Meet a Venezuelan Chef

Chef Jonaideys Gutierrez

Jonaideys Gutierrez is a Venezuelan Student-Chef at Emma’s Torch, a non-profit that provides refugees with culinary training, employment opportunities and empowerment training. Learn more about Jonaideys and her recipe for Venezuelan arepas.

Hello, my name is Jonaideys Gutierrez. My passion for food led me to Emma’s Torch, where I am a Student-Chef learning and practicing my culinary skills. I am originally from Venezuela and am excited to share a dish from my culture with you! 

Emma’s Torch is a non-profit social enterprise that provides refugees with culinary training, employment opportunities, equity and empowerment training. Through Emma’s Torch’s innovative program, students learn in both a classroom and apprentice setting and can access their cafes and catering businesses. Students, like me, are set up for successful employment in an industry in which our cultural heritage and cuisine can be celebrated.  

I am excited to share a recipe for Venezuelan Arepas, which is made from dried and ground corn masa. It is circular, stuffed, flattened and then typically fried. It can be stuffed with meats, cheese, avocado or beans.  

Reina Pepiada Arepa Recipe

My favorite version of the arepa is ‘Reina Pepiada’ which is named for Susana Duijm who was crowned Miss Venezuela and Miss World in 1955 – the first of many Venezuelan beauty queens. The arepa was named in her honor after visiting a restaurant located in Caracas, Venezuela. Please enjoy!  This recipe makes 40 arepas.



For the corn pocket: 

  • 3 pounds of cornmeal 
  • 4 cups hot chicken broth  
  • 1 teaspoon salt 
  • 2 tablespoons of neutral oil 


For the chicken and avocado filling: 

  • 2 shredded roasted chicken breasts 
  • 1 bunch of cilantro  
  • 1 bunch of chives 
  • 3 garlic cloves 
  • 2 onions 
  • 2 ripe avocados (large)  
  • 1 cup Mayonnaise (or to taste) 
  • 2 cups olive oil 
  • 2 lemons (use lemon juice) 
  • Salt and ground pepper 


  1. In a bowl, combine all the ingredients for the chicken and avocado filling then set aside.  
  2. Next, stir the broth and salt together in a large bowl. Add the cornmeal slowly, mixing with your fingers and making sure any lumps are dissolved. The dough should be soft but still able to hold its shape without cracking when handled. 
  3. Divide the dough into 40 even pieces and then roll each piece into a ball. Then, flatten into a disc and make sure the edges are rounded. 
  4. On a grill pan over medium heat, heat some oil. Once hot, add the arepa dough to cook for about 4-6 minutes on each side or until lightly brown. Let cool before handling again.  
  5. Once cooled, make a cut at the top of each dough disk to make a pocket to spoon the chicken avocado filling into each arepa.  
  6. Serve warm and enjoy! 

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