Gorgeous Chef Marcela Valladolid is the Food Network's latest cooking star! With a new show entitled Mexican Made Easy, and a fantastic cookbook, Fresh Mexico out in book stores now, the fashion-plate, chef, mother and TV personality is at the top of the world. We chatted with Marcela about how she got into the business of cooking and how she keeps it sexy and sabroso in the kitchen.
How did you get into cooking? What made you decide to become a chef?
I come from a family of chefs. My grandfather was a chef and my aunt opened up one of the first cooking schools in Mexico and gave me my first job. My mom wasn’t classically trained, but she’s one of the best cooks I’ve ever known. Cooking has been a part of my family forever—it’s a part of the whole culture and our whole way of life. In fact, a lot of the recipes from my cookbook were passed down from generation to generation, so they all have some sort of family story tied in because our lives just kind of revolve around food.
Talk to us about your experience writing your cookbook, Fresh Mexico.
Well, the worst thing you could do for a publication is to print a recipe that doesn’t work. I’ve heard so many chefs say, 'Writing that book was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,' because they don't know the language. So much of cooking is instinct and trial and error. It took me about a year as an editor at Bon Appetit to really learn the language, you know; the order in which you write the ingredients, the words to describe the preparation, the equipment that’s mainstream in most households and things like that. Fortunately when it came time for me to write the book, the language from Clarkson Potter (Fresh Mexico's publisher) was almost identical to the language at Bon Appetit!
You're so loyal to your Mexican roots, how has the move to California been?
Until last year I lived in Mexico my entire life, in Tijuana. I just moved two months ago actually. Well, my home is still in Tijuana, in Baja, but I have a place in Coronado Island in San Diego. My son is in school in San Diego and crossing the international border to take him to school everyday...Well, I can’t wake the kid up at 4AM everyday, so most of the time I spend up here now. It's gorgeous, it's the happiest place in the world!
Fresh Mexico is one of the most accessible books that I’ve seen that stayed true to Mexican flavors and the traditions. Can you talk about that inspiration?
The biggest inspiration came out of frustration. There’s a misconception of what Mexican cuisine even is. People thinks it's burritos, nachos, chimichangas and those crunchy beef tacos. There's so much more going on in Mexican food. It can be really healthy. I grew up in Baja, which is on the coast, so I grew up with really fresh seafood dishes. I would cross the border everyday so I was exposed to Jack in the Box and La Salsa and all that fast food stuff, but in no way was I thinking I was eating anything similar to what my mom was putting on our dinner table growing up. My inspiration grew out of that frustration. I was like ‘I can’t believe that people think we eat this!’
Are you really excited about your new Food Network show, Mexican Made Easy?
You have no idea! I’ve been trying to get on the Food Network for years and years! I just really love the network and I’m really proud of the show, Mexican Made Easy. It was like coming back home when we started that first day on the set. We shot in San Diego, so it was my same crew from my show on Discovery En Español, and a lot of the people were from my hometown. So everybody was investing their time so they could get paid, but they were also investing heart and soul because they really believed in it and they were so happy that there was finally a show all about Mexican food on the Food Network. It was just crazy, the vibe that we had on that set, how everybody was just working so hard to make this a beautiful show and I think it came out that way.
Rumor has it that you’re a fashion maven. Do you have any cute style tips for our readers so they can look cute and sassy while they’re still getting their grub on in the kitchen?
When you’re cooking you can’t have that much jewelry or long flowy sleeves because you don't want to get stuck in the food processor, or anything else really dangerous, so I’m all about accessories. Big earrings are huge for me. My absolute biggest obsession on the planet are shoes—which you’ll can't see on Mexico Made Easy—but you can totally wear hot shoes in the kitchen if you want to feel sexy and put together in the kitchen. I’m all about really bright colors and having fun and being relaxed and just being me. I was really fortunate because Food Network let my style come out in that show, so I think you guys are going to like it!
Catch Mexican Made Easy Saturday mornings on the Food Network at 9:30AM EST!