talked about, the food, the need for change, which leads right into the educational process. ‘Cause one thing I’ve noticed is that people are wedded to their tastes, they’re wedded to whatever they’ve gotten used to eating. And it’s very hard, particularly with children, very hard to get them not to eat pizza.

Bea: Yes, it is! Yeah!

Michael: If that’s all they’ve eaten. So could you talk a little bit about your creativity and relationship to how you get people to change, or—‘cause at some level, it’s like getting them to experiment, open to sort of new tastes, new textures.

Bea: Yeah. Food is a very emotional thing. That is the reason it’s so very hard to change eating habits. Because, whatever, for me when I have a soup with cilantro, for me, that’s home. Then, same thing with macaroni cheese of fried chicken and all of this and what’s happening, how we change that, exactly what it is. Like I say, if we start with the children, [00:14:00] if you give children, since early on, different foods, unprocessed food then you are developed the taste. Of course, the mother can have done a horrible diet and you, it’s a challenge. But if you start early, but us, it’s us, and that’s an excellent point.

How? It is like tasting. Okay. Taste this. That is a reason we did plenty of standing in the door and, “Just taste this.”

Michael: Oh, really?

Bea: Yeah. We will be at the door in CentroNía at the table.

Michael: Here, taste some beets.

Bea: Yes. For the adults. I will go to—then that was the thing. And for the children, repetition. Children sometimes have to see a food 12 or 13 or 15 times before they try it. Then, “Oh, he doesn’t like beets, he doesn’t like garbanzos, he doesn’t—.” No, they are not used to it. Then we have, and for us it’s a job. And it’s a very emotional thing. And with adults it’s very hard because we have our tastes and it’s difficult to change, but it’s [00:15:00] definitely harder for us to change. But yeah, it has to be like, make a decision.

And it’s hard because sugar is everywhere. And we are addicted to sugar. We are. Sugar is everywhere. In the seventies, early seventies, when we changed the fat for sugar is when we start getting bigger in this country. In the seventies, early, late seventies, we decided that fat was making us sick. Then we took, the “light” thing came.

Elizabeth: Oh, light.

Bea: I hate light. I hate— Really, because then sugar become the flavor of everything.

And sugar, the, breast milk tastes sweet like sugar. The reason we like sugar so much because it the first taste, it’s just warm. It’s just, that is the reason we like sugar so much is because it’s a very—

Elizabeth: Emotional.

Bea: —connecting thing to the mother to being young, protected, all of that.

Michael: That first taste.

Bea: Yeah, exactly. Then that is the first taste and that’s the reason. And when you take a [00:16:00] glass of milk and you take the fat, you don’t have to put anything else. The content of sugar is going to be higher. Yeah. Because you don’t have the fat, in fat is the, is a protein in the fat that sends the information to the brain that you are full. Then that’s the reason we can over eat so much things that are “light.”

Michael: Is that right?

Bea: Yes. I mean is I think we have it wrong. I can’t believe that we give children, 1% milk. I mean by law, USDA.

Michael: My mother refused to give children light, anything other than full. 

Bea: Good for her! I refuse to take anything light. I refuse. I eat less. But because you will get full.

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Michael: Interesting.

Elizabeth: Yeah. But even nursing mothers, I think can eat a varied diet and influence the nursing infant’s palate through the introduction of different kinds of foods and vegetables and—

Bea: Definitely. They even recommend to eat peanut butter during pregnancy. That way you [00:17:00] become, the baby become immune to peanut butter allergies, peanut allergies.

Elizabeth: To continue on the food front, which we could talk about at length. You two are foodies. I’m just a consumer of your wonderful products. But you and I and our colleague Spanish-American videographer, Nico Ortega Ward went to Ghana in 2019 to collaborate with educational leaders from Kumasi and Obuasi and Accra.

Now, while English is indeed spoken in Ghana, many people still speak a tribal language like Twi or other languages, but you, however, in addition to the universal language of food, you have the most amazing ability to communicate beyond language. So, can you talk a little bit, switching gears, about how your creative capacity to communicate beyond the actual words works?

I’ve seen you communicate with people who spoke three words of English, no Spanish, and [00:18:00] yet you are rolling in the aisles laughing and communicating with each other.

Bea: Thank you. Thank you. Yeah. I have a fantastic experience. First, words are only 30% of communication, right? Then language is just a little bit of the communication.

When I went to India, I went to this organization that we were going to do voluntary work, and I get to the kitchen immediately and I start talking to the cook. She was a woman, younger than, well, older than me, Mashi[MM1] . She spoke Bangla and I spoke Spanish and we spoke for two hours.

Elizabeth: Wow.

Bea: The next guy who was there and speak English, he was like, Bea, come here. How come Mashi knows all of this about you, man? How?

This woman believed they was coming in a bicycle, but because the only thing she knew was a bike, the only thing of transportation she knew was a bike. And she thought I came from United States in a bike. We had this amazing [00:19:00] communication. Of course, I think the thing was the food thing.

Elizabeth: Sure.

Bea: Think I have such a passion for food. The everything, like, all these activities are about food. Yeah. We were talking about people, and I do have a lot, I see rapport with people that’s, I came with that for whatever reason in, I have some things in my genes.

