About Us

About Esencias Panameñas Restaurant & Catering

Esencias Panameñas Restaurant & Catering is an authentic Panamanian cuisine restaurant
and a sole proprietor business.

The Mission

Esencias Panameñas will combine menu variety, ambience, and friendly staff to create a sense of "place" in order to reach its goal of over-all value in the dining/entertainment experience. Its main focus will be to serve a large selection of quality and freshly-prepared authentic Panamanian meals with healthy ingredients in a simple straightforward manner at a great price.

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The Name

Esencias Panameñas refers to the distinctive Panamanian Spices that causes a unique aroma and flavor that is as pleasing to the senses as it is to the palate. Panama's key spice is "culantro" (not cilantro), as shown in the picture to the left. Culantro is a tropical perennial in the Apiaceae family that is widely used as a seasoning in many of our dishes. It is native to Central and South America and not well known in the United States.


The Owner

An Afro Latina native of Panama City, Panama, Yadira Stamp realized her passion for the culinary arts at an early age, assisting her caterer mother in the kitchen as she prepared meals for her clients. Her first dream however, was to become an Astronaut - a profession that back then was considered for "men only", and because of her determination she attended an all-boy high school in Panama, against her mother's wish; graduated 2nd in her class, and obtained a full scholarship. In 1980, she moved to Washington, DC, and stayed with family while attending the University. In 1982 she became homeless for choosing to stay in school. But even that did not stop her from graduating. Thanks to the help of strangers she was able to get back on her feet and went on to obtained an Electrical Engineering Degree in pursuit of her dream, but the apprenticeship program at NASA was abolished, and decided to switch to becoming a Technical Analyst and Designer, which she did for 32 years.

Because her culinary interest never waned, she later decided to return to school and earned a Culinary Degree at the Art Institute of Washington (AIW), where she graduated in 2010. As part of AIW's internship program, she volunteered for six (6) months at Pinzimini, in Arlington, VA, where she performed virtually every restaurant job. She worked as a dishwasher, a busboy, a waitress, a line cook, a bartender, and a front-of-the-house assistant Manager; shadowing both the Executive Chef and Front-of-the-house Manager in hopes of acquiring additional skill sets that were not taught in school. In 2011, she pursued her internship program further by returning to Panama, where she spent another three (3) months at the hands of culinary matriarchs in the countryside, who taught her about the wonderful world of the native Panamanian gastronomy.

Over the past 30 years, Chef Yadira has maintained a "pay it forward" mantra and has spent much of her career volunteering, mentoring, performing cooking demonstrations, and serving culinary creations throughout the Washington Metro Area. She has performed cooking demonstrations at the Farm-to-Street Party, as part of the 'Eat Local First Week', as well as during 'Growing Healthy Schools Month', which celebrated the DC Healthy Schools initiative that was launched by First Lady Michelle Obama in public schools throughout the District of Columbia. She also volunteered for three (3) consecutive years, from 2009 to 2011, at The Metropolitan Cooking & Entertaining Show, which is an annual two-day culinary extravaganza where she assisted in the preparation of the food presented by The Neelys and by Paula Deen.

In 2012, Chef Yadira joined the volunteer team at 'N Street Village', a community of empowerment and recovery for women in Washington, DC, where she continues to cooks and serves meals. In 2014, she participated in the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance Organization's annual "Turn Up the Heat: A Celebration of Women Chefs" event, where she prepared and served native Panamanian dishes to 400 attendees.

On July 20, 2014, Chef Yadira's dream of becoming a Restaurateur finally came to fruition. She opened Esencias Panameñas Restaurant & Catering, in Washington, DC, where she prepares authentic Panamanian dishes and beverages. In 2016, she was featured on the CBS channel 9 Morning Show, where she showcased her dishes. She was also featured in the Washington Post for her delectable Panamanian Christmas Fruit Cake.

Chef Yadira participated in the Greater Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Business Expo (GWHCC) 2015-2017, where she served her native Panamanian dishes to 200 attendees. From 2016-2019, in celebration of 'Hispanic Heritage Month', she's been called upon to speak about food policy, and to cater events at the AARP Organization, NBC4 News, Montgomery County Park and Planning Commission, the USDA and the FDA. In 2016, she was featured in 'El Tiempo Latino' (Washington Post Spanish Newspaper) for her Latin cuisine. In 2017, Chef Yadira served as one of the Chefs for the 2017 Presidential Inauguration luncheon, as well as she participated in The Congressional Black Caucus 47th Annual Legislative Conference, where she demoed and served one of her native Panamanian dishes to 100 attendees. In 2018, Panama qualified for the finals of the FIFA World Cup, and she was featured on FOX 5 Good Day DC, on Telemundo, who telecasted the game live from the Restaurant, as well as in the Washington Post and the New Yorker newspapers, and on WTOP radio.  

Due to gentrification, Esencias Panameñas Restaurant & Catering, in Washington, DC – winner of the 2017 and 2018 Best of DC – Best Latin American Restaurant, closed its doors to the public on December 31, 2018, as many other small businesses along the Georgia Avenue corridor. However, Chef Yadira continues to offer her Catering services, as well as she continues to volunteer, mentor, and perform cooking demonstrations. Currently, she teamed up with the Latino Education of Washington, DC (LEDC), to mentor Hispanic women who are aspiring entrepreneurs in the food industry. She also teamed up with No Kid Hungry DC, DC Central Kitchen, and World Central Kitchen, to assist in preparing food for the needy.

Chef Yadira has been featured on television, newspapers, online magazines, and in several blogs, both in Panama City, Panama, as well as in the DC Metropolitan Area. For more information, please access the "Media" page.