Bettina Stern and Suzanne Simon are long-time friends who met when they were in a cookbook club together almost 20 years ago. The two immediately connected over their shared love of exploring the world through cooking and travel, as well as their passion for health and wellness.
Their complementary personalities – Bettina is an adventurous rule-breaker whose inner child loves to play outside, while Suzanne is nurturing, loyal, and finds equal joy combing a beach or an antique shop – further solidified their friendship.
Their first business venture was a blog called “Loulies”, named after Bettina’s grandmother, featuring recipes and cooking tips. At a time when there weren’t many existing food blogs, Loulies earned Bettina and Suzanne a place in DC’s food scene. They began making connections to people in the industry, and started holding cooking demos and classes. They also discovered a void in the market: as awareness of our food system’s impact on personal and environmental health was growing, an increasing number of people were looking to eat more whole, sustainably sourced foods, but convenient options were virtually non-existent.
In the fall of 2012, Bettina and Suzanne were asked to participate in a startup kitchen competition. Inspired by a trip to Tulum, Mexico, they prepared handmade, freshly griddled corn tortillas filled with outrageously flavorful seasonal vegetables. The unconventional take on tacos was such a success, they were asked then and there to test run their concept in a farmers market. In the spring of 2013 they opened “Chaya” (original spelling) in a 10’x10’ tent at the White House Farmer’s Market. Within two months, the business required a regular staff of eight to keep up with demand.
In 2015, Chaia transformed to a brick-and-mortar shop in historic Georgetown. Bettina and Suzanne brought with them the invaluable experience of cooking year-round in the farmers market, including both a devoted customer following and the entrepreneurial flexibility that comes with adjusting to fluctuating seasonal ingredients. This experience still forms the foundation of Chaia’s menu - standing favorites inspired by farmers market recipes, complemented by seasonal specials.
Chaia has since opened a second downtown shop in Chinatown (2019) and a pop-up shop in Bethesda (2021), and has plans to soon bring its insanely delicious tacos further into the DMV area and beyond.
celebrate authenticity in people and food
to everything there is a season
be in tune with your environment, take its fluctuations in stride, and be inspired by the moment
one taco at a time
recognize the potential of little-but-fierce ideas and actions [that lead to lasting impact
build a warm and welcoming space where growth is nurtured, gratitude is extended and kindness prevails
question convention, push boundaries, and be bold…dare to imagine what’s possible