While considering her course of action, she reached out to D.C. restaurateur Rose Previte for guidance. Though the conversation began as Velez seeking advice from a mentor, it evolved into Previte offering her a job as the first-ever pastry chef for North African/Middle Eastern eatery, Maydan.
A few months later, Velez launched La Bodega Bakery within Previte’s other restaurant, Compass Rose. True to its tagline, “Baking Your Childhood with a Twist,” La Bodega serves an assortment of cookies, doughnuts, cakes, and even savories like bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches, as well as global mashups, such as pandan babka and ube egg tarts.
But for Velez, the power of pastries and desserts goes beyond the act of baking. In May, she hosted a doughnut pop-up to raise funds for a D.C. nonprofit that serves low-income immigrants. The experience led her, along with fellow chefs Willa Pelini of Elm St. Social Club in Cincinnati and Rob Rubba of Oyster Oyster in D.C., to establish Bakers Against Racism. In June, the newly created initiative held a virtual bake sale that raised nearly $2 million in just five days. Since then, Bakers Against Racism has continued to host similar events with more restaurants, bakeries, and chefs from around the world joining the cause.