By Adrianna Paidas
Photography: Tony Gale
Perching atop Ingrid Hoffmann’s stove in her Miami home sits her best friend – a silver pressure cooker named Betty. Every night after the celebrity chef and host of the Cooking Channel’s Simply Delicioso gets home from work, she drops some shrimp or a piece of fish in Betty, whatever other vegetables or flavorful surprises she finds in her refrigerator, and in six minutes dinner is served.
That’s how it’s always been in Hoffmann’s household – everything is always fresh, healthy, quick and most importantly, tasty. Growing up in a Latino home in both the Netherlands and Latin America, the Colombian-American chef developed a palate for a broad range of food. Her mother, a Cordon Bleu chef, always made every meal from scratch – nothing was ever processed.
“You could come to our house any day and have one meal of maybe Colombian arepa with an Argentinian churrascco with a Bolivian side dish and an Indonesian side dish,” Hoffmann says, remembering her childhood fondly. “Meals were quite eclectic. Now as a grown up I look back and I laugh because when kids would come to our house to eat they always thought we ate very strange.”
Hoffmann was raised around food and hardworking parents – her mother owned her own catering company, at which a young Hoffmann helped out, and her father was a pilot. It was the combination of their work ethic that she attributes her success today, not just in the cooking industry but in the business industry as well.
She still hosts Simply Delicioso on the Cooking Channel and Delicioso on the Univision network. She just released her second cookbook, Latin D’Lite, and just launched a houseware collection through her Delicioso brand.
Recognize a pattern?
Her empire is built around the word “delicious” because to her, the word is a mantra.
“Delicious is a word I use to describe everything,” says Hoffmann. “I describe clothes as delicious. I describe decor as delicious because it’s the way it makes me feel. I don’t see delicious as only a thing of food – I see it as a way of life.”
Before her Delicioso television career took off about 15 years ago, Hoffmann ran a restaurant in Miami with her mother. It was called Rocca and was the first restaurant of its kind to have tabletop cooking over lava rocks, a common Indonesian method seen in Dutch and
Latin American culinary technique.
However, Hoffmann soon realized how much she disliked running the business side of the restaurant. It was the same feeling she got when she was forced to sit at desk in school. As a child with severe ADHD, Hoffmann had trouble sitting still. She had to be creating, moving around and making people happy.
“God knows you could not put me in an office from 9 to 5 because I would rather jump from the 20th floor of my building than sit in an office and be confined,” she says unabashedly. Managing Rocca prevented Hoffmann from inventing new recipes and switching up the menu to her guests delight, both of which were her favorite part of the restaurant business.
Cue the chance to have her own cooking segment on TV. As soon as her friend offered her the enticing opportunity, Hoffmann jumped on it. Who cares if she’d never cooked on television before? Sure enough, Univision saw her and picked up her segment. From there, Hoffmann was paving her career and the future of Delicioso.
Hoffmann is grateful that she developed a passion for cooking when she wasn’t in school. It was that passion that helped her concentrate and excel, two things she had trouble doing in the classroom.
In an effort to motivate kids in New York City and expose them to all sorts of education, Hoffmann sits on the board of New York City’s Food Education Fund, a nonprofit organization that funds a culinary school for high school students who have trouble performing in inner city public schools. The students at the Food and Finance High School learn about ingredients in their history class, applications for food purchase in their math class and business through restaurant management.
Currently, 98 percent of Food and Finance High School students go on to secondary education and 95 percent get jobs at restaurants in New York City by their junior year.
“They go from not being able to look you in the eye to four years later and they’ve evolved into confident go-getters,” says Hoffman. “I wish we could have programs like that all over the U.S.” The school champions farm-to-table cooking and using all natural ingredients, a lifestyle that Hoffmann thinks more Americans should abide by.
“People in America are used to TV dinners full of preservative additives and crap,” says Hoffmann. “You look in the aisles and you see all of these packaged foods – it’s all chemically made. Our bodies don’t process that, nor do they recognize that stuff.”
In her newest cookbook, Latin D’Lite, Hoffmann shows how easy it is to block out all of these processed and packaged foods and balance what people put in their bodies.
It’s not a diet book, she informs, warning that hopping on fad diets is one of the biggest flaws in most American eating habits. It’s a book about enjoying what’s put in the body and feeling good at the start of each day. Every recipe was carefully plotted out in her kitchen. She refused to let anyone else write the recipes, even if this ensured an earlier release date. She needed to make sure everything was perfect.
And after a lifetime of cooking and a decade in the business, perfect it surely is.