Get to Know Camila Alves, Co-Host of Kids BBQ Championship

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On the all-new series Kids BBQ Championship, premiering Monday, May 23 at 8|7c, eight talented young grill masters will be battling for the chance to win a $20,000 cash prize and the coveted title of champion. Mentoring and judging them through all the challenges will be Season 11 Food Network Star winner Eddie Jackson and lifestyle expert Camila Alves, who’s previously appeared on Chopped Junior as a guest judge. Get to know more about Camila, learn her take on grilling, and get some behind-the-scenes insight into the show.

When did you first become interested in cooking?

I’ve always loved food and I’ve always helped in the kitchen. I never became a cook myself until I had a family.

What’s your earliest food memory?

My earliest food memory is of my mother in the kitchen cooking lasagna.

From whom did you learn to cook?

I watched my mom cook, growing up, and I learned a few things from her, but I really didn’t learn to cook myself until I became a mother. I used to watch a lot of Food Network and Rachael Ray, and I specifically remember learning how to cook my first fish from the Rachael Ray show. I also used to go to the bookstore and look through cookbooks to get recipe ideas.

Are you a barbecuer? How often do you grill?

I loved barbecue, growing up [in Brazil], but it is a different kind of barbecue than here. I grew up with family barbecuing every weekend, and barbecue was a big part of my culture growing up. I fell in love with the American barbecue ever since I have made Texas my home base. I grill as often as my husband and my 7-year-old son allow me to.

What are some of your go-to recipes on the grill?

Seafood and side dishes, but I’m a sucker for corn. One of my favorites is a Cuban-style corn, simple but so flavorful.

Is there one food you cannot live without?

A good old juicy rib-eye steak. My body literally craves it.

How would you describe your cooking style?

I cook like the everyday woman — just if the “everyday woman” got a little more courageous and had a little bit more fun, with a balance between healthy food and pleasure. I believe that balance is the key.

What kinds of things do you like to cook at home for the family?

My kids’ favorites are the honey chicken drumettes and Brazilian-style lasagna.

What’s a typical dinner like in your household?

Dinnertime in our home is informal. However, it is that important time in the day when we stop to thank God for all of our blessings and verbalize all the things that we are grateful for in our day.

Are your kids picky eaters?

I have three kids, and all three of them have different tastes, but I still manage to cook one meal for the whole family. Even if there is something that one of my kids doesn’t like, I still put a little on their plate and eventually they will give it another try. If they don’t like the sauce on something, I’ll put it on the side.

How do you get your kids involved in the kitchen or cooking?

All three of my kids are very hands-on, and they love getting involved in the kitchen. My 7-year-old makes our family breakfast Sunday mornings. I think the key is to know what keeps your child’s interest in the kitchen and slowly getting them to be part of the different recipes. With my daughter, I showed her how to make Brazilian lasagna, but I broke it into two cooking experiences. One time I made the recipe, I showed her how to do the different layers and she put them into the baking dish. The next time I showed her how to make the meat sauce. For my oldest, he likes to learn all at once.

How old were your kids when you first let them help you with food preparation?

My kids were 2 years old, but it was quite messy.

Did you enjoy hosting Kids BBQ championship? What were some of your favorite moments?

I can’t even begin to tell you how much I loved hosting the show. The only difficult thing was [that] as a mother you just want to see every child win. And with a competition you have to put all this criteria and rules in place that it would literally break my heart every time a kid would have to go home. Favorite moments were getting to know the kids and watching them do things that I never thought they would.

What impressed you most about the kid chefs? Were you surprised by some of the things you saw them do?

I was very surprised by the kids. Controlling a grill is not an easy task, and the fact that their creativity had no walls and made them come up with things really creative was incredible. Most of the times they were really good, and sometimes, not so much.

How was co-hosting with Eddie Jackson? Do you have any fun, memorable or surprising stories to share about working together?

It was a pleasure working with Eddie. He brings so much energy to the set. I had to be on set two hours before Eddie, and it was still dark. He would come in for a touch-up and, if I was sleepy, his energy would wake [me] up. Since he is a big guy and I had to figure out how to work my way around him to get my view of the food, I finally had to tell him, “You stay on this side, and I stay on that side,” so we could both see it.