I didn’t realize I could really cook until I made it to the Top 5 of Gordon Ramsay’s MasterChef 3. I was a newly divorced single mom, struggling to make ends meet when Chef Ramsay gave me an apron and pushed me into the MasterChef kitchen. The world’s angriest* chef taught me one of life’s most important lessons: Focus on what’s in front of you. If you mess up, don’t give up. Try again. This pic was taken backstage just before I cooked for Gordon for the first time. Do I look freaked out? ‘Cause I was TOTALLY! FREAKING! OUT!
*IRL Gordon Ramsay is the sweetest. That’s top secret so don’t tell anybody.
Since MasterChef, I’ve started Island Girl Cooks: a personal chef business specializing in Cali-Rican cuisine, a fusion of Caribbean flavors and California technique. I cater events and host cooking demos across the country. I also develop recipes and consult restaurants. I’ve done everything from teaching college kids how to create dorm room meals to making apple pies for Ed Sheeran. This pic was taken after one of my Simon Mall demos. Danger mooned the whole audience. Repeatedly. I can’t believe we didn’t get arrested.
I’ve been working in restaurants, radio and TV since I was in my 20s, so about 160 years now. You can catch me on Food Network hosting Help My Yelp and judging some of their awesome shows like Chopped Junior and Cutthroat Kitchen. I’ve also hosted the FYI Special Make My Food Famous and a baby food web series for The Honest Company. My obsession with food grows by leaps and bounds every day. Here I am on set for my shoot with the Honest Company. I created the recipes and hosted the show. I’ve come a long way! Twenty pounds mostly.
You’ll find a lot of recipes about #StoppingFoodWaste on this blog. It’s something that I’m really passionate about. I was totally flabbergasted when I read that we throw out enough food in America every year to feed every hungry person in the world. Did you know our trash cans gobble up almost 40% of the food we buy? I’m challenging myself to do better and I’m sharing my journey with you. Danger’s taken up the #StopFoodWaste fight as well. Here he is keeping good on his promise to never waste cake batter. This is only one of the reasons I’ve decided to keep him.
Why Island Girl? I was born in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico in 1975 but left the island for the States when I was six years old. I moved back and forth a handful of times then left my homeland for good in 1993. There isn’t a day I don’t miss it. The street vendors with fogons full of pinchos (grilled meat on skewers), the ripe mangoes that littered our lawn in Mayaguez, the relief from the heat brought by the first bite of a piragua (shaved ice soaked in fruit syrup). Here I am with my twin brother on our farm in Boqueron, a secluded little beach town on the west coast of Puerto Rico.
Currently I live in Los Angeles, California with my son Danger. When we’re not cooking together we’re trying to fulfill our goal of eating a pastry from every country. Sometimes this feels like we are racing towards diabetes but mostly it’s delicious. This is Danger getting real serious about ice cream. He says when he grows up he wants to be a chef and a ninja. When he turns 30 I hope he still has all his fingers.
If my food could talk it would speak Spanglish. I love mixing Puerto Rican flavors into classic dishes you find on every American table: hamburgers made with picadillo, shepherd’s pies made with sweet plantain mash, guava barbeque sauce. It’s me on a plate: the product of two cultures that are completamente diferente.
When I make dishes inspired by Puerto Rico, the aromas that fill my kitchen take me back to a place and time that truly define me. My island’s flavors are a way to share with my son something that I can’t say in words. This is what mommy is made of: Cilantro, Tostones and Café Colao.
THANK YOU SO MUCH for finding my little spot on the internet. I hope this blog gives you a taste of Puerto Rico. Buen provecho!