Elizabeth: In, in, in Ghana, as in the school little Angels Academy where we were in residence for a couple of weeks, the cooks cook outdoors on these open fires with wood, in these giant pots making fufu and other, other kinds of—

Bea: Peanut sauce and, yeah.

Elizabeth: And you would be out there in the morning with the cooks who started very early ‘cause they had hundreds of children to feed. Can you share any of those moments when you and the cooks who, again, didn’t speak much English?

Bea: Yeah. And that the universal thing. Yeah. The fact that they didn’t have the language. We didn’t have a language in common, but we did definitely have a passion in common because these ladies have a lot of passion for what they [00:20:00] were doing and they were very proud as well.

I think when one gives the opportunity to people to show up and celebrate the work or whatever they are doing or celebrate people. And I think I have the tendency to celebrate. I have a, I think I have an eye for beauty and I see beauty everywhere. Then I can see that in people as well and I see beauty in everywhere and I can celebrate that beauty then I think that helps to communicate with–That’s what I will say there.

Elizabeth: Sure.

Bea: I see a lot of beauty in everybody.

Elizabeth: You’ve also talked, I’ve heard you talk about how being a non-native English speaker, I guess in English-dominant countries, you have a slight accent. It’s lovely. But you’ve said that your accent opens doors to people, across cultures, that somehow everybody gets that you’re from someplace else.

Bea: Yeah. Yeah. And that’s we like people that are like us, right? When I go to another country, and I am talking to people and I, and they know that I have an accent even in English as well, then they were like, oh, they can’t relate. And definitely I have an accent and I have a [00:21:00] broken English in some parts, but the communication, like I say, is just 30% of language, right? And the hands is another thing that we use a lot.

Elizabeth: Indeed.

Bea: Yeah, I talk with my hands a lot when I—

Michael: Okay. Yeah, I, you’ve spoken about your travels to India. Obviously, you came from Columbia to the United States, you went to Ghana, and I assume you, you’ve been to other countries as well. And then you’ve talked about food, being the universal language. And clearly food can be a, it’s a great way to establish community.

Is there, could you maybe speak a little bit about how you present a meal that would make it much more of a communal event. That sort of the role that creativity might play in offering a meal to people in order to inspire community or communication through food.

Bea: Yeah. I think the best way to include the com–I mean to work with the community is to include the community in any activity. Then, if I will, like when we went to Ghana, before we get there, we have all this work done. It’s what is [00:22:00] fresh vegetables available when we get there? What is the way people eat? I don’t want to come with “Oh, I am the savior. I am here. This is what it is.” That doesn’t work.

We have to work with the food that was there. I was, I don’t got a list of food. “I need this and this.” No. I say, “What food do you have? How you prepare the food?” You show different ways, to have a meal. And people love to see how they can cook a zucchini in three minutes. And people are like, “Oh, this is amazing.” And it’s such a simple thing. You as a cook, when you know how to do things are very simple.

Then I think the only way to include community and to build community and to bring the community together is just asking people, bringing the people not coming with solutions. We have knowledge of things that will help to create solutions, but you cannot come to any place with solutions. You have to work with the people in what is in the pla–in the community.

Michael: Sure. So, it’s, so it’s their foods that are local. [00:23:00]

Bea: Exactly.

Michael: But then you can maybe show them, what, different ways to prepare them, different—

Bea: Ways to prepare, how to eat, how to introduce children to different ways of the preparation, how to eat the food in the best way for the nutrition value. It’s all these things. And definitely when you have the community around, people start walking and talking and they start sharing ideas. And from there is when you come up with the solutions or with the programs and with the changes. Then, yeah, I think it’s bringing the community and have,working with what you have right now in the community.

And I see it as a potluck when, how you bring up a fantastic meal, is just a potluck. Everybody brings something and that is the way you be together.

Elizabeth: Yeah, sure. And being—I remember you were very sensitive not only about what foods are available locally, but how much do they cost. I remember going into a store in Accra and they had broccoli, but it was like $10 for a little stock of broccoli. It was [00:24:00] packaged up in plastic. And I also, I was also really impressed with how you, you took all the vegetables, and you soaked them in salt, in a salt brine. Just as a kind of a step—

Bea: Sanitizer.

Elizabeth: A sanitizer. But it also made the food a little tastier. Everyone was able to have all this, because my memory is that in Ghana, food is for some reason, for various reasons, the food is cooked longer than you were cooking it. So, you ended up with this really wonderful, crunchy vegetable medley that everyone adored. It was just fantastic.

I wanna, I wanna talk a little bit more about your traveling capacity, ‘cause you are the best person to travel with. Those of us who are not as savvy of world travelers should just hire you to take us places, because you can just figure anything out. Seriously, it was just a fabulous experience, but do you have a, an example or two of creative problem solving that you remember from your various [00:25:00] travels?

Bea: I think the best thing I have done is that I have learned how to take very little with me. That helped me a lot in the sense that, and I not carry, I not buy anything anywhere. Nothing that I not eat or I can drink. I not bring anything from anywhere in the world. Then I think that gives me a lot of freedom, in terms of carrying stuff, in terms of money, in terms of bringing all this stuff to people. I think more than solving things it’s just take it easy.

