9 Questions with Chris Valdes, New Food Network Star Finalist

We caught up with Chris about his style in the kitchen and out.

Contestant Chris Valdes, as seen on Food Network Star, Season 14.

Photo by: Smallz & Raskind

Smallz & Raskind

Food Network Star is bringing the heat in the Season 14 premiere, with the first-of-its-kind episode in Florida. But before the fun in the sun — and some inevitable drama — begins on June 10, we’ve got the first interviews with all the hopefuls. Read on below to get to know them.

Chris, 26, has loved to cook ever since he can remember watching Emeril Lagasse on television, inspiring Chris to cook his first meal before he was 10 years old. Chris’ passion for the culinary arts eventually earned him a scholarship to attend culinary school. After graduation, Chris created his very own catering company where he creates vibrant, Latin-inspired dishes with modern influences. While Chris has quickly become a recognizable face in Miami, his ultimate goal is to teach viewers at home to cook the food they are passionate about, while never giving up and having a fun time in the kitchen.

Describe your culinary POV in one sentence.
You don’t have to be a chef to cook like one. And make it fun while you’re at it.

What made you fall in love with food?
I think there were many different things, but one of them was being born into a family restaurant. I think that’s where it all started.

What technical kitchen skill are you best at?
Speed. I’m definitely very good at cooking under pressure and doing a million things at once.

What's your signature dish?
It depends on my mood, and it also depends on what I’m craving. I really don’t have a signature dish.

What do you say to people who think they can't learn how to cook?
Oh, you could. All you need to do is have an open mind and be willing to do it. Many times people see others on TV and they get discouraged, because on TV they start using terminology and nobody knows what the heck they’re talking about. That’s why I use my fun approach to cooking. A lot of giggles. And I love little jokes here and there.

Let's say it's a regular Tuesday night and you're at home. What's for dinner?
I don’t let the fridge tell me what’s for dinner. I go to the store and it depends what I’m craving. I’ll get some nice jumbo shrimp. I’ll get some white wine so I can drink it and use it in my dish. I love tomatoes, some cilantro, some onions and peppers. Some jasmine rice. Some fried plantains. It’s delicious.

Who's your food/chef spirit animal?
Emeril Lagasse. Chef Emeril is definitely my mentor in my head, especially for entertaining with food.

What's something very few people know about you?
Very few people know how hard I’ve had to work to be where I am today and how many obstacles I’ve overcome. I’m usually very good at smiling in front of everyone, and they’re like, “Oh, perfectly little life.” But if they saw what it took to get to where I am today and if they saw how hard I had to work on a daily basis to prove myself or to get where I am or to build this platform I’m doing, I think they’d realize, “Wow.”

Food pics in restaurants: yay or nay. Why?
I love taking pictures of food when I go out to restaurants. I love to share it with all my Instagram followers, because since I’m always eating out, they’re always interested in what I’m eating.

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