Name: Vanessa Ceballos
Hometown: Born in Merida, Venezuela. Raised in Caracas Capital District, Venezuela.
Where do you live? Queens, New York. The best borough.
What does it mean to have a voice?
It means that you have the power and the personality to show yourself to the world just the way you are, with no shame and with no fear about what anyone thinks about you.
How did you find your voice?
With lots of work on my self-esteem and with my mother always cheering me on to make my dreams come true.
What event or series of events led to you finding your voice?
I suffered bullying all of my teenage years, especially during high school. I wasn’t used to feeling appreciated by anyone else but my family. With time, personal effort, and lots of work on my self-esteem, I became less worried about others’ opinions and more focused on doing things my way. I moved by myself to the concrete jungle with all of my dreams in my pockets. I knew no English – and very little about life – but persistence, goals, and determination can take you wherever you want to go.
In November of 2011, I immigrated to the United States with the goal of realizing my childhood dream of expanding my knowledge of other cuisines, creating original dishes, and becoming the owner of an establishment. I specifically chose New York City because of its diversity in cuisine and people.
Tell me about when you finally found your voice.
I’ve always had my voice and all of us has it. The only exception is that some of us find the way to speak up during different times in our lives. It depends on the series of events that we live every day and how we decide to firmly and clearly express feelings, thoughts, and reasons. My way to find it? Listening to myself and saying no to the rest.
Define “voice” and why it is important?
Voice will be what you say to others to inspire, to motivate. Voice will be your slogan and your most special prayer. Voice involves your personality and your wishes to others. Voice is how you present yourself to the world.
What advice do you have for someone trying to find their voice?
The best advice from me will be: Always do what is best for you and for your heart. Do it by thinking clearly and always putting yourself first. You will be able to help others if you first help yourself.
Firefly’s Head Chef, Vanessa Ceballos, began exploring her passion for food in 2008 by being accepted to and excelling at the gastronomy institute Centro de Capacitación de Alta Cocina in Caracas, Venezuela. She immediately began working as a sous chef at 360° – a well-known and trendy restaurant in Caracas. Her passion was bringing delicious and innovative dishes to the public and infusing them with the best flavors available. This exposure sparked her desire to explore the food industry.
Upon settling in NYC, she began her first partnership as the Head Chef of Jacups Coffee Bistro, in Maspeth, Queens. It was there that she realized that she wanted to open a European-style bistro in Queens, drawing from her various trips to Madrid, Seville, Morocco, and Portugal. She had fallen in love with the quaint, original bistros she explored in those locales that served quality dishes and typical fare with a twist. The trips exposed her to new flavors, colors, aromas, and preparation styles, sealing her decision. She sold her shares and began scouting for a location where the neighborhood suited her vision – finally deciding upon Sunnyside, Queens. This quest led her to open Firefly in 2018, a petite café bistro, conveniently located with easy access to Manhattan and other areas of NYC, becoming its Head Chef and Director of Operations.
She now has free reign to design the culinary style of her dishes and interact with the public (which she loves to do) to learn their preferences and incorporate them into her menu. It has been a satisfying journey.