In 1962, when I was 8 years old, my family emigrated from Cuba to Chicago. Moving to America meant my dad’s dream of having me become a baseball player would come true. We lived on welfare for some time until my father found a job at Tartan Tray in Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. My dad would give me a $1 a week to spend on baseball cards, but I spent it on hair products for the makeshift salon I operated in my parent’s apartment.


At 15, I joined my dad at Tartan Tray as a dishwasher, and I was thrilled at the opportunity! With my outgoing personality, I was better suited to be a server and quickly transferred out of the kitchen. I enjoyed talking to customers and I’d overflow their plates with food. I come from a Cuban-Jewish family and we love to eat! When the cashier noticed the enormous portions I doled out, my boss relocated me to the bakery, where I decorated cakes. I took pride in turning each one into a masterpiece and loved being able to express my creativity.

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