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 and she obtained an Electrical Engineering Degree in its pursuit, but the apprenticeship program at NASA was abolished, and switched to Technical Design and Analysis, 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). Upon graduation in 2010, she immediately accepted a position at Pinzimini, an Italian-inspired eatery located within The Westin Arlington Gateway. From 2010 to 2011 she performed virtually every restaurant job available to her, as part of AIW's internship program. She worked as a dishwasher, a busboy, a waitress, a line cook, a bartender, and a front-of-the-house assistant Manager. She also shadowed both the Executive Chef and Front-of-the-house Manager in hopes of acquiring additional skill sets that were not taught in school.

Over the past 30 years, Chef Yadira has spent much of her career serving culinary creations at churches, weddings, graduations, repass, birthday parties, and in homes as a Private Chef, in the Washington DC 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 her native Panamanian dishes to 400 attendees.

On July 20, 2015, 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 Fruit Cake.

In 2016 and 2017, in celebration of 'Hispanic Heritage Month', she was called upon to cater events for the AARP Organization, for NBC4 News, and for the FDA, serving dishes from Panama and other Hispanic countries, as well as 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.

Esencias Panameñas Restaurant & Catering, in Washington, DC – winner of the 2017 and 2018 Best of DC – Best Latin American Restaurant, was closed on December 31, 2018. However, Chef Yadira continues to offer her Catering services.

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.