Every time I will spend a lot of time in a new city, always sitting and watching people. Always. I always go to a cemetery, I always go to a church, and I always go to mercado, a plaza, a food market. Always.

Elizabeth: Speaking of things that you always do, I understand that you have a hard and fast rule that wherever you go, you always take some form of public transportation. And when we were in Accra, we took—to [00:26:00] the astonishment of the school director we were visiting some distance out of Accra—we took a little minibus—I don’t recall what they’re called, but—and her son had come to meet us at the Airbnb to get us on this little, tiny bus. And it was an amazing experience. People were witnessing and testifying on the bus. But where does this come from? This attachment to public transportation?

Bea: Yes. Basically, when I go to a country, I like to eat on the streets, take public transportation, I definitely go to one or two museums or something, but that’s not my thing really. I want to spend time with people. I want to see how people live. If I want to see a beautiful piece of art, I can go to the internet and see it. In that sense, I don’t want to spend two hours on a line to go and just rush because there’s 200 people behind me. I don’t have that side. I want to sit with people. I want to see what people are doing. I love to stay with people from the country, if I can. I just, my, that’s the reason I like more [00:27:00] Airbnb, than hotels, because you at least have a chance to talk to people in the country and yeah, I think that’s the only way to really take the flavor of a country. When you are eating on the streets and going to the local restaurants, I love, high scale food as well, but it’s just, I go once in a while, but I prefer what people are eating. And learning how to cook. I go everywhere. I go to the kitchens.

Elizabeth: So how do you talk your way into a kitchen in some foreign place?

Bea: I go like, “Oh, this is such an amazing, oh, how you do that? Oh wow. Can I go?” People are so, if it’s not a master chef, a cook in a regular restaurant, they’ll be like, “Oh, go look.”

Michael: Oh, wow.

Bea: Yeah. And I love to see people in houses cooking as well. I always go to the kitchen, always, anywhere I go.

Michael: A number of people we’ve spoken to in this podcast have been immigrants. And it seems to me that the immigrant experience [00:28:00] almost throws a person into having to be creative ‘cause they have to, in many ways, reinvent themselves. And our whole approach to this podcast is that we create ourselves constantly. And so the immigrant, they have to create themselves constantly or at least they have to make that change. Could you maybe talk about how your immigration experience shaped your approach to creativity or affected who you are?

Bea: Yeah, definitely. It’s interesting because I came here as a illegal immigrant. I came through Mexico, crazy things they wanted. Then I was, I didn’t have doc–legal documents for plenty of years.

Then, that, what you say, you have to reinvent yourself. You have to—I have never worked in a factory in my life. I have never, I have lived in the country just for vacation, but I have never had to, I came from a middle-class family, then I never had to support myself the way I came to support myself here. [00:29:00]

And I remember working as seamstress and making 3 dollars and 10 cents an hour. That was the minimum wage when I came here almost 40 years ago. And, and of course that just give me enough to live. Then I get another job and a factory, a cheese factory, they paid like $5 an hour. I was like, “Oh, let’s go there!” And that was a night job. But it was a very interesting ‘cause the first time—and, and we started 2:00 PM and we finished at when we, all the production was done—I learned something very interesting in that factory. That we were packing cheeses, and it was exactly the same cheese, low mozzarella, but we changed the film on the top and we packed different brands, but it was exactly the same cheese. Then they basically, when you go to the supermarket and you buy Giant cheese and you have Sorrento cheese. Sorrento’s more expensive than Giant. And that factory that was not anything like, but that was not the [00:30:00] names, but those two cheeses were exactly the same. Same, the same thing, different price. And that was one thing. Yeah, definitely. Those are creative ways. That was my biggest, “Look at my creation, wow.” That was my, it was a hard job for me physically. Then when they rotate us every half an hour, and I would be very tired when they put me in the machine too. I will put a cheese this way and the machine will stop and, and I’ll say, “I got to take a 10-minute break.”

Anyway, connectivity. Yeah, and that is what it is and as an immigrant, as a person who doesn’t have documents, all of this makes you, makes your life, bring pain to your life. How you are going to survive, how you are going to enjoy, how you are going to bring all the things that you need to have a balanced life. When you were saying art is part of having a balanced life creativity’s part of having a balanced life.

I think that I am very thankful that I left Colombia. I do, I am. The diversity in this part of this country is one of the most beautiful things I have seen in my life. And the [00:31:00] way I live, I can’t imagine living in Colombia now. And I love my family and I love the country, but there’s too many Colombians there.

Elizabeth: Too many Colombians in Columbia.

Bea: Really, it’s not a diversity there. You sit here in any table, and it can be Latinos, I sit at a table and you find seven, eight countries. And you sit in any place and you found people from Africa, from Asia, for Europe, then that is something that I would have a very hard time, and if I have to go back to Colombia, I will go. But that will be the thing to me.

Reinventing myself in this country has given the opportunity to have all this influence from people around the world. And to me, that’s the biggest asset in this country, is the diversity that we all bring here.

