A Delicious Life
Posted on April 1, 2019
Marcela Valladolid has made a name for herself in the culinary world sharing what she knows best: delicious, authentic Mexican cooking with her own personal flair. The native San Diegan and Chula Vista resident’s passion for food has brought dream opportunities including a post at Bon Appetit, multiple cooking shows on The Food Network, and her own cookbooks, the fourth of which, Fiestas: Tidbits, Margaritas & More, debuts this month. Still, she finds the greatest joy in the simplicity of good food and the company of friends and family — her fiancé, Philip, and children Fausto, David, and Anna.
We caught up with Chef Marcela to hear her thoughts on living in San Diego, dining out and dining in, and her expert opinion on our burning “burrito question.”
You received your culinary education and training in L.A. and Paris, and your TV work must take you all over the world, yet San Diego remains your home. What keeps you here rather than a location that would be more central to all you’re doing in your career?
M.V. I live in a 1912-built Chula Vista landmark. My entire group of friends and family live in the 91910. The weather is perfect for my 1,400-square-foot edible garden. It takes eight minutes to be at the beach. Most importantly, it takes 12 minutes to be in Tijuana, Mexico. I have everything I will ever desire in life here in San Diego.
Do you believe staying close to your roots keeps your culinary style authentic to you?
M.V. Absolutely. I am nothing if I am not authentic and, sometimes, it’s been a battle. Tijuana is a melting pot of all the Mexican/European/Caribbean/world culinary traditions and that shows up in my food.
What are some of your favorite spots on the local dining scene?
M.V. El Jardín is certainly a favorite. Just ask The New York Times! But we love a good steak at Morton’s, a Caesar salad at Romesco, coffee from Communal.
What’s a perfect meal at home?
M.V. Often, it’s a roasted chicken, fire roasted salsa, warm tortillas for tacos, served with avocado slices. A really good bottle of wine, just for Philip and our guests (if we have any) and just for him if we don’t. Music. Candles. We cherish our time at the table.
Your fourth cookbook, Fiestas: Tidbits, Margaritas & More, debuts this month. Do you find it challenging coming up with new recipes? Who do you have in mind when you’re creating your books?
M.V. Food and ideas are endless. If I’m in a rut, I’ll flip through a book or magazine to get inspo. And, my team is spectacular at coming up with new concepts. For the books, I just want people to connect with the ideas and stories, to find them not only delicious but accessible — the things I offer my friends and family every weekend. I adore this life and I just want to share it in my books.
With such a busy career, how do you find work/family balance? What’s your favorite way to destress, away from the kitchen?
M.V. I don’t have the secret yet. It’s exhausting. But I’m happy and that’s all that matters. A full day at the beach with everybody in tow is my fave way to destress. Just sitting there watching Philip and Fau tossing a football, David collecting sea shells, and Anna playing in the sand is all I need to recover from even the most exhausting of weeks.
Final question: Potatoes in a burrito — Yes or No?
M.V. Yes. Chorizo con Papas burritos are where it’s at, man! chefmarcela.com Deanna Murphy
Photography by Isabella Martinez-Funcke