Yia Medina’s life changed when Hurricane Maria devastated her home island of Puerto Rico in 2017.
"It’s very hard to explain," Medina said. "It’s still surreal."
When the storm blew through, her job as the lead cook at the Ritz-Carlton Reserve property at Dorado Beach was wiped out, too.
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"There’s no words to explain living during that 12 hours. It was something like Puerto Rico had never seen. I have never seen anything like it," Medina recalled. "Sleeping in the car to try to get $10 of gas. [There were] no lights, no water, no school. There was no way to get out of your house. It was like a zombie apocalypse."
It was nearly impossible to get clean water and food. There was no electricity and no cell phone signal. Medina said she had no choice but to get her three children off the island. She wanted them back in school and she was trying to figure out her way as well. She sent her three children to Texas, where she would later meet them.
"I came to Texas with a backpack of clothes, and the shoes that I had, and maybe a pair of tennis shoes in my bag. That’s all I had," Medina said.
She was able to land a job at Fearing’s Restaurant in the Ritz-Carlton in Dallas, but there was more to Medina’s story.
Her destiny, her drive to be the best in the kitchen and her passion, caught the attention of the owner of Circo Dallas. At just 35, Medina was named the first female executive chef of the global restaurant brand, which was founded in 1974.
Medina shattered a glass ceiling she always knew was there, but never thought she would be the one to break it.
"By God’s grace, he had place me here," said Medina. "It’s hard to say that because of the hurricane, like that this was my destiny and God has a plan for everything."
She said she still works 16 to 18 hour days because for her, this is more than just a career.
"Society tells us that women are supposed to be in the kitchen, but in this industry, there aren’t a lot of us. I have two daughters and I want to show them that you can have it all. You can be the best in whatever you do and still be a mom or do whatever you want to do," said Medina.
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