You know Geoffrey, Jeff, Katie, Marcela and Sunny from their other adventures on Food Network and FoodNetwork.com, but for the first time last Saturday, you watched them come together on their brand-new series, The Kitchen (airing Saturdays at 11am/10c). Katie and Geoffrey cooked alongside each other, Sunny showed off her version of crepes, and the group dished about the latest trends and topics in everyone’s favorite room of the house: the kitchen. Before the season gets too far underway, however, FN Dish wants fans to get to know each of the co-hosts a bit better, so we’ll be sharing exclusive interviews with all five chefs every day this week. Read on below to learn more about Marcela Valladolid, and check back tomorrow to hear from Sunny.
Tell us your culinary point of view in the kitchen in a few sentences.
Marcela Valladolid: Quick, easy, approachable and Mexican at the core
Why did you want to get involved in The Kitchen?
MV: Because I wanted to add that perspective precisely. A lot of the hosts have kids — well, the Jeffries have kids — but I am the only one that’s a mom, and I think that’s a very important perspective to have. And also, I think I’m always going to try to infuse that Mexican flavor and Mexican ingredients, and I think that’s very relevant these days. I think there’s a huge interest in that, so I think you can infuse that at the same time as being incredibly approachable …. So I think there’s a huge interest in anything Hispanic, and I’d love to be able to be that voice on the show. I’m sure all of us appreciate, like I said, easy and approachable menus, but because, like I said, I’m a mom, it’s just something that I totally gravitate toward.
How is The Kitchen different than the other shows on Food Network?
MV: Well, it’s a panel show, so that’s huge. I don’t think that Food Network has ever done anything like that. I think it’s a great opportunity to show different points of view on the exact same either ingredient or technique or recipe or cuisine of a culture, so it’s really nice to get different perspectives on how something can be done.
What will you bring to The Kitchen? What’s your perspective?
MV: I think my angle is always going to be quick, easy and approachable.
Do you ever use recipes when you cook something new, or do you just wing it? And if you do use recipes, what kinds of dishes are they for? What are you looking up?
MV: I definitely use recipes, especially when I’m getting adventurous. If I’m baking something, I try to follow a recipe. If I’m trying something from a cuisine that I’m accustomed to cooking with traditionally, I’ll definitely go for a recipe. I am obsessed with cookbooks, and I have a couple hundred of them at home. And also, when you follow a recipe as it’s written, you’re kind of respecting what the author intended, and then if you want to play around, add some stuff, add some spice, add some whatever, then you can have some fun, but they’re written a certain way for a reason, so I like to respect, and then kind of play with it.
What’s your go-to cookbook?
MV: Oh, my gosh, I have so many — so, so many. I like Claudia Flemming’s dessert book. It’s one of my favorites for desserts. I love anything by Ina [Garten]. I think she’s beautiful, in terms of her approach to cooking, and it’s all very comforting …. Jamie Oliver’s cookbooks are beautiful. I am a huge fan of the pioneers of Mexican food, Diana Kennedy, Rick Bayless, all of those books that I treasure so much, and I cook from them often, actually. Diana Kennedy’s Oaxaca cookbook is something that I look [to] for inspiration, I think, almost anytime I’m developing a menu. It’s countless, I think.
Who’s the one Food Network talent you’d most like to face off against in a friendly cook-off?
MV: I think the hardest one would be Chef Symon, Michael Symon. I think he’s one of the best Iron Chefs. I think he has a great food point of view and perspective. I think he is a truly classically trained chef. I think he knows what he’s doing. I’d probably lose, but I’m always up for a good battle, so I would say him. And any kind of tough competition, it just makes you grow as a chef and as a person.
You were born and grew up in Tijuana. What’s your favorite food memory from that time?
MV: Oh, my gosh, I have so many …. Pretty much anything that just kind of reminds me of what [my mom] was. Roasted chickens were huge at my house for making tacos. So she would roast a chicken, then she would set up the entire bar with, like, warm corn tortillas, salsas … avocado slices, radishes, grilled peppers … she would set up, like, an entire bar. And it was so simple; it was just a roast chicken. But something like that really takes me back.
We know you’re the ultimate source of knowledge on all things Mexican cuisine, but when you’re not cooking Mexican food, what cuisines do you crave, and which are you most likely to make at home?
MV: Mediterranean food is huge in my house. Really simple proteins that are just marinated in oil and maybe some fresh herbs from the garden — that’s the stuff that I really like to cook at home.
For fans looking to stock their pantries for easy Mexican cooking, what are a few classic ingredients they should always have on hand?
MV: I think one of the best and most-important things to have are dehydrated chiles, so anchos, chipotles, arbol — any of the dried chiles — and the reason they’re so fabulous is because they’re so incredibly versatile. And I always recommend having the actual chile pod — the dehydrated chile — versus the powder, because if you have a spice grinder, which most people do these days … you take the chile and you stem it and you take the seeds out, and you rip it up and you throw it in there, and you make it a powder. And it’s much more fresh and it’s much smokier. And you can use it in any marinade, any vinaigrette, to season up any vinaigrette …. Tortillas are always going to be a must at my house because of their incredible versatility …. Canned chipotles in adobo, I think, are also incredibly versatile and great to also kind of spice up a dish without adding too much spice and adding a lot of smoky flavor.
Rapid fire: Think fast!
Ketchup, mustard or mayonnaise? Mayo, homemade
Chocolate or vanilla? Vanilla
Bagels or doughnuts? Bagels
Cream cheese or butter? Can I say both?
Coffee or tea? Tea
French fries or onion rings? Both
Burgers or hot dogs? Burgers
White meat or dark? Dark
Cake or pie? Pie
Beer or wine? Wine
Tune in to The Kitchen every Saturday at 11am/10c.