Why did you decide to take on another series?
Ingrid Hoffmann: How could you say no to Food Network? That was my dream! It was not something that I was pursuing because I was busy building and bettering the Latin show, but when it knocked on the door, it was a dream come true, so I’m more than happy. You know, when you do what you love, it’s not work.
When did you discover that you had a talent for cooking?
I started cooking very early on, when I was so little that I couldn’t even reach the stove. My mom was a cordon bleu chef and had restaurants and a catering business since I was probably 3 years old. So I sort of grew up in the business, right there; I cook because I’m a professional eater. I love to eat!
Is “Simply Delicioso” different than “Delicioso?”
I think that as a person and a creator, you always evolve. Looking back through my early days of starting to cook on TV, I think that I have definitely evolved in the sense that I have really come together as far as my flavors, my textures, my colors and the direction that I want to head into — so that it actually tells a story. When people tune in, they know that this is going to be about easy, fun and flavorful food. If they turn me on, I want them to immediately know that this is not going to be some complicated meal. I always say, “If I can do it, you can do it.”
What do you hope that viewers and aspiring chefs will get out of “Simply Delicioso?”
In the beginning, I always sort of felt that I [had] to show off my skills to be accepted in the culinary world — that I [had] to make the complicated things that I knew how to make. Eventually I realized, “You know, this is not how I eat and cook at home!” What I want to be able to give people is the tools to show them how easy and fun I can make it, so that the next time they’re thinking of driving through and picking up food, that they’ll sort of remember, “Oh, you know what? I’ve got some chicken at home, and she made that recipe the other day [that] was so easy, I think I can do it.” If I can inspire you to do that, then I think my mission has been accomplished.
What are the tools you think are necessary for a beginner cook?
Well, I think the thing that you need the most for a beginner is not a tool; it’s passion. You need to be able to enjoy it and have fun with it, because if you look at it as a chore, forget it! It’s not going to be a great experience. So first and foremost, it’s got to be about having fun. And the second, obviously a good knife, a good pan, and get moving! I don’t think the kitchen is so much about having – you know, there’s people who are gadget happy — I’m not. I don’t have a lot of cupboard space, so it’s really about basic things.
For someone first trying their hand at cooking Latin food at home, what would you recommend?
Ceviches are real easy and real fast, and they’re dummy-proof. They’re exotic and you can play with them; you can change them so much. You don’t necessarily need to cook your ceviches in lime; you can cook them in sour, you can cook them in orange. That’s a good beginning recipe.
Is there anyone you’d love to cook for?
I enjoy cooking for my loved ones, and for people that I like and love. Does it attract me to go and cook for celebrities? Like I said, it’s more important for me to cook for people that I love. Then I can feel it; I can get into it, and I enjoy it. The only reason I cook is because I like to enjoy my friends and my family. It’s an intimate thing.
What would be your advice for someone planning a dinner party?
The first mistake [people make] is that they want to impress their guests, and they tend to pick all these really complicated things — which they’ll spend days doing, be completely stressed out and then they end up being so tired the night of the event that they don’t enjoy it. I always say, “Stick to good home foods, things that you’re familiar with, know how to make, and that at the end people will enjoy.” Who doesn’t like to have real, home cooked food? Everybody goes to restaurants, everybody can buy themselves a meal, but not everybody gets to eat a lot of home-cooked meals. So stick to the basics and pick smart menus. Smart menus are menus that don’t involve last-minute things that you need to do to them. You can make them ahead, have them ready, warm them up and serve them. That way you’re actually at your party instead of in the kitchen. It’s about picking smart menus. In my house, we’re always in the kitchen — and that’s a nice thing!