Michael: It, it sounds, I just from talking to you during the last few minutes here, you are a people person. You seem like you really love sort of hearing people and particularly around food. And food is a gateway into talk. Have you, have you always been a people person or is that something that has emerged in [00:32:00] relationship to your travels or in relationship to your—or is it always, has it always been?

Bea: That’s an interesting question. Because I thought I was a very reserved, am very reserved. And then I was like as a child that I was not such a people person. But I definitely, food will bring me alive. That’s one thing. And I think coming to this country, because surviving, you have to be more outgoing. You have to do more stuff, then, yeah, no. I have not been that social so much. I have been a leader, yes. Since high school. I was a leader, but I was a leader at the school. And after that I will be like done. Like I will have all these people around me.

But with the years, I find out that I definitely love to know people. And see what people are doing and people from other countries and other cultures. I love that. And to bring people together, also, like I do things in the neighborhood, I just make soup and go around and leave in three or four. I make a big pot of soup and then [00:33:00] that’s the way I—

Michael: Yeah, food is a great introduction.

Bea: Yes! Food is just a, food is such a—and everybody eats and nowhere, everybody in the world eats and we all love food. And when somebody gives you food, it’s like, “Oh, my god.” Really, when you give food, that—I always say that I have the easy job because of that, because it’s always food and people are like so thankful when you give them food. People are so very, people say, “Oh, you’re the best cook.” I don’t know if you are the best or no. But I cook and I give food people and people are like, “Delicious!”

Elizabeth: Speaking of your early life, you, you come from a large and very close-knit family. You are, I’ve just learned, one of 13 children. And you’ve talked about your mother and her amazing ability to feed and make all of you so healthy. But I’ve personally had the pleasure of meeting several of your siblings, all of whom are doing amazing and deeply creative work in this world. Can you tell us about your childhood and how creativity, not just for you, but for other family members was really nurtured and [00:34:00] blossomed in their later lives?

Bea: Yes. Yeah, I am number 12 of 13. Eight women, five men. And thinking about that, yeah. I had a lot of stimulation of course, because was we had lunch together and was always this sobre mesa where we have coffee and talk for an hour. Then because it was so many different people from different ages, since very early, I had a lot of stimulation.

My father was a politician. My mother was a stay-home mom. She was an artist as well. She played the piano, the accordion, She’s a, she was a painter. And my father died when my mother was 52. Then, it was very hard for her because economically, all of that. But it gives her a lot of freedom as well. It was 50 or 60 years ago that he died, and she have, and my mother loves to travel and to— my mother have a lot of passions. Then that came and one of her things was to always, we have somebody on the [00:35:00] table that she was, oh, somebody needs from really close to the university. Then, always from our small town, she will have two or three people who go to the university and come to our table to have lunch, that way they don’t have to pay for lunch. Then there was always a lot of stimulus in my house in conversation and I didn’t grow up watching TV, really. It was not, in Colombia there was not that much TV at that time.

And my brothers went to boarding school and they would come for vacation with all these new ideas and all of this. Yeah, everybody has different interests and then we as the youngest one have a lot of stimulus from them. I remember like in fifth grade I was learning algebra because my brother was teaching another of my sisters on vacation and I love math. And I was sitting there and he will leave and I will explain to my other sister, no, you do this way. Then I had a lot of stimulus in that sense. And we, I started reading a lot when I was young. Then all of this was because it was such a [00:36:00] big family. So diverse.

And my mother would work a lot with the community. My mother in the eighties was doing tofu.

Elizabeth: Really?

Bea: In Columbia, we didn’t even do that. But she learn how to do, how to make soya—

Elizabeth: Make tofu!

Bea: With a pound or two of soya, she will make tofu, mayo. She will have all the, the whatever was left the fiber. She will mix it with carrots that will make a cake.

Michael: Oh, okay.

Elizabeth: Interesting.

Bea: Unbelievable. She was unbelievable. And when she learned that, I, she loves food and she also have a big family to feed and she was very creative. She will mix soya with beef. But I’m talking about many years ago, before all of this soya to become.

She will have—she was very creative in the kitchen. Because quality of food was important, but you also have to look for the budget. Such a big family. Then in that sense, yes, we have all these, I have a lot of stimulus and creativity. And the kitchen, she was a painter. [00:37:00] My father died immediately, she started taking classes again. I have two or three brothers who are painters. They do painting. I have four or five brothers who work in food. And we all have these, one of my brothers work in food security in the country. Yeah. We are an education and in food, I will say. In the family.

Elizabeth: I, I know you talked about your mom always had a pot of sopa de vegetales. On the stove, so anything that was left over—

Bea: That was very creative! I was thinking this morning, because what I like about food a lot is the creativity. What you ever can do with whatever you have. And my mom and my, we grew up eating soup every day because we are in the mountains pretty high. Then the first, plate the soup. And my mother, we have, “What is today?” It was like cream of vegetables. It was like cream of sobras, everything that was left, she’ll just make a cream of vegetables. The refrigerator’s being cleaned and yeah, in that sense, yeah.

