Doreen Colondres, a sought-after personality in the “Cocina Latina” movement, wants to revolutionize the way Latinos approach food, cooking, and eating. She maintains a wide-reaching media platform, including her show “Boricuas” and two daily cooking segment “Hola Martin” and “Tu Vida Más Simple” on Fox’s Utilisima Network which airs in over 16 countries. She contributes monthly features as the Food Editor for the renowned national magazine Siempre Mujer and continues to inspire people from all walks of life to cook healthy and delicious Latin foods using wholesome ingredients—and to have fun doing it.
Recently, Mamiverse Food caught up with Doreen for a conversation about food and family.
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Mamiverse: Here at Mamiverse Food, we want to encourage families to cook together – can you share a few of your childhood memories of learning to cook?
Doreen Colondres: The moments that were etched in my mind were those before dinner. I enjoyed going to the garden to get herbs, fruits, and vegetables, and helping my grandmother in the kitchen. I didn’t play with dolls but instead with the pots and pans into which I put earth, flowers and grass. I remember sitting on the floor playing while my grandmother was cooking and drinking coffee and my grandfather was playing an instrument to create an atmosphere for the occasion. At home it was natural to eat everything fresh and to use what we or our friends had planted. One day when I was 9, without planning it, I wanted to surprise my mother so that when she came back from work, dinner was ready. I made a whole garlic chicken stuffed with vegetables, which neither my grandmother nor she had ever prepared. I loved being creative in the kitchen. Since that day I started cooking at home.
Mamiverse: Your platform is “no fear in the kitchen” What do you think most home cooks, of any level, are afraid of and what is your best advice on conquering that fear and starting to cook?
Doreen Colondres: Most people think that cooking is difficult, boring and time consuming. What is missing is the love, confidence, creativity and knowledge of easy recipes that take you back to your roots. Those memories can make you fall in love with the kitchen. We need to go back to cooking more at home with fresh ingredients that keep us healthy. Cooking unites the family. It is a legacy of health and tradition to our children. It must be seen as something fun, a therapy for our body, so that you can fall in love with that time in the kitchen. So let’s play music, relax and share it with everyone at home!
Mamiverse: You have truly been a world traveler – what cultural traditions do you find have influenced your cooking?
Doreen Colondres: I inherited the love of traveling and trying new things from my family. When I travel and I find an ingredient that catches my attention, I take it back to my own kitchen and try to make it my own. I love Spanish food because it influences all Latin cuisine. Mexican food fascinates me because of the tremendous variety among all the regions of the country. And Peruvian food is so interesting and has become so popular. Even though there are differences, what people don’t realize is that there are similarities. You go to Ecuador, for example, and taste a “carne colorá” which is similar to the “cochinita pibil” from Mexico. The “tortilla de bacalao” from Cadiz in Spain and the “Bacalaito” from my country Puerto Rico are the same and then, the typical Caribbean sweet pepper is a must in the Venezuelan kitchen! There are as many similarities as differences – equal but different.
Mamiverse: What non-Latin cuisines intrigue the most – and why? Is there one cuisine you particularly want to delve into more – and why?
Doreen Colondres: I just started with “a bite” of the African continent. I was recently in several cities in Morocco and I find the cuisine has some strong similarities to our Caribbean cooking. I’ve loved Italian cooking since childhood and even in Greek cuisine, I find a lot of similar herbs and tastes. There will certainly be among my next destinations to explore but in the end, it’s really all about fresh ingredients and simple, traditional preparations. My kitchen will never lose that charm.
Mamiverse: You have been influential in your approach to cooking and teaching people about food – if you could change anything, what would you most want to change in people’s feelings and attitudes about food?
Doreen Colondres: I want to get everybody in love with the kitchen! Processed or fast foods and foods high in fat and salt aren’t good choices for our bodies and our lives. Preparing your own food and respecting fresh healthy ingredients is the best. And after all, “the kitchen doesn’t bite!”
Mamiverse: What’s your best advice for a cook that is just starting out someone that is unsure of tools and techniques in the kitchen?
Doreen Colondres: You have to get organized! Something as simple as organizing all your ingredients before you start to cook is so important in making your life easier. Also, believe it or not, a good sharp knife and a good cutting board make all the difference in helping you cook more efficiently.
Mamiverse: Whom do you most admire among other chefs, cookbook writers, media personalities and why?
Doreen Colondres: Oh, that’s hard since I admire so many chefs around the world. Certainly Gastón Acurio since he put the Peruvian kitchen on the map, the way Jose Andrés did with Spain. I love the work of Diana Kennedy, who fell in love with Mexican cuisine at a young age and then dedicated all her life to promoting it around the world. I admire the work of Eric Ripert and Jean-Georges Vongerichten – their work is amazing. Junior Merino from Mexico is the best sommelier I’ve ever met in my life. I also like the work of Johnny Hernandez in San Antonio, Texas because he has done an amazing teaching job authentic Mexican cuisine. Also, Angel Leon in Spain, who’s incredible with seafood and Martin Berasategui, the father of traditional cuisine – there are so many others, too!