Marcela Valladolid has become one of the most recognized chefs in the country hosting her own show on The Food Network, Mexican Made Easy. Her heritage is salient in her authentic Mexican recipes. She has taught her audience that traditional Mexican food is flavorful, healthy and easy to make.

What impresses me the most is how she has been able to successfully raise her son, Fausto, while simultaneously managing her great success as a chef. In between her busy schedule I had the opportunity to talk with Marcela about her success, how she stays in shape (despite all the delicious food she cooks) and how she balances work and motherhood.

Angelica Gavaldon:

What inspired you to become a chef?

Marcela Valladolid:

My aunt, Marcela Rodriguez, opened up one of the first cooking schools in Baja California and gave me my first job. It was there that I quickly realized that food would be the vehicle to get me to the platform that would allow me to talk about the true Mexico that I grew up in, the one far from the stereotypes seen in Hollywood movies and fast food restaurants.

AG: You have become one of the most recognizable chefs in the country, with your own cooking show on The Food Network, Mexican Made Easy. How difficult was it for you to get to where you are today and what has been the key to your success?

MV: I push myself as hard as I can. I’ve sacrificed more than I would have liked along the way. I am the first to recognize that I am a businesswoman, more than a chef. Chefs work behind the line; be humble enough to recognize your weaknesses and share your strengths.

AG: How do you manage to stay so fit with all the delicious food you eat?

MV: I think it’s a combination of things. The one I am grateful for the most is having been born with my dad’s DNA. I’ve always been into some sort of physical exercise; be it gymnastics when I was a kid or yoga when I was older. After my sister Carina ran the New York Marathon I was just so inspired that I’ve taken up running. Now I put in anywhere from 3 to 6 miles a day and would like to run my first half marathon in the first quarter of 2014.
I don’t limit anything when it comes to food but there’s certainly plenty of moderation. There’s nothing I won’t try. Yesterday I had a giant cinnamon roll and chicken liver pâté in the same sitting… for breakfast. Today I just had a cereal bar and ran 4 miles. It’s certainly not a plan or lifestyle I promote, but it’s what works for me.

AG: One of the qualities that I most admire about you is how well you seem to balance being an amazing mother and having so much success. How do you do it and what is your advice to working mothers?

MV: First off, thank you. But just the mere fact of being a mother makes you amazing. It is certainly not easy and I have a wonderful support system. His paternal grandmother Olga has been one of the biggest reasons I am able to do what I do, she jumps in when I have to jump out. My assistant Viviana Ley is also family and has been instrumental in my being able to have this balance. My son is my priority and that is made very clear to anyone I work with. Certain things are non-negotiable for me, no matter how much money is at stake. I have to work through a lot of guilt because I remember how special it was for me that my mom was so involved in my school life because she didn’t have to work. I go to bed knowing that I tried my very best with the tools I have.

AG: What is your favorite restaurant in San Diego and in Tijuana, and what do you order?

MV: Texoco in Chula Vista, and El Rodeo in Tijuana because of all the family memories!