The culinary world, often dominated by male figures, is slowly, but surely changing its landscape thanks to outstanding female chefs taking over, one recipe at a time.
Claudia Sandoval is one of those mujeres chingonas changing the game. Sandoval was the first ever Latina to win MasterChef, the ruthless cooking competition with Gordon Ramsey. Sandoval was the winner of season six, and it opened up a countless number of doors for Sandoval, she launched a culinary consulting and catering company named Claudia’s Cocina in San Diego where she resides, and in 2016 she added the title of best-selling author with the cookbook of the same name.
The past three years have given Sandoval the taste of success thanks to her never-ending dedication to her craft.
Adding to Sandoval’s endless resume, she is now a judge — the tables have flipped, and Sandoval has gone from contestant to judge. She joined Mexican TV actress, Aracely Arámbula, and chefs Benito Molina, and Ennio Carota on Telemundo’s ambitious project, MasterChef Latino, which airs on Sundays at 8pm/7c.
Arámbula serves as the host, while Sandoval, Molina, and Carota will judge the 14 contestants, with the winner taking home a cash prize of $100,000.
BoldLatina recently caught up with Sandoval to chat about her accomplishments, favorite recipes, and 2018 being the year of the woman.
BoldLatina: What was it like getting the call that you had been selected to be a judge?
Claudia Sandoval: It was really, really, exciting, it was one of those things you can’t prepare for. I cried. I told my mom, my best friend, and of course my manager, we celebrated. I have worked really hard since I won, and it was to some extent, validating to feel that I have been chosen for whatever reason, it showed that my hard work had paid off. To know that someone was paying attention and felt that I was the right fit for this, it was a huge honor.
BL: We live in a time where there’s all these talk of sexual harassment, and women not getting paid the same as men, and we have Latinas like yourself breaking this barrier, with you being the first Latina who won MasterChef. What do you have to say to young aspiring women chefs, and women in general inspired by your story?
CS: My message would probably be, dreams do come true if you are willing to work really hard. That’s something that we can say about Latinas, with people saying, fiery feisty Latina, and we have that for a reason. It’s because we work hard, we strive hard, and we have some fight in us. We have it in order to change perspectives, change the thought, change the conversation to value our worth. You see people like Gina Rodriguez executive producing Jane the Virgin, America Ferrera helping nonprofits, these are people breaking ground on issues that we should all be paying attention to.
BL: Do you see the year 2018 as the year where we will see more Latinas on TV, more women in positions of power?
CS: We will definitely see a lot more Latinas and women in general, this isn’t a conversation just about Latinas, but women in general, and we are going to see more women excelling. A lot of this has to do (unfortunately) with the whole Harvey Weinstein situation. But it is something that has empowered people, to say hey, you know what, I won’t have to hide the embarrassment or cave in to the “boys club” game in order to get ahead, and I think that conversation is starting to change, and people are paying attention. It’s wonderful because truly, women should have a place at the table because we have that very valuable contribution, and it’s going to be so exciting to see what 2018 has to offer.
BL: Even with MasterChef Latino, it’s groundbreaking too having Aracely Arámbula as a host, and you as a judge. It’s groundbreaking for Spanish TV.
CS: I definitely agree, having two women on the show is awesome. Even if there were two women judges, because across the universal landscape of MasterChef is always mostly male dominated, and it’s because this “chef world” is very male driven. Someday, in my heart of hearts I want to see two female judges.
BL: It’s coming, it’s definitely coming… Now, what can fans of the English version expect of from this Spanish version?
CS: They can expect a lot of the same format, things like the mystery box, but some of the things that they have not seen and they are going to be really excited about will be the diversity and complexity of what Latino food is, because I think that when people think of Latino food, they automatically relate it to Mexican food. One of the most beautiful things we can say is, hey, we know that you think that the majority of Latinos in the US are Mexicanos, but here let me show you there’s people from Peru, Venezuela, Guatemala, people from Chile, from Argentina, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and so once you start to see how different and how vibrant these foods are, Yet, how so many of the underline principles of our foods are so similar, it’s going to be so eye-opening. It’s one of the most incredible things that MasterChef Latino is going to bring. These home-cooks truly love their food, truly love their heritage.
BL: Do you have a favorite dish, or favorite cuisine from any Latin American country?
CS: I’m biased because I’m Mexican, so of course, Mexican is my favorite, but if I had to choose a second one, it would be Puerto Rican food. I really, really, like Puerto Rican food. I love mofongo, I love pastel. I’m a huge fan of all that… I have favorites in all the cuisines.
BL: What’s next for Claudia in this new year, besides the show?
CS: What’s next is some exciting stuff that I can’t yet talk about. This launch of MasterChef Latino, I’m just going to put it out there. It’s going to be a huge success. People are going to be thoroughly surprised on how awesome these contestants are. I fell in love with all of them, and people are going to love them because they are going to see someone they know, or even see themselves in these contestants. The true stars are the contestants, and I cannot wait for you guys to meet them.
BL: Claudia, I want to thank for you taking the time to talk to BoldLatina. We look forward to watching the show, and seeing you, the contestants, and of course is going to be a hit. People not only love food, but the stories behind each contestant.
CS: Thank you! I appreciate you so much, and enjoy the show!
You can catch MasterChef Latino, airing on Sundays at 8pm/7c. Check your local listings.