Growing up in a large Mexican family outside of Chicago, Carolina Diaz always had a special relationship with food. Whether cooking meals for her family or learning her father’s mastery of balancing flavors, she appreciated the art behind creating a culinary experience. Initially a psychology major, Carolina switched to the Illinois Institute of Art in Chicago to follow her passion for cooking and focus on culinary management. She graduated in March 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Applied Science.
Carolina joined Bon Appétit Management Company at Terzo Piano at the Art Institute of Chicago in May 2016 as chef di cucina under acclaimed chef Tony Mantuano. Her previous experience includes stints at Red Light Restaurant under Chef Jackie Shen; Urban Belly and Belly Shack for Chef Bill Kim; and Filini Bar and Restaurant in Chicago’s Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel under Chef Christian Fantoni.
In May 2018 Carolina was named U.S. Master of Pasta in a pasta-themed live showdown hosted by renowned pasta company Barilla. This fall she will compete in Milan for the title of World Pasta Master.
Who and what inspired you to become a chef?
I grew up in a large family. My older sister and I took care of our siblings and fed them. Providing for my family and receiving their feedback really made me understand what cooking meant. After my education, this passion evolved and I became interested in leading a kitchen and feeding guests at a restaurant.
What is your favorite food trend?
Global flavors are the new trend and I believe it is here to stay. The fact that people are educating themselves about different cuisines and cultures is the change that the culinary industry desperately needs. I believe food can drive a shift in humanity.
Who has been your most exciting guest?
My parents! I appreciate their honesty, and I am honored to have them witness the evolution of my cuisine. When I was a student I used to experiment, and my mother in particular was always the one critiquing my dishes. Seeing her face when she tries my food is the most exciting part of cooking for me.