Today we’d like to introduce you to Laura Lafata.
Laura, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
When I was very young, I begged my parents for an Easy-Bake Oven, the children’s toy oven that “cooked” with a light bulb!
When I ate my “cake,” I knew I wanted to be just like my mom and learn how to cook and bake in a REAL oven. I was brought up in a family that loved to cook and gather and laugh and eat, on all sides!
I grew up with Italian, Polish and Bohemian cultural roots. Sundays we ate lasagna or mostacciolli at my great Grandma Rose’s, or pierogi and kielbasa at Auntie Irene’s or perhaps it might be fish and chips at my Grandpa George’s restaurant he managed, the famous Detroit take-away, Milroy’s. Grandpa developed many “secret” recipes when working there and my maternal grandma and all of my mom’s siblings were wonderful cooks and bakers. Cooking good and eating well was in my blood.
Growing up in Detroit, we also ate a lot of Lebanese, Greek and American-Chinese food but it was when I moved to Chicago at 19 that I really began to try other cuisines like Thai, Indian and Persian. Over the course of the last 20 years I’ve lived in Sydney, Australia, Los Angeles and now Miami Beach, broadening my culinary experiences to a global level. In each city, I embraced the local food scene and learned as much as I could from a variety of cultural cuisines.
I have been working in the food business since I was 13 years old. When I got into my 30’s, I started to work dual careers in hospitality and sales/marketing and advertising. For most of my adult life, I have held two jobs, working full time in sales and then working as a bartender on the weekends. In 2008, I tired of working for others and merged all of my experience and talents into a culinary business focusing on consumer cooking classes and launched La Diva Cucina, during one of the worst economic times!
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Starting a business in 2008 was very hard. Many people were laid off and taking jobs that paid significantly lower than they were used to. It took me an entire year to develop my business, my target market, website and develop programs, so of course, and there was not a lot of money coming in that first year.
Other struggles have included legal negotiations with large Fortune 500 companies, it’s like a David and Goliath situation. But I have always been able to bring the contract to fruition and give them a great event.
Keeping up with ever-changing social media platforms can be very time consuming, but necessary to stay relevant.
Please tell us about La Diva Cucina.
In 2012, I was starting to get approached by corporations requesting culinary team building programs. Team-building was relatively new and I didn’t have much competition. It was a natural transition for me to focus on corporate clients from consumers since most of my previous sales jobs were business-to-business.
Basically, my team building programs are corporate cooking classes, with lots of hands-on engagement, everyone learns to make delicious and unique appetizers and cocktails. We cook and eat as we go and there is a lot of laughter but learning too. My most popular class is “The Miami Experience” where guests learn to make tostones, empanadas and ceviche, to give them a tropical taste of life here…
My business has grown and now I do groups of 50 and 60, my minimum group size is eight. I’ve also worked with meeting planners in hotels and facilitated culinary programs for hundreds of guests. I still work with consumers too, usually conducting bachelorette parties, birthdays and date nights. Basically, I throw parties for a living!
What sets my classes apart from everyone else is La Diva herself! I am a fearless public speaker and have performed Improv on stage, so I bring all of that to my events. Because I’ve lived in so many places, I find it easy to relate and communicate with people from all over the world, and I have international, regional and local clients from Belgium to Brazil!
My guests are a bit apprehensive when they come into the event, they are not sure what to expect. After two hours, they leave with full bellies, smiles and great memories. (And some fabulous new recipes!)
What quality or characteristic do you feel is most important to your success?
Follow through. Follow through with phone calls, with proposals and with the event itself. When a client hires me, they trust me with their special event and I will not let them down, but that’s why it’s so important to talk honestly about a client’s expectations and get it all in writing. I also like to give my clients “lagniappe,” or a little something extra, to sweeten the deal… I like to show off my Midwestern work ethic of under promising and over delivering.
- Address: 9 Island Avenue Suite 609
33139 Miami Beach, Florida
- Website: http://ladivacucina.com
- Phone: +1 305-297-8121
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ladivacucina/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ladivacucina
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/ladivacucina