And she will always have a book and she will take notes. I want, I remember going to a sushi place in New York [00:38:00] with her many years ago, and she, and we have a fun dude that was making a, like a pumpkin and she was like, oh, I have to do this in Colombia. And she will take no pictures at that time, but she will take notes and she will take it home. And she would try to do everything. She definitely was very creative in the kitchen.

Michael: And one of the things we look at in this podcast is the sort of the creative community that people develop around themselves. So it’d be like, writers have writers; groups where they may share a work in a safe space. And I may I assume cooks, if they’re trying a new recipe, they might have a person that they share it with. And, and they also have mentors. Could, maybe we start with have there been cooking mentors in your life?

Bea: I would say my mother was my first mentor. More than mentors, I think I appreciate very much the people who give me the opportunity to create. That makes a difference because my cooking is not like very developed. It’s very simple cooking. And, but the fact that I [00:39:00] have the opportunity to create all these recipes and all this educational program for families, and I have the space to do it, that I will take more like a mentor. BB, she create, she believe in me and she say, do whatever you need to do for I believe what you are doing.

Elizabeth: This is BB Otero—

Bea: BB Otero, yeah.

Elizabeth: Founder of CentroNía.

Bea: Yeah. In that sense, more than mentors. I read a lot about food, and I know, and politics and food, I have more people like Nestle, Marion Nestle, which is a political writer and a writer, she’s very much political, of Pollan, Michael Pollan, and I this day I read about politics and how politics affect what we eat. It’s unbelievable how much—

Michael: Oh, really?

Bea: Oh my God.

Michael: That’s another whole podcast.

Bea: Oh my God. Don’t lemme talk about all that. .In that sense, yeah. Politics are everywhere.

Michael: Right. But your mother, I you talked about your mother and how she cooked soy and every part of the soy plant was used in different elements.

Bea: Exactly. Okay. It’s definitely, I think [00:40:00] my mentor in that sense was my mother in how she can, follow a recipe and do a beautiful meal, but at the same time look at the refrigerator awhile and create a meal and well done. And in that sense, yeah. I definitely had that.

And I have learned definitely a lot from the, all the women that I have cooked with. Plenty. And I have cooked with plenty of women, all, the great majority are women, all around the world. Because I, when I go travel, if I have the opportunity to go to a school and cook or, anywhere, I will go and cook or do a demonstration or anything that I can share or I can learn from people. Then I am always doing activities with people with food. And I will learn anything, like.

Elizabeth: Well, talk about some of the people you’ve mentored. Because as we talked about before, you started this amazing program at CentroNía and there have been just a whole, kind of, team of chefs and colleagues who have developed into master chefs themselves. Can you speak a little bit about that process of collaborating and—

Bea: Yes. I think one of the [00:41:00] biggest thing we did, and I include myself in that, was the Healthy Tots Act and the Healthy School Act. Because we start cooking and changing the food in the school, charter schools, and early childhood centers, and we start making and trying to make changes in the city. And I think Washington is very, it’s better than the great majority of school system, because we have so many charter schools who are taking seriously the food fact. Then a lot of charity schools are cooking their own food. There is a movement here, like DC Bilingual, they start in DC—in, they started in CentroNía—when they moved from CentroNía, we were selling the food to them, and I definitely helped them to create the program that they have now. And have been early childhood centers in Washington, I worked with a lot of—they start their own business. They don’t cook in—no business, they don’t cook in, at the centers.  

And we also have, CentroNía [00:42:00] has the catering NíaCentral. They reach a lot of children as well. Maybe a thousand children, which is amazing. Yeah. And the last, the women who I work, I started working in CentroNía was interesting because when I start working in CentroNía, all these ladies just open boxes. And when I came and I say, okay, we are going to start cooking and you are going to make exactly the same amount of money. And they were like, what? I was like, yeah. But I saw that the idea that they were going to be feeding the children better food, that become for them like a challenge. We are going to do it. And from that group of people, maybe four or five become chefs and have done in other kitchens in the city.

Then that will be, I see like my mentoring in in the city level with these programs, the Healthy Tots Act. The Healthy School Act passed in 2010, I think. And it was interesting because they include early childhood centers and I started, because I work in CentroNía and we have, we receive money for local food for the [00:43:00] children in the school, but not for the children of childcare center. And I was like, they are eating and they, we started that thing. The Healthy Tots Act was passed in 2014, which is a law that gives DC children, DC schools 5 cents more in our lunch if you use local products and it’s all this stuff and you have to use more local produce, you have to use more vegetables than, it’s a very specific program for the city. That is great in that sense.

Elizabeth: Which is a pretty creative piece of policy unto itself.

Bea: Definitely. Definitely.

Elizabeth: That incentivizes these healthier habits, and—

Bea: Definitely. I try to do the same thing in Montgomery County, but because the school systems are so big, it’s so hard. And we just are not creative enough. We don’t want to be creative enough to do it better.

Elizabeth: Just to hover a moment on, on this, because you also have an incredibly collegial management style. Even though you were the initiator of some of the [00:44:00] organizational structures, your collaboration with your team was respectful and mutually respectful and so empowering of all members of the team. So, can you speak a little bit about the kind of creative genesis of your whole process of collaborating with a team?

