Farida Mercedes: Creating Blessings Out of Uncertainty & Imperfect Action

by Nicole Ashton

Synonymous with efficient domesticity, women rose to the occasion when Covid-19 forced children to study virtually and the home became the frontline. Women all around the world took up arms and toiled as moms, chefs, teachers, doctors, and eventually business owners. Farida Mercedes, a mother of four and Assistant Vice President of Human Resources at L’Oreal, found herself in this very position and it changed her life in ways she never thought possible. She used the international health crisis as a way to reshape her life into one of her own design. She ventured into food service as an owner/operator, launching IZKINA by CHEF PAPI in Brooklyn, NY, doing what she loves with the people she loves, and making it home in time to meet the school bus.

During the height of the pandemic, Farida found herself in an impossible situation. Her husband, a corrections officer, fearful of bringing the virus home, stayed away for a month. Having small children who could no longer attend school in person, Farida was forced to give up her traditional 9-5 job. This led her to go against everything she believed in. “I was raised to be an independent woman, never depend on anyone. You go to school, you get a job, you make a career, and you get married and you have children, but you always stay independent. You never depend on anyone. Now I was leaving my job and I was going to have to depend on my husband and I questioned it, every day.” Farida was not alone in her plight – 

From February to December 2020, over 2.3 million women withdrew from the job force – they were weren’t working anymore or seeking work.


Looking to find self-fulfillment, Farida knew she could establish her own business as a way to build generational wealth, but also as a way to give back to her community. This is how IZKINA by Chef Papi  was born. Farida and her husband purchased two food trucks and with their partner, Stephen “Chef Papi” Rodriguez , they have set up an outdoor eatery that serves Spanish-infused savory selections like pizza, sandwiches, and tacos. The space is both family & pet friendly, as it was important to Farida to create a venue that would be an oasis from the surrounding city, while still keeping the flavor of the Puerto Rican culture she grew up with.


While jumping into the unfamiliar food industry headfirst required a gigantic leap of faith, Farida took it in stride, learning as much as possible, as quickly as possible. This taught her something about herself. She was always a perfectionist, she often allowed that characteristic of her personality to hold her back from taking action. She learned that combining passion with confidence makes women unstoppable. “No one is going to give it to you. You have to push yourself. And if you fall, you get back up. Nothing has to be perfect. You can fix it afterwards. Don’t let the fear of imperfection stop you.” If she could give women in her position advice on how to start their own ventures, “Use your idea, and do one thing every day. You’ll get excited as you see these things come together.”

IZKINA by Chef Papi is located at 1282 Myrtle Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11221

Outdoor dining, Pick-up, & Delivery available (No Alcohol or BYOB)

Open Sunday-Thursday 2pm-Midnight, Friday & Saturday 4pm-2am

The outdoor space is also available for private functions. 

IZKINA by Chef Papi is also available for catering your special events on site. 


IG: izkina_brooklyn

Contact IZKINA by Chef Papi directly for further information.

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