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This Blind Latina Didn’t Just Become a Chef, She Also Opened Her Own Restaurant in Chicago

Laura Martinez is not your typical chef. She is blind.

Credit: Laura Martinez / Facebook

When Martinez was a baby, doctors discovered cancer in eye. It led to vision loss, and, eventually, the removal of one eye. She was only a year old.

During college, she began to miss her mother’s homemade meals. So she began to explore cooking.

Credit: Araceli R. / Yelp

The university cafeteria’s bland food had no appeal to Martinez. She then started to use her sense of smell and taste to explore foods and create her own dishes. She soon abandoned her degree in psychology and moved to Chicago to attend the Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts.

How does Martinez deal with using knives? She says she has plenty of experience.

Photo Credit: Laura Martinez / Facebook

“I always loved knives. In fact, when I was a child, they were my favorite toy,” Martinez told NPR.

In 2010, Martinez was hired by a renowned Chicago chef, Charlie Trotter.

Credit: Laura Martinez / Facebook

Soon after graduation, Martinez secured a job with Chef Charlie Trotter. His restaurant, Charlie Trotter’s, was a mainstay in Chicago in the ’80s and ’90s. In 2013, Trotter died of a stroke.  Martinez had no job leads after Trotter’s death.

Martinez spent the next two years working on a new goal: opening her own restaurant.

Credit: Laura Martinez / Facebook

With the help of her husband, Maurilio Ortega, and her mother, Josephina, Martinez worked tirelessly to achieve her dream.

READ: These Latin American Dishes Aren’t as “Latino” as You Thought

Earlier this year, her dream came true. She opened La Diosa restaurant in Chicago.

Credit: La Diosa / Facebook

Martinez hosted a soft opening in January inviting media, friends and family. La Diosa is Spanish for “Goddess.”

Martinez got to showcase her culinary skills.

Credit: Laura Martinez / Facebook

Despite not having sight, Martinez’s dishes are beautifully crafted. Martinez is building her brand on a fusion of Mexican and French cuisine.

She’s even created her own signature dish.

Credit: La Diosa / Facebook

Looks like a pizza, right? Almost.

“I call it tartizza because it’s kind of between a tart and pizza, but the dough is delicate and light, but flaky at the same time,” Martinez told NPR.

Martinez’s story has become a beacon of hope for the blind community.

Credit: Laura Martinez / Facebook

“I don’t think there’s another blind restaurateur who’s opened their own restaurant in the country. I think it’s a feather in the cap of Illinois and Chicago to have her,” her adviser Andrew Fogaty told DNAInfo.

READ: What Would Mama Cook? How to Prepare Classic Latino Dishes

Martinez has used her story to encourage youths to follow their dreams.

Credit: Laura Martinez / Facebook

Martinez has spoken for The Maryland School for the Blind, the National Federation of the Blind, and numerous small engagements for other blind organizations around the country.

But, Martinez wants diners to remember one thing: her cooking.

Credit: La Diosa / Facebook

Martinez may be the first blind chef to open a restaurant in the US, but she wants people to remember her food.

“Now that I’m known for being the blind chef, I want people to look beyond that,” Martinez told NPR. ? ?

Are you inspired by Laura Martinez’s story? Don’t forget to share on Facebook and Twitter. 

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This Chicago Man Used His Wrongful Conviction Settlement Money to Open a Barber College With His Former Prison Guard

Things That Matter

This Chicago Man Used His Wrongful Conviction Settlement Money to Open a Barber College With His Former Prison Guard

Screenshot via YouTube

Some people are dealt a tough hand in life and, for whatever reason, aren’t able to cope with it. They might spiral into bad lifestyles choices or other unhelpful coping mechanisms. However, other people are able to rise above adversity. Like Juan Rivera, a man who spent 20 years behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit.

After he was wrongly convicted of murder, 48-year-old Juan Rivera used his settlement money to open up a barber college with his former prison guard.

Juan Rivera went to jail for the rape and murder of 11-year-old Holly Staker in 1992. Chicago police used unlawful psychological mind games over the course of a four-day interrogation to coerce Rivera to admitting to the crime. The Chicago police also destroyed DNA evidence and lied to the prosecution team. Juan Rivera spent 20 years in Stateville Correctional Center.

While he was in prison, Juan Rivera became friends with prison guard and barbershop coordinator, Bobby Mattison. Mattison knew that some prisoners just needed the right opportunities to make better life choices. After a lot of hard work, Mattison opened up the first licensed barber college in a maximum security prison. Rivera was one of his students.

“We lock them up well, but what do we do to help them get back on their feet?” Mattison told Block Club Chicago. “I see these guys coming in and out. I knew I wanted to do something to help them.

It was through Mattison that Rivera began to change his attitude and outlook on life. When Rivera left prison, the city of Chicago awarded him $20 million in a wrongful conviction suit. Rivera knew exactly what he was going to do with the settlement money: give back to his community.

