In her first scene as a contestant on season six of MasterChef, Claudia Sandoval described her relationship with food and cooking as “love.” It’s what carried her to the finale, a $250,000 prize and her own cookbook, “Claudia’s Cocina: A Taste of Mexico.”
On the way to her 2015 victory, she cooked up amazing dishes like a sweet corn tamale with a plantain puree and a Mexican chocolate sauce. Since then, she’s been a judge on MasterChef Latino and, last month, she opened a pop up bakery at Sugar & Scribe in La Jolla. She plans to keep doing pop up shops until she can open her own bakery in National City, Cochi Dorado.
She joined the Name Drop San Diego podcast to talk about her latest pastry work and much more. Read excerpts below and listen with the player above.
How did your pop up go at Sugar & Scribe?
We were making seven different desserts. ... In Mexico we call it pan dulce regardless of what it is, but if it consists of some sort of sweet bread, then it’s called pan dulce. I took some of those kind of classic, old school recipes and then modernized them, whether it be by appearance or sometimes I actually took them way back, because some of the recipes have changed across the years as ingredients have become less available in Mexico. So yeah, doing that and then adding my sparkle, my fairy dust, and all of these fun things to make them beautiful, modern, very pleasing to the eye and to the Instagram eye, but most importantly delicious.
What did you mean when you said you wanted to show that Latinos are a viable and important part of society?
I’m going to like take you back to like, I think I was like 17. ... I was like telling my mom, my goal is to leave high school and not be just another statistic. Because every single one of my, you know, my like teachers, counselors, everybody, what they would always say was, “Oh, you know, most Latina girls by the age of 16 are already pregnant and out of high school.” ... I don’t consider myself disadvantaged, but that’s what I was labeled as, right? A disadvantaged, at-risk youth. ... The fact is, that when you grow up as a minority, regardless of whether you’ve been exposed to it or not or whether you’ve heard these stories on not, I grew up very much believing that the expectation was that I would not succeed. My goal in life has been to prove everybody wrong on that. ... I did not want, for one second, for my daughter to ever think the way that I thought. ... I just didn’t ever want her to think that way, so I thought, if I can prove that we 100% can do it and if I can prove it to other little girls or other little boys who are watching this, then so be it. We need to be proud of where we come from and be proud of our culture and prove that we are 100% a viable part of the community and that we have so much to give.
What’s next for you?
Oh my gosh. So much, I hope. I’d love to get Cochi Dorado off the ground. I’d like to open up more than one. I’d like to put another Cochi Dorado in L.A., or maybe like Miami or New York, somewhere like that. And then I’d really like to open up a very casual, very Mexican restaurant where I am doing my kind of food — call it elevated, call it modern, whatever you want to call it — but just my kind of style of food, and have somewhere where people can taste my food because that’s the biggest thing, right? Now, of course, I open a bakery and people are like, “But when am I going to taste your food?” I’m like, I get it, but like, one step at a time guys. ... I’ve always added having a nonprofit or heading a nonprofit as one of my bucket list items. Even if it’s down the road I’d like to definitely start a nonprofit and I’d like it to be hunger-related. Food insecurity would be where I would probably be and possibly in different areas. I’d like to do that and then, one of the goals of Cochi Dorado is to start a couple scholarships for Latin youth and minorities to be able to access funds to be able to go to schools that they want to, you know, without people telling them that they can’t.
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