Soleil Ramirez was born in Caracas, Venezuela and grew up in a loving, multigenerational home where food was the connection that brought them all together. Her fondest childhood memories are of cooking with her mother and grandmother for all who mean the most to them.
Soleil began her professional career on a practical and lucrative path in the financial department of two large international companies after obtaining a college degree in business administration. A few years later, the pull of her true passion for food and cooking propelled her to enroll in culinary school and embark on a career in the food industry. With deep understanding of both the financial and culinary aspects of the business, she was able to turn a struggling restaurant into a successful enterprise in three short months. She so impressed the owner of that restaurant that he invited her to become his business partner when she was only 26 years old. Unfortunately, that success caught the attention of corrupt government officials who expropriated the restaurant’s and her personal assets, leaving her with nothing while subjecting her to threats and violence. With her life and livelihood in jeopardy, Soleil decided to seek asylum in the United States in 2016 with only the $300 and a week’s worth of clothes. From a young age, Soleil has been determined and tenacious. The challenges she faced in Venezuela during this time fortified that resolve. Dangerous conditions forced her to leave her beloved country but she was determined that she would not be defined by those difficult circumstances.
It took 151 days for her to gain asylum after arriving in the twin cities of Minnesota. Since that time, she has put her entire being into building a meaningful life for herself in this country but she still regularly sends money and medicine to her mother in Venezuela and continues to care deeply about the plight of her people there. With innate talent and impeccable culinary skills as well as an unmatched work ethic and dogged determination, Soleil very quickly caught the attention of renowned chefs in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area including Jonathan Hunt at Al Vento Restaurant and Jack Riebel at The Lexington (Chef de Cuisine 3 years). Amidst the grueling schedules and exacting culinary skills required, she flourished. Whilst immensely grateful for the opportunities to make a living and learn from the best in the business, it has always been her plan to execute her own culinary vision to share her culture and create a safe space for the Latin community. In 2021, during the height of the global Covid-19 pandemic, Soleil took a leap of faith and opened her own restaurant at the Midtown Global Market. Both an expression of her Venezuelan heritage and a gift to her adopted home in Minnesota, Arepa Bar is the only 100% traditional Venezuelan restaurant in the region. From the moment she decided to migrate to this country, her dream has always been to “bring a piece of home to the USA and show the world Venezuela is not just oil, bad government, and drugs”.
Her latest passion project called “Love & Soul Series” is a monthly, private fine dining experience for 30 people where she is able to educate her patrons about the historical roots of Venezuelan and South American cuisine. It is her hope to eventually incorporate this fine dining experience more permanently into her next restaurant venture.
Soleil is eternally grateful for family, friends, mentors and the organizations that helped her succeed. By sharing her practical experience and an infectious exuberance and joy, she is committed to paying it forward to others who have the same audacious entrepreneurial drive to pursue the American dream.