MasterChef USA 2015 winner Claudia Sandoval is one of the most inspiring people we had the pleasure to interview since we founded Style Behind.
We supported her since the beginning of her MasterChef journey and we were incredibly happy for her victory, like she was part of the family.

Reading her interview, you will understand why.

– What cooking means to you?

Cooking means everything. It is a memory, a future, and the very love that permeates through every recipe. Cooking means I am able to share that love with those who eat my food. It is a way of connecting and storytelling from the very roots of my food journey and dreams.

How does it feel to be the new MasterChef of USA and the first Latina to win the MasterChef competition? 

Incredible! I still cannot believe this all happened. So much of me was hesitant to even apply to be on the show. However, when I really started to trust my instinct and focus, I truly felt in control. I am America’s MasterChef and not just the MasterChef but the first LATINA MasterChef.
Woooo! Being the first Latina MasterChef is an honor. It positions me in a place where I truly can help the food of my cultural roots to transcend borders and limited perspectives. I have proven that the American Dream continues to be real as a first generation American.

Si Se Puede! (Yes You Can!)

– What did you learn from your experience at MasterChef?

One of the biggest things I learned through my MasterChef journey was how to trust myself and my instinct as a cook. There were contestants who had graduated culinary school and I had never stepped foot in a culinary school. I was worried about how Mexican technique would stand up against the more professional. At the end, trusting my techniques and instinct brought me through to the end! Success.

– What’s your first food related memory

One of my favorite and first food related memories is one of my mom toasting tomatoes and chies for salsa. My mother would usually start Tatemando (Stove-top Roasting) tomatoes, tomatillos, garlic, onion, and an assortment of chiles before starting dinner. It took time, and made the house smell of amazingness. This smell still takes me to my childhood when I cook at home.

– What’s your favorite dish ever?

My favorite dish EVER are my mom’s tostadas! She makes this special tomato and oregano sauce that gets poured over these multi-textured crispy savory treats! If I had one last meal on earth, it would be my Mami’s tostadas!

– What’s your best soundtrack to cook to?

I don’t know about a soundtrack, but I have quite a playlist for cooking that mostly includes Banda music. Banda is a folk type music that is very popular in the region of Mexico where my family is from, Mazatlan. In fact, before I would go into the MasterChef kitchen, I would always sign a song called “Soy de Rancho” (I’m from a Ranch) to get in the zone.

Who would you like to cook for?

I actually have a number of people I would love to cook for including some of my favorite singers like Mariah Carey and Adele. However, these days, I would really like to cook for Eva Longoria or Ellen. Both incredible celebrities who are doing a lot to give back to the community. I also hear Pink! is a fan of MasterChef! Hey Pink, you want dinner girl? LOL

– What inspires your creations?

My creations are inspired by the food I grew up learning how to cook from my mom, grandmother, and aunts. Usually they are traditional flavors with modern presentations and new executions.

– If your dishes were a city?

If my dishes were a city, they would be something like Mazatlan where I come from. Vibrant, coastal, and very rustic.

– If your dishes were a movie?

If my dishes were a movie you would have the sequel to Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel.

– What’s your mantra?

You CAN do this.

– What are your future professional projects?

I am really excited for all my upcoming projects! My cookbookClaudia’s Cocina – A taste of Mexico” is available for pre-sale and will be released May 10 (Mexican Mother’s Day). The MasterChef cruise is coming up in November of 2016 and will be the first time I am traveling to the Caribbean! My business Claudia’s Cocina is finally official and I am excited to keep doing private dinners and special events moving forward.

www.chefclaudiascocina.com

Ph courtesy Greg Gayne / FOX. © 2015
Title’s handwriting and illustrations Sara Ottavia Carolei
Gallery ph courtesy Claudia Sandoval
Special thanks Endemol Shine

(Click on the images to open the gallery)

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