Born in San Diego and raised in Tijuana, Marcela Valladolid is on a mission to introduce Americans to authentic, home-style Mexican cuisine. We spoke with the passionate chef, author and host of Mexican Made Easy about yellow cheese, stalking Morimoto and the nuances of tequila.
Tell us about your plans for the Festival?
I love participating in the Festival. I was a fan for many years, I was a stalker a few years ago and now I get to actually participate. It’s an honor to be there. I’m really excited about the Mexican food and tequila-pairing seminar I’m doing because I’ve always been a huge advocate for sipping tequila and appreciating the nuances of it. My whole family has been sipping tequila since it was almost legal for me to do so
I really excited about talking about tequila in a different light – most people associate it with a bad experience they had in college, but it’s such a beautiful thing.
You’ll be talking pork, pork and more pork at Sunday’s Swine & Wine.
Yes, I’m making a conchita pibil in the caja china, basically making mini tacos out of pork butt. All of my dishes kind of have the same thing going on – I’m always going to gibe you the same things that I grew up with or that my mom used to make. I’m not going to use nitrogen in my tacos.
One of your more famous lines is “There’s no yellow cheese in Mexico.” How misperceived is Mexican food?
My job is to show people that true Mexican cheese is not neon yellow cheese. We don’t eat tacos all day long and we don’t eat burritos stuffed with everything in the kitchen sink. My goal and my mission is to cook the home-style food that I grew up with – simple, straightforward, inexpensive and homemade tortillas. Nothing fancy and no cream based sauces – just tomatoes & chiles and nothing pre-processed
What are you most looking forward to at this year’s Festival?
Meeting up with the chefs, I love seeing the demos. I have pictures with Morimoto where I’m all embarrassed and he’s so serious, it took me 30 minutes to get up the courage to introduce myself. I have a wonderful team of people that has to remind me that I’m a part of it now.
What makes the South Beach Festival different from the others?
Miami has so much more flavor, it’s Miami man. It’s the beach. Every festival has it’s own nuances. New York has its own sophistication and everyone is all dressed up and wearing black. Miami is color and fun, it’s just really lively and fun and festive