Bea: Yeah. Managing, I think is an art. It’s an art that many people think because you are good at something you can be the manager. And managing people is an art because we are all so very different.

I have learned, in my experience, if you ask people to do the best they can, you respect them, and you teach them to do different jobs in every position. When I was in admissions, for example, everybody knew how to do everything. In the kitchen as well. Some, I tell everybody I don’t know how to do computers. And I remember going down one day, everybody in lunchtime was on their Facebook. And it was lunchtime, and I was like, ah, Facebook. I don’t [00:45:00] have Facebook, but they know how to do Facebook. And I was like, ladies, computer classes. All them were like. “We cannot do this.” I was like, “Uh-uh.” And four of them learned how to do the orders in the computer.

Then I think when you believe in people, when you trust people, when you respect people, people respond. And one of the biggest challenges in the kitchen is the incapacity to keep people, because you in, like, hard kitchen work is very hard. Many people come just because they haven’t found any other job. Then as soon as they find another job, they leave.

CentroNía, the team was so strong, they would stay forever. They, I was like, I know you guys have sick days and you can take care any time, but it will make such a difference, instead of calling in the morning, “I have a headache.” Just let me know and ahead of time and say, “I have an appointment,” and you take your day off. It makes life so much easier for all your coworkers and people will do that. It was very rare that we had somebody calling [00:46:00] in sick for a headache in the morning. No, we knew the day before that somebody was not coming because they has to do something. But you can organize better then when people trust you. Because people are like, no, you cannot call in sick because I need people. That’s, no. If you are sick and if you need the time off, you need the time off.

Then I think respect for people and trying, because we are not all good for the same things. Then you, when you find—and we all have qualities and we are good for something, all of us. I think when you observe and you find what people are good at and you give them the opportunity, they all learn how to do orders, but not all of them did orders because some of them have a difficult time. But okay, then you do the milk order. Then you give people what they can.

Iris and when I started at CentroNía, she’s, “No, Bea, I am not going to the kitchen. I am going, let me do cleaning.” I was like, “No, you are going to the kitchen.” “I don’t know how to cook for many people.” “Don’t worry, you will learn.” And Iris now is the person in, is the boss of the kitchen. And [00:47:00] all of this to say is, and it’s a person who hasn’t finished elementary school and she has somebody who help her with the com–with the orders. It’s all that she needs, but she has all the knowledge.

At the end, when I left CentroNía, cooks were making more than the assistant teachers. And in that sense, you have to pay people also, you cannot just be a good boss, you have to give people more. If you are working, and that’s a very hard work—

Elizabeth: It is hard. Early to late, yeah.

Bea: And I know it’s very hard work. We have to give you more money. And I understand taking care of children is a lot of work as well, I am not saying, but I took care of my team in that sense. Go and ask for a raise for everybody. It’s not like looking for a raise for me. Because in that sense, if you don’t respect people and you don’t give them what they need, it’s very hard to work with people.

Elizabeth: Yeah. My observations that you brought the same passion to management, to collaboration, as you bring to food.

So, speaking of other passions, another thing you’ve done, I think with pretty, pretty strong passion [00:48:00] is renovate your home. You have these, you have a beautiful home and you have done some of the renovations yourself which is an incredibly creative process. So, I wondered if you could tell us a little bit about your creative journey into home renovation?

Bea: Yeah. Interesting enough. Yeah, I divorced, probably like five years ago and I moved to the house alone and with very little, I didn’t have any furniture actually. But one of the things that I decided as soon as I move, like I am going to have very little, this is going to be a minimalistic house. And it is a very minimalistic house.

But before the pandemic, like a week before or a month before the pandemic, I have, I started to work to renovate the kitchen and to finish the attic, and that was March. I was in Argentina, and I had to leave Argentina and come here running because of the pandemic. And my kitchen has [00:49:00] paper already because they have taken the floor. And my living room, which my house is very small, was full of all the material I need for the house. I come back here, and I was in quarantine for 14 days and I was like, I cannot live like this. I cannot. This is bigger than me. I mentally, I cannot do it.

Then, I have an excellent, a good friend who is very good with handy work, she’s my handy woman, Sharon Jarrell, and I call her and say, Sharon, I cannot live like this. We have to do this. And she’s like, what? I was like, we have to do this here. We have—and she has all the tools because that’s her passion.

I have designed a house, like, this is my house. I going to die here. And the bedroom that I make doesn’t have a door, and a wheelchair will get in. It’s already done. It’s just one level. It’s like, it’s small. I don’t need everything else. And all of this. And the kitchen, I was renovating the kitchen, which is my place, and it was amazing.

We learned so [00:50:00] much. We will be sitting there and we were like, oh, let’s do this. And I will be with numbers and calculated this stuff and Cheryl will think how we are going to do it. And everything just came into place. It’s, creativity is such a, a beautiful thing, because it’s not that I have, oh, I had this or this. No, it was growing. I had just did the floor, but all the little details and like the walls, all of that came with time. We all was sitting like, “Oh, we can move this here. That way it doesn’t look—.” Then it was just like a creation. It was a big job. We spent, I think from April to September, working 40 hours a week.

