After 15 years in the kitchen, award-winning Michelin-starred chef Maria Marte is bringing her recipe for success home to the Dominican Republic to nourish the minds of female students and help make their culinary dreams come true.
"I have always thought of doing something for others, now I am focused on helping women in my country without resources and who want to study gastronomy," Marte says.
"I have achieved many things and now it's my turn to help other women achieve what they want and, above all, to have a better future."
Leaving her family and children behind, Marte traveled to Madrid in Spain, taking a job as a dishwasher in one of the city's most distinguished restaurants, the Allard Club. She scrubbed plates, pots and pans until they gleamed for just US$4.20 an hour.
"I spent a lot of time cleaning floors and pots, it took a long time before I got to put myself in front of a stove and when I was given the opportunity, the condition was that I could not stop scrubbing.
"The truth: a life a little sacrificed, but when you see it now, it has been worth it."
Marte wanted what most immigrants want: a better future for herself and her family. The youngest of eight siblings, she moved from her family kitchen in Jarabacoa to the bustling streets of Madrid, earning two Michelin stars after accepting the position of Allard Club chef.
"Before coming to Madrid, I had a catering business that I ran from my house. Having two young children, it wasn't possible to work outside the home.
"I also worked with my father, who ran a restaurant in town. When I was not with him, I was with my mother, who was a baker."
Now the chef wants to share her gift after winning the 2015 National Award of Gastronomy and the 2017 Eckart Witzigmann Award for Innovation: "I want to help them from scratch: all those women who want to learn gastronomy are going to have my help."
Preliminary classes will be held in a school, and the three best students will be awarded a six-month internship in the Allard Club kitchen.
"It's going to be very different: I'm going to go from having two Michelin stars to helping others, but it's something that comes from within me.
"I know it can be hard, but I'm used to it. Nobody has given me anything; you have to fight a lot, then the reward will be bigger."