How did you get your start in the kitchen?
Well, I started cooking when I was like 14 years old. I was raised in South America and in Bolivia. You know, we’d cook from scratch every single day. So I was in the kitchen from a very young age and helping out. We always went to the fresh market. I have three sisters and my mom told us to split the list, you know, and I take off and go buy vegetables or whatever meat or fish.
My favorite cooking technique is roasting. I like to get the deep flavors out of food by roasting them at very high temperatures and then finishing them up really slowly. I’ll throw in beefy bones and onions in the oven and let them get nice and dark. Then make a real nice stock with that or a soup.
My favorite ingredients are garlic and lemons. I can’t go without garlic.
My least favorite ingredient is innards like heart and kidneys. I’m not into that.
What is the meal you cook for yourself when you want comfort?
When I was doing the Frugal Chef, I had to change meals every day. I’ve fallen into the habit, so I cook different things every single day. One of my favorite things is a black bean and squash chipotle chili for comfort, or I like making Thai curries. One of my favorites is a red Thai curry with salmon, squash and bamboo shoots.
What is the most indulgent thing you make?
I make a custard by hand which then we turn into ice cream. I make it at home but now we make it at the restaurant, too. The most indulgent one is one that’s laced in dulce de leche.
You stir and stir and temper your egg yolks until it’s nice and thick. Then I sweeten it with condensed milk. Then I add the dulce de leche. Oh, that stuff is amazing! Also, dark Belgian chocolate, like the Brigadeiros– Brazilian little fudge balls on a stick. It just melts in your mouth.