Elizabeth: Wow. This is 2020 in the height of the pandemic.

Bea: And I, we reused everything that we took. Then it was a lot of work in the taking nails from the—but it was a beautiful experience. Because in a very hard time, which was when the pandemic started, we were so insulated, the two of us—she didn’t stay with me, but she will come four or [00:51:00] five times a week—and spent, we spent the day together, work hard and we prepare a wonderful meal, have a glass of, a bottle of cava, and she will get home and come back the next day. But it give us the opportunity to be together. The pandemic was very hard for the people who lives alone in the first months, because—. Then that give us also that that opportunity to take the pandemic in a different level. For me, it was an, a magnificent experience and the result was fantastic.

Elizabeth: Yeah, creative response to isolation.

I wanna just briefly ask you about your minimalist lifestyle ‘cause you, you have a beautiful home and it’s so sleek and spare. It is so unburdened with stuff and so I think this is a life philosophy, but can you, you speak a little tiny bit about just how you came to be such a minimalist?

Bea: Yes. When I came to this country and I started working, I think I was a cook at that time and I took a second job and just because I probably need more money. And I work that [00:52:00] second job for maybe two or three months. And it was not that bad. It was maybe once a week and it was putting the inserts and a newspaper, remember that?

Elizabeth: Oh, high-tech job.

Bea: It wasn’t bad. It was not bad, and they pay well. But three months later I was like, “Oh no, guapa, this is not life. You definitely have to cut cost.” Then you—my philosophy right there, I was like, oh no, you have to live with one job and you have to adjust your budget to that. And that helped me a lot. And on the same token, I realized very soon here that we are in a society that we want so many things and you have access to so many things. The, it’s part of the culture. It’s just part of the culture to have stuff, to have, to change your car every five years, to have more and more to have, in case that you needed to have a second one, you buy the second one because second is half price, but you only need one. [00:53:00] “But in might break!” It might not!

Then that philosophy that I am, I don’t know, maybe every year I do something like I am, my New Year resolution is like no buy anything new, for example. Then I stopped buying maybe, I don’t know, 10 years ago. I say, no more books, no more music. I don’t buy no more books, I don’t buy no more music. And it’s very rare that I buy a book. Very rare. I go to the library. I read online, but I very rarely, I borrow books, but I know then, yeah and basically my philosophy is, reduce cost. Then you don’t have to produce so much. I don’t have a car. I don’t have a dishwasher. I don’t have a microwave. I don’t have a TV.

Elizabeth: That’s right.

Bea: In that sense it gives me a lot of freedom. Because I not have any debt. I live, I need money to eat, drink, and to travel. Really, I no, I not have any desire to have anything else in my house. Absolutely nothing else. I don’t need nothing else. I have [00:54:00] probably enough clothes to last me for the next 10 years or so. Then, yeah, in that sense is, I think it’s liberating to me. I think I know everything that I have in my house, I know everything. Because it’s so very little that I have—No, I have plenty. It’s not that I have so very little.

I think Ghana. When we went to Ghana, I was moving to my house. So, I didn’t have even dining table. And I was like, I said, “I am just going to see how I going to live, but I am not going to have a dining table.” So, I don’t know, because Ghana showed me that we have trouble so much in this country. You know what I mean? And I come from Colombia as well, but I don’t know why gonna showed me that more. And I remember I got back from Ghana. I was like, ah! And a friend of mine had found a table in two chairs and he brought them to me.

And I was in my house, I got up, and I was going to buy a, I will never forget, a bread knife because I didn’t have a bread knife. And I was like, forget it, I am not going to buy a bread knife. But a friend of mine who works in William Sonoma, like a week later he’s like, “I already [00:55:00] sent you the bread knife. You owe me $60.” I was like, “Thank you, guapo.” But that was the, and that though, really, Ghana show me, like, we have so much. It’s not that I haven’t seen it before, but I think the divorce and being in a home with so little, that was like, just keep it simple, Beatriz. Just keep it simple. And that’s it. And works perfectly because it’s better, less to clean.

Elizabeth: Less to clean, yeah.

Bea: I spend a lot of time outside and the house has everything I need actually. It does.

Elizabeth: It’s a beautiful house.

Michael: And that’s a great segue into how we like to conclude our interviews. And that’s looking at this larger thing about how we create ourselves and the, sort of, the pivot points in our narrative arc where we in sense change of who we are or changed the direction of this arc or interact with the environment or a cultural experience or what have you. And I would love for you to reflect a little bit on the role that creativity has played in creating who you are.

Bea: Yeah. I think we [00:56:00] create ourselves every day and I am very thankful to have access to so much stimulation being young, because allow me to be more creative, because I have more tools to be creative, because I have more tools to find my passion. I think you can be creative when you find your passion. I think passion is a must to do anything.

I remember saying, I, my nephew, “I going to study this because it gives me money.” I was like, “If you no love it, you are not going to be rich.” That simple. You have to love what you, in order to be good, you have to love what you do. You have to have a passion. Not all of us are going to be good artists or be recognized, but when you love what you do, at least you enjoy it.

