HomeNews & Views Leading with Culinary Curiosity: A Chef Combines Her Love of Spanish & Cuisine

Leading with Culinary Curiosity: A Chef Combines Her Love of Spanish & Cuisine


It was commonly thought that 90% of restaurants closed in their first year of operation; and while that staggering figure has been disproven,1 it remains that owning, and running, a restaurant is not only difficult but a way of life.

Add in learning Spanish, traveling around Central America, and then opening an authentic Mexican restaurant in the UK, and you would have Thomasina “Tommi” Miers’ path to becoming a restauranteur. Of her experience, she says:

“That one decision to learn Spanish, the Spanish language, has shaped my entire career. Has shaped, you know, what I have done with my life.”

During a graduation trip to Mexico, Tommi found that her passion for Spanish worked really well with her love of food. Her travels led her down the coast of the Yucatan, experiencing the fresh taste of ceviche, to even chatting with a Chief of Police in Guatemala over plate of perro! She credits her Spanish for much of the experience, knowing that language was able to bring her closer to the cultures and people of Central America than those without that common bridge. In her words:

“I think you miss out on all sorts of nuances of a country’s culture without language.”

In 2007, Miers opened the first of her Mexican street-food restaurants, Wahaca. Since then, she has opened 25 branches, three bars, and two street kitchen locations.

What began as a desire to travel and use the Spanish she learned in school, became a lifelong passion for Mexican culture and food. It was the foundation for her entire career. Her experience shows that language acquisition can lead us down many paths, sometimes ones we never imagined ourselves traveling down. Nevertheless, the places that language can lead us can be fascinating, enlightening, and life-altering.

Watch Tommi’s Video for The Guardian Here!

Interested in learning more about the Spanish language? Visit our Lead with Spanish page to learn about career opportunities, scholarships and grants, and college programs to get you started on your language learning journey.

Has cooking—or another passion—played an important role in your language learning story? Tell us about it @LeadWLanguages on social media!