Meet Chef and Author Marcela Valladolid

Marcela Valladolid Chef BELatina Latinx
Photo courtesy of foodandwine.com

Marcela Valladolid can trace the beginnings of her culinary passion to her aunt’s culinary school in Tijuana, Mexico. Even though she is now a celebrity chef, cookbook author, culinary show host, reality TV star, and food blogger, Marcela is clear about her origins and identity.

Born in San Diego, California, Marcela Valladolid graduated from the Culinary Institute of Los Angeles and went on to study classical pastry at the Ritz-Escoffier Culinary School in Paris.

Upon her return to America, Marcela began her adventure as an entrepreneur that has taken her to the sets of major television shows and transformed her into one of the most influential Latinas of the moment.

BELatina had the opportunity to talk to Marcela about her career, her identity, and her passion.

What’s been key to growing as an entrepreneur? 

Successfully managing through cultural shifts and realizing that women are thriving as entrepreneurs, driving the growth of our economy, and leading in our communities by growing businesses – all while still flourishing as a good mom. In many ways, transitioning this skill set and knowledge to becoming an entrepreneur and growing a business feels like a natural extension of Latinas’ daily roles in our households and as leaders in our communities. 

For some Latina women, we see ourselves as the CEOs of our households, and we only allow ourselves that role. Also, leverage your network and the knowledge of other entrepreneurs to gather insights and identify pathways to grow your business. I’ve talked to people who do not feel they can speak freely about how important it is to grow a business or see a profit. It’s so ingrained in many of us that we serve, give, and sacrifice… It can make women afraid to jump into the business world.

As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage month, it’s a good time to recognize and acknowledge the many contributions of Hispanic small business owners, especially of Latina business owners. In fact, as of 2019, Latina women-owned 18% of all women-owned businesses, and between 2014 and 2019, Latina-owned firms grew 40%. These are significant numbers and show the impact Latina business owners are making on the country’s overall economy.

During this time, I partnered with Wells Fargo to bring awareness around all the dedicated resources, programs, and initiatives they offer to empower diverse business owners ‒ including Hispanic small businesses that power local communities and local jobs.

What limitations or challenges have you faced? 

Most recently, the pandemic prevented me from continuing productions and partnerships. I took that moment to analyze what was happening, pivoted in a new direction, and launched a new product line and platform where I do online cooking classes. 

If there were to be a recipe for success, what would be three key elements you’d say are necessary? 

Find your superpower, go full force, and invest in knowledge. Often artisans and producers are mainly focused on creating more products. I tell them to invest in their company by investing in any knowledge that is needed. The most important thing you can do as a business owner is to have the humility to admit what you do not know, so you can find the right resources to grow or scale your company.

How were you able to use your Mexican identity to reach your goals?

My Mexican identity has influenced my passion for culinary arts which led me to become the first-ever Latina host for my show “Mexican Made Easy.” Today, I’ve evolved and had my own business that brings the most beautiful and high-quality artisanal products from Mexico and offers them to my following here on the U.S. side of the border. I feel like I’ve obtained my goal to educate consumers on what Mexico brings to the world from an artisanal and culinary perspective.

What does it mean to be Mexican American for you? Do you think it’s important for people to embrace the duality of their identity? 

I have so much pride in who I am and where I come from, where my family is, who my ancestors are. I can be fully American and fully Mexican and be 100% authentic in either of those roles. It is essential for those of us who are blessed with a platform to showcase that pride in who we are so that other people are inspired to do the same.

How did your multi-cultural upbringing influence your cooking expertise? 

I grew up in Tijuana, Mexico, where great recipes always surrounded me, but I also went out of my comfort zone to learn abroad in France. Later, I took my recipes from back home and what I had learned abroad to create my first catering business, and that was just the beginning. 

Anything else you’d like to share with the BELatina News audience?

Although culinary is at the core of my work, I also conduct business as a product developer. I recently participated in the Wells Fargo-sponsored Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative and took part in conversations with other entrepreneurs about removing deep-seated mindsets that can limit success.