One of the things I found very, I would say sick is for many people who are working onto 65, very unhappy because they are going to retire at 65. You live your life. Lawyers, doctors, all of this. Very unhappy. [00:57:00] Because 65, you not have enough life to live good. I was like, what kind of life is that? At 65 you don’t know how to enjoy life because you don’t know. If you don’t know, you have to learn. Enjoying life is a process as well. You have to learn how to enjoy. It’s not, “If I will be in Mexico, I will be happier.” No. You learn how to enjoy life where you are. And you take that joy with you, the places that you go. No place is going to make you happy. No person is going to make you happy. You have to learn that for yourself.

Then I think creativity and having all this stimulus has helped me to create my life in a more creative way, per se.

Michael: I mean it’s and it sounds like in the pursuit of joy.

Bea: Exactly! Exactly!

Michael: So like you, you decide I don’t need this second job ‘cause it’s not giving me joy.

Bea: Exactly!

Michael: It would be better to reduce—

Bea: Yeah, exactly.

Michael: —my expenses and live with one life and have more joy.

Bea: Yes, And I have appreciated that very much because we get into this system, we all come from Colombia not with so much access to things like [00:58:00] here. Then it’s so very appealing. When I came to this country, they, the, what people will do the weekends is go to the mall to buy stuff.

Elizabeth: Oh, right. Shopping is entertainment.

Bea: Yeah. I was like, I go to store to buy something, and I go, buy the stuff and leave. I can go to store, buy an onion, take the onion and leave. I do. I don’t buy online.

Elizabeth: This leads you, you’ve already answered this question in many ways, but we like to ask our interviewees if they have any practical advice for others. You’ve talked a lot about practical things. Buy the onion and leave  Don’t wait until you’re 65 to have joy in your life. Don’t work for something over there. Are, is there other practical advice you would give to people as to how to sustain creativity? How to nurture their joy and continue developing it?

Bea: I think the, I think, if you find your passion and you follow it, it will give you all of that. And it will give you the tools to how to keep the [00:59:00] passion alive. Life is hard for all of us, like depression, all these things come to us all the time. It’s not like we are happy all the time. And the joy of—it doesn’t matter if I enjoy cooking and I have a balanced life. Life is hard to live and there’s a lot of times that you are down or I am down, or you, I don’t know, but me. But that’s the life that’s—try to look, when you find a passion, I think it give you like the tools to make your life more enjoyable.

I had that from my mother. My mother had so many passions. I don’t have that many, but she was an excellent cook, she was a painter, she read a lot, she did all the crochet. She have all these things that keep her so entertained. I remember once, she came here, and she arrived to the airport. My brother didn’t get there because it was a accident on 270. Of course, my brother, it was many years ago, and my brother was panicking. He just got to the airport running and find my mom [01:00:00] doing crochet. And my brother is, “Mom!” Like, “Mijo, I cannot go anywhere. I don’t know the language. I don’t know what to do. I knew you will find me.” She was there doing crochet.

Then you have your mind and something that you love, and you just immerse yourself and you lost yourself in that. You guys are writers. You start writing. It’s a discipline. It’s not, “Oh, you are writer, it’s such an easy thing.” No, you guys have to work hard for that! Like when, when you have, “then Moses came down,” you guys are like, “Then that is the way.” Because it’s a passion.

Then I think the biggest thing we have is that we forget our passion for our needs, and we create so many needs. And then we forget the passion that—we have to have this house and this car, and we have to save enough money. I am like, no. You don’t need to save that much money. Because it doesn’t matter how much money I save if I will never save enough for somebody to take care of me in this country, I don’t have enough,. Is that some things that you are just—yeah. You have to be, you have to have a nice, secure future, but it’s not all about money.

Michael: Yeah. Joseph Campbell, the [01:01:00] famous mythologist called it “following your bliss.” And I think—

Bea: Exactly, yes.

Michael: —it combines the passion and the joy.

Bea: Exactly.

Michael: Yeah.

Bea: I like it. “Follow your bliss.” Yeah.

Elizabeth: Speaking of bliss, this has been blissful. We like to give our guests a chance at the end to announce any upcoming events or publications or web links. Would you like to share your website? Would you like to share anything that, that other people might want to know about? Or how they might be able to reach out to you?

Bea: You can reach out to me at or [email protected]. And, also, I will encourage everybody to start growing food locally. Look for food forests, educate yourselves about food forests, and really let’s try to bring more local food to our tables.

Elizabeth: All right.

Bea: Thank you so very much, the two of you, this has been—

Elizabeth: Oh, thank you. This has been fabulous, so thank you, thank you.

Michael: It has been bliss.

Elizabeth: It has been bliss. [01:02:00] Thank you to our wonderful guest, Bea Zuluaga, who is so many things, master chef, entrepreneur, and communicator across all cultures. So, thank you, Bea.

Bea: Thank you too.

Michael: Thank you.

Elizabeth: For more information about Creativists in Dialogue or our other projects, please visit or This project was supported by the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities.

 [MM1]I believe Bea is saying the woman’s name here?