Together, Rivera and Mattison founded Legacy Barber College. Legacy Barber College recruits students from inner-city Chicago who are in danger of getting caught up in a life of crime. The barber college partners with high schools, community colleges, and career day fairs to show kids that “they can find a good career even if college isn’t an option.”

“This started, believe it or not, in prison,” Juan Rivera said. “I saw a need. We want to help the less fortunate. Because once they get out, they usually have nothing to fall back on.”

Legacy Barber College’s 32 current enrollees are also college or high school students. At the school, students can earn their barber’s license, but they also learn “financial literacy, customer service and running a business.”

But Legacy Barber College’s services aren’t limited to teaching. They also, naturally, give haircuts. “We want the community to know it’s theirs, not mine,” Juan Rivera said. “We want people to feel welcome and comfortable taking their kids and family here.”

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Retired Detective Rafael Tovar Recalls Working John Wayne Gacy Case In New Peacock Docuseries

Entertainment

Retired Detective Rafael Tovar Recalls Working John Wayne Gacy Case In New Peacock Docuseries

John Wayne Gacy shocked the world with is violent and terrifying crimes. The serial killer operated in the Chicago suburbs and killed at least 33 people. “John Wayne Gacy: Devil in Disguise” digs deep into the story that true crime enthusiasts think they know.

Peacock is releasing a new true-crime docuseries “John Wayne Gacy: Devil in Disguise.”

NBC News Studios is bringing a new true-crime docuseries to the streaming world with “John Wayne Gacy: Devil in Disguise.” The documentary promises to take even those who know the story of John Wayne Gacy through parts of the case and serial killer that few know.

The docuseries relies on interviews from law enforcement, neighbors, victims, and family members affected by the murders. Retired Detective Rafael Tovar and Executive Producer Alexa Danner spoke with mitú about working the the case and creating the docuseries.

Tovar was the first Spanish-speaking police officer in the Chicago suburbs in 1970. Eight years later, Tovar was helping to unravel the horrific murders committed by John Wayne Gacy.

“It was a phase into the case because when we first started, we were working on a missing person report for one person, never figuring that it was going to turn out to be what it turned out to be,” Tovar recalls about the case. “It was something new every day until we started digging that’s when everything broke loose, and it became the case of a lifetime for a police officer.”

The former Des Plaines detective remembers the moment that case was going to be much more than anticipated. Around December 21, when the officers executed a second warrant on John Wayne Gacy’s suburban home, Tovar and other authorities made gruesome discoveries. Tovar remembers digging under the house with an evidence technician when they discover three left femurs. The bones were too decayed to belong to the last victim, Robert Piest.

“The John Wayne Gacy story has certainly been told multiple times over the year and I think that there is a sense that there’s a narrative out there that is known and accepted,” Alexa Danner, an executive producer on the docuseries says. “What we really found as we began to produce this documentary was that there are a lot of questions that remain about the case. There’s a lot of mystery still surrounding it.”

Danner promises that even those who think they know the John Wayne Gacy story well will learn new things about the crimes. “John Wayne Gacy: Devil in Disguise” talks to people never interviewed before and takes a hard look at the case like never before.

The investigation into John Wayne Gacy changed law enforcement practices drastically. Procedures were adjusted to better assist with missing persons reports, especially children. Tovar also shared that John Wayne Gacy himself claimed to have had other victims.

“I was transferring him from our police lockup to the county lockup. Just in conversation, I asked him, ‘John. There are a lot of numbers going around. How many people did you kill?’ and he said, ‘Well, I’ve said this, I’ve said that, but 45 sounds like a good number.’ So I asked him, ‘Well, where are they?’ He said, ‘No. That’s your job to find out,’” Tovar recalls about that conversation. “He was the type of guy that knew that you knew something or that you were going to find out, he’d be totally honest with you. If he didn’t think that you were going to find out, he liked to play mind games with you. I believe him. Everything else he told me was true, so I believe that there are more out there.”

The show will take people through Gacy’s life before the violent attacks he became known for after his arrest. It will show people the life he had in Iowa that might have been a warning sign of things to come. The docuseries explores lingering questions about his mother’s ignorance about her son’s dealings and questions about the real body count.

Danner recalls a psychiatric report done on Gacy after his arrest that should have given everyone pause.

“It essentially said that this man would not stop behaving like this. There’s no known way to stop his behavior or change it,” Danner says. “To look back ten years before he’s arrested for all of these killing and know that he was already being assessed that way or diagnosed that way is really troubling and horrible.”

“John Wayne Gacy: Devil in Disguise” will be available for streaming March 25 on Peacock.

READ: New Netflix Docuseries Explores The Summer The Night Stalker Terrorized Los Angeles

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