Mamiverse Food is pleased to announce Evette Rios has joined the company as spokesperson and Food Editor. Rios, a lifestyle expert, writer, television host and native New Yorker, is also one of the stars of ABC TV’s The Chew where she serves as field correspondent and roving reporter bringing viewers food news and culinary trends from across the country. Rios’s work on The Chew makes her the only Latina regular on any national daytime talk show. She is also a regular contributing design expert and “buddy” to the Daytime Emmy-Award winning show, Rachel Ray.
Evette joins Mamiverse Food, perfectly embodying the enthusiasm and pride the Latino community has for cooking, entertaining and family. Mamiverse editors caught up with Evette in between trips across the county for a talk about home, food and family.
Mamiverse Food: You are a native New Yorker – can you share with us a bit about your growing up and the importance of food in your house?
Evette Rios: I grew up in Brooklyn,New York in a small two-bedroom apartment with my 2 brothers, mom and dad. So for us the kitchen was one of the rooms that we could all fit in! The dining room table was not just where we ate as a family, it’s where we played games, where we did our homework, where we made pasteles and coquito. It’s where my dad would fix his clocks and where my mom would sew. The dining room table was the epicenter of our family.
Growing up we never ate any processed food. My mom and dad would make everything from scratch. I remember staring longingly at the Pop Tarts commercial knowing that my mom would have to be dead on the kitchen floor before I would ever get my hands on one of those.
Rice and beans were a meal staple. Every day was arroz con habichuelas con (insert carne here). I remember being so disappointed with having rice and beans day in and day out. But of course as an adult that’s the first thing I ask my mom to make. She makes the rice perfectly, fluffy but still a little sticky, and the beans! ¡Muchacha! Delicious. Packed with flavor and so aromatic. I make good beans my mom makes GOOD beans.
Mamiverse Food: Who were the most important influences that shaped your love of food today?
Evette Rios: My mom and Abuela. My mom is like a mad scientist in the kitchen, always, experimenting and substituting. The only recipe she follows word-for-word is the recipe for crepes. She started making those when I was in high school and still makes them to this day on the weekends. Her crepes are so paper thin and delicate that we eat them faster than she can make them!
My abuela taught me to make so many dulces. She uses fruit that is in season and cans them into tons of delicious preserves. My absolute favorite to this day is dulce de lechosa, or papaya candy. When lechosa are in season my abuela doesn’t leave the kitchen! Same for mangoes which are in season in Rincon, Puerto Rico, where my grandma lives in May. I planned my wedding around Puerto Rico’s mango season!
Both of them taught me that you can accomplish delicious flavor with creativity and very little money. Delicious food as well as style (my mom’s “before she leaves the house checklist”: high heels, statement jewelry, cologne, check), has nothing to do with how much money you have. It’s just about taking risks, having fun and not taking either too seriously.
Mamiverse Food: Are there particular dishes that are particularly tied to memories of sharing food with your family?
Evette Rios: Yes, there are so many! For me one of my greatest memories was making pasteles. We would sit around our dining room table and everyone would have a station. My dad would use the guayo (metal grater) to make the masa that we used for the pasteles. My mom would cook the pork for the filling on the stove. I would spread the achiote oil and masa and my brothers would wrap them. We would make HUNDREDS and freeze them. Everywhere we went we would drop off pasteles!
Mamiverse Food: You travel extensively for work, are there any particularly strong discoveries you’ve made that have influenced your taste?
Evette Rios: I have gotten a really keen sense of the “ mom and pop” flavor. I think it actually exists! When you go to a place that has been making food the same way for years. There is a flavor to that. Food trends come and go but that mom and pop flavor sticks to your ribs and is simple delicious, and not too intellectualized. I love that.
Mamiverse Food: Can you share with us a bit about your role on The Chew – how did that come about? Any favorite episodes or stories that you’ve covered?
Evette Rios: I am a correspondent on The Chew, which basically means that I travel around the country to bring food stories to our viewers. It’s the best job in the world, and I am so blessed.
My FAVORITE episode was one that I shot in Houston, Texas. I went to a restaurant called Molinas that is widely credited with introducing Houston to Tex-Mex. The restaurant has been in the family for 3 generations!
On that trip I got to two-step, lasso a fake baby longhorn bull (I actually bought a lasso and routinely lasso my cat, I had a knack for it) and I bought my first pair of cowboy boots. But most important I got to meet the Molina family. All Texicans, as I lovingly refer to them. Super Texan on the outside, with thick Texas drawls, belt buckles, hats and ranches and then all Mexican in the kitchen, dishing with the kitchen staff in Spanish. As a Nuyorican, it is something I never experienced! I loved it!!!
Mamiverse Food: What’s the latest food trend that’s surprised you the most?
Evette Rios: Donuts! OMG, who knew??? Dunkin’ Donuts better get on it! I went to an event a few nights ago that served Foie gras donuts. Not usually my thing, I find force feeding geese to be exceedingly cruel, but who knew they would be so delicious?
Mamiverse Food: How do you think aspiring cooks and foodies can best develop their palates?
Evette Rios: I think the biggest thing is to try everything once. Even if it is a raw ingredient that you know you don’t usually like. Try a different preparation of it. You may like it!
When you are going out for meals to, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut and go to the same place and order the same thing, but fight the urge! Try ethnic foods in your neighborhood and when you go ask what their specialty is. A good restaurant whether 5 star or no star feeds their staff, so generally they know what the best dishes are. The other thing I always do is ask questions. You are not being elitist by asking to speak with the chef (you always see rich people doing that on TV), but it can be a great way to find out about how she or he prepared the dish. Chefs are generally cool people and are willing to share their tips and tricks, unless it’s something proprietary and then they keep it close to the vest!
Mamiverse Food: Aside from Latin, what are your favorite cuisines and why? Any cuisines you haven’t explored yet that are next on your list?
Evette Rios: OMG, what DON’T I love, but my short list is Korean (kim chi is amazing), Moroccan (I love how they combine sweet with spice, and couscous, what’s not to love), South Indian (South Indian food is fresh, fresh, fresh. They rarely use dairy and coconut is one of the main vehicles for flavor), Japanese (I could live on tempura soba soups all winter), Vietnamese (try a bánh mì sandwich, it will change you), anything in a dumpling, and Ethiopian (the bread is insane). I am dying to do a food tour of Mexico! I know that I have only tried to eat and prepare the tip of the iceberg of Mexican cooking. ¡Viva México!