Ingrid Hoffman is a whirlwind, or at least that’s what we’ve gathered from watching this talented Colombian-American chef take the culinary world by storm.
You may have seen her on TV, teaching the world how to simplify and lighten their favorite latin recipes, or perhaps you’ve walked by one of her popular cookbooks at the bookstore recently. Either way, Ingrid Hoffman is far beyond your average chef, and after interviewing her, we’re ready to show you why.
It’s clear that Ingrid knows her stuff, and she’s extremely passionate about her work. It’s no surprise that talking with her made my stomach growl, so don’t say I didn’t warn you when you start craving some delicious paella by the end of this…
é: You use the term “professional eater” to describe yourself, and I just love that. How would you define a professional eater? More importantly, how can I become one?
Ingrid: I take my meals very seriously! I must have starved in a past life, because I have the biggest fear of not having food with me if I get stuck somewhere. Food is constantly on my mind, and it’s my biggest pleasure and obsession. Luckily, I’ve been able to make a career out of it, but I do confess to having my issues with it and binge eating.
I became one by following my passion, so that would be the starting point.
é: I think I’ve got that covered then. Can you tell me a little about how you got into cooking? Have you always loved to cook, or is it a passion you stumbled upon as you got older? Does it run in your family?
Ingrid: I grew up in the industry. My mother is a Cordon Bleu trained chef who had catering companies and restaurants, so I was always around food. More than cooking, I love nurturing and spoiling people through food, as well as sharing a table, so that’s where the cooking comes in.
é: Walk us through the process that goes into creating something for your beautiful product line. What’s been the most fun item to create?
Ingrid: I wanted to create a line of Hispanic inspired items, but with a modern twist; everything available in the US seemed very old-school. So I set out to make great calderos, comales, paelleras and pressure cookers in fun colors. I also wanted these items to make our lives easier, so I made sure they lent themselves to fast cooking, easy cleanup, and non-stick surfaces. I also created fun tabletop items that could instantly liven up your home. Picking colors and designing the tabletop things have been a lot of fun!
é: You’ve had the opportunity to meet, and cook with/for many celebrities – what experience is your favorite to recount? Any funny stories to share?
Ingrid: I keep a “flight plan” (list of goals) on my bathroom mirror because it is the first thing I see in the morning and the last thing I see at night. It keeps me focused. I had Oprah on top of that list for many years. The day finally came, and I told one of her producers about my flight plan and how I had not scratched her off yet because I did not want to jinx the opportunity before seeing myself next to her on her stage. The day of the taping, prior to beginning, Oprah sneaked up on me and said: “Girlfriend, you can scratch me off your list!” The producer had told her the story!
Ingrid: I am very proud of my books Simply Delicioso (Clackson Potter/ Random House) and Latin D’Lite (Penguin/Celebra). Seeing them for the first time on bookstore shelves brought me to my knees. My soon to be launched food line, Cocina by Ingrid Hoffmann is certainly big for me as it has been my dream for years to make life easy for people who might not not have the time or the knowledge, but want to enjoy healthy eating. I take the guess work out of it for them.
Being part of the iconic “Got Milk” campaign was a proud moment, and something that to me said, “Ok. I have arrived in American media culture.”
é: You have two bestselling cookbooks – how was the experience of putting the second one together different from your experience creating the first one?
Ingrid: The first time, I guess ignorance was bliss in a sort of way, I had no fears, so I worked on passion and the dream of my first book. I learned as I went along and had the great luck to have one of the best food editors in the country, my amazing editor Pam Krauss at Clarkson Potter, who guided me by hand. Even so, it was one of the hardest things I had ever done and I feel my soul, gut and heart are in that book, although I quit 3 times during the process! I had a hard time putting my creations on paper and being specific with measurements; cooking has always been about a creative process for me and how I am feeling in the moment. At some point, I felt that the recipe writing was taking the fun out of cooking for me. It took a long time to put together, and when it was published, I felt as if I had given birth. I promised myself I would never write another book.
The second time around, I knew what I was getting myself into and I was scared from the get go. Knowing what awaited me was paralyzingly at times . I am intense and passionately committed, so I would never use someone to create the recipes and my books, as many do. Luckily, I do have an amazing team and business partner, Delia Leon, who really helped me through it all.
é: Well, the hard work really shows. Do you have any messages for your fans? Or any advice for young latinos looking to make their way in the food industry?
Ingrid: Work hard and then harder. Study, train, intern, volunteer; start at the bottom and learn every task and turn every leaf you can over. Do lots of research. Have passion, drive, and commitment. Get focused, make a plan of action, have each goal written, and work backwards as to what you need to do or complete to get to that one goal. Give yourself deadlines to complete tasks. “If I can do it, you can do it,” is always my motto.
é: What’s next for you? Any exciting projects on the horizon?
Ingrid: Lots of new and exciting things are happening! Starting with the launch of my food brand Cocina by Ingrid Hoffmann, launching this November on HSN.
I am also the new host of Top Chef Estrella’s launching In Jan 2015 on Telemundo NBC.
é: And finally, will you share your favorite recipe with us?
I love my Catalan Noodle Paella. It is an easy dish that is great for entertaining!
Be sure to head over to Ingrid’s site here for more information on her gorgeous product line, cookbooks, and TV appearances.