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Grilled In a Minute: Ingrid Hoffmann

Julie Mautner - April 4th, 2012

Raised in Colombia and the Netherlands, Ingrid Hoffmann began cooking with her mother, a Cordon Bleu chef, when she still needed a stool to reach the stove. She later moved to Miami and opened La Capricieuse, a fashion boutique in Coconut Grove, and then a restaurant, Rocca, featuring tabletop cooking on heated lava rocks. Appearing regularly on local TV, Hoffman caught the eye of Hearst Entertainment, which signed her for her first cooking show, Delicioso with Ingrid Hoffmann, and launched it in Latin America. Her English show, Simply Delicioso, premiered on Food Network in 2007 and moved to the Cooking Channel in 2010. Meanwhile, her one hour Spanish-language show, also called Delicioso, began its new season in February on the Spanish language network Univision. Also under the Delicioso brand are a radio show, a mobile show (one minute video recipes delivered daily on your cell), and an iTunes app. In 2008, Hoffmann published SIMPLY DELICIOSO: A Collection of Everyday Recipes with a Latin Twist, which was also released in Spanish. Her latest cookbook is Latin D'Lite. Her Latin-influenced products with T-Fal (paella pans, stockpots, calderos, etc.) are now sold at Target, K-Mart, and on HSN, while another line, with Furi, is on HSN. Hoffmann sits on the board of New York City’s Food and Education Fund and Miami’s Amigos for Kids, and actively supports many other local and national charities. She lives in Miami.

One of the reasons for your huge following seems to be your message, “If I can cook like this, anyone can.” Is that really how you feel?
Absolutely, yes. My food is simple, yet bursting with flavor. Making it all seem complicated is what intimidates people and keeps them away from the kitchen. It’s only food! We’re not sending anyone to the moon here, folks! Cooking is not something to stress over.

What’s the one cookbook (not your own!) you use most often?
Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything.

You opened the Miami restaurant Rocca with your mother and two partners in 1993 and closed it a few years later. Any thoughts on opening another restaurant?
The restaurant business is male dominated and very tough—and even tougher for women. It’s for big-ass bad guys. But I’m always open and, under the right circumstances, I might do it.

Describe what happened on the very worst day in your culinary career.
I was a teenager working for my mother’s catering company, and she was doing the inaugural ball for the new Governor. Thirty minutes before the reception started, I decided that the Champagne and hors d’oeuvres table needed flowers trailing down from the chandelier. So I got a ladder and while balancing and trying to accomplish my mission, I lost my balance and grabbed on to the chandelier. I swung over the table until I came down, with the chandelier and half the roof, onto the table and all the food. I almost broke my back and was cut up, with blood splattering everywhere. No food, glasses, etc. were left, and I was fired on the spot. As far as my own food, I only cook easy food that’s hard or nearly impossible to mess up!

We’ve heard you talk about the power of food to evoke strong memories and emotions. What do you eat that reminds you of childhood?
Oatmeal and coffee in the morning remind me of my grandparents. Brandied shrimp of my dad, arroz con pollo of my mom, and sauerbraten of my grandpa. Green mango with salt reminds me of my sisters, when we were kids.

What do you eat when no one is watching?
I love to make a full pot of white rice, pour ketchup on it, and eat it with a big spoon while sitting on my bed watching TV. OK, so I eat rice with ketchup, and I confess to it! Let the food police come get me!

Are there any food trends you just can’t abide?
The foams! Food snobs love foam. Who wakes up and says, “Today I want foam. And I want to pay $800 for it!”?

In January, you launched the Latin Burger food truck in Miami. Que pasa?
My mission was accomplished, and I’m no longer involved. My goal was to put culinary students and homeless people from Project Vacant Streets to work…and to serve good cheap food. It also allowed me to test market my new sauce and spice line, which was always my plan. Now they’re rolling and no longer need my help.

Where did you have your last truly great restaurant meal?
At Ferran Adrià’s tribute dinner in Cancùn in early March, as part of the Cancùn Food & Wine Festival. It was an eight course dinner created by eight Mexican chefs, all of whom trained and worked at elBulli. Each chef did one course, and it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I’m also loving Haven in Miami Beach, a new restaurant with a very creative, unique young chef, Todd Erickson. And I’m loving the Tudor House, also in Miami Beach, owned by Geoffrey Zakarian and chef Jamie DeRosa. Jamie and Geoffrey are an amazing team turning out delish food.

For an eating trip, where in the world would you go right now...and why?
PERU! Because I love Andean flavors. Having family from Peru and Bolivia, I can tell you it’s time for people to get to know these unique flavors. Mexico, Italy, and Spain are flavors I will never tire of. And I love the people there, too…so the food always tastes better.

What part of your television work do love the most? Dislike the most?
I love sharing my food; my love of food, family, and friends; the importance of eating meals as a family; and tips, shortcuts, and money savers with my audience. Seeing the visuals of my ideas take life is gratifying. What I hate are the 4 a.m. start times, the long 14- to 16-hour days in makeup, the hot lights. I don’t mind the long hours as much as I mind the start time! I would start at noon.

Describe the TV show you’d love to do if you could. Got a fantasy show in mind?
I’d love a show where they would let me be free to roam and explore, to farm, fish, and hunt, to show the real food industry and the farmers who labor in it. The history of food and ingredients fascinates me, and urban children are so far removed from all of these things.

What are some things that people may not know about you?
That I speak five languages. And that I eat more than anyone I know, I’m a food addict and a compulsive obsessive life lover. And that I’m too emotional and cry often but laugh harder. I don’t take myself seriously—I’m a goof ball.

Any advice for young women considering a career in food or cooking?
Have passion, study lots. If you can’t travel, then cook food from different countries and learn about them. Always try all food! You don’t need to like it but expand your palate! Work harder. Be reliable, focused, and disciplined. Don’t expect to get to the top quickly—it takes hard work. Have a plan, a mission, a goal…and stay on course. Most important, do it because you love it, since work is what you’ll spend most of your life doing!

And any advice for a chef or food pro who’s dying to be on TV?
Try to find a job behind the cameras first and you’ll see that it’s not the glamour that people think it is. The only way of knowing is by learning the biz, and it’s a tough mean world out there! And if you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen!

Learn more about Ingrid Hoffmann by checking out her website: IngridHoffmann.com