Paola Velez

James Beard Award Nominated Pastry Chef Paola Velez was raised in NYC and the Dominican Republic, and as a result, she’s become an advocate for equity and sustainability, utilizing her resources to help the communities and restaurants she works with make impactful change.

Paola graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in 2009, before starting her culinary career as a savory cook in Manhattan. She later spent two years as sous chef to master chocolatier Jacques Torres at his 40,000-square-foot production kitchen in Brooklyn. In 2016, Paola moved to Washington, DC to work with celebrated Chef Christina Tosi at MilkBar, before serving as Pastry Chef at Iron Gate Restaurant in 2018, Kith/Kin in 2019, and most recently as the Executive Pastry Chef of critically acclaimed Compass Rose and Michelin Starred Maydan.

During COVID-19, Velez founded Doña Dona, a Latin American popup benefitting Ayuda DC, a nonprofit supporting the restaurant industry’s undocumented workforce, and later co-founded Bakers Against Racism, a worldwide bake sale that raised $2+ Million for organizations supporting Black Lives and racial justice.

In 2020, Paola was named a Finalist for the James Beard Foundation Rising Star Award and earned “Pastry Chef of the Year” awards from both Esquire Magazine and the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington (RAMW).

In 2021, Paola was named one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs, one of Time Out Magazines “People of the Year”, a semifinalist for The Art of Plating’s 2021 Rising Talent, Cherry Bombe Magazine “Person of the Year”, and Instyle Magazines’ “Women Making the World a Better Place”, and earned both Emmy and Webby nominations for her work with AJ+.