Spice Kitchen: Healthy Latin And Caribbean Cuisine with Ariel Fox
In Episode 51 of the Kitchen Confidante Podcast, Liren Baker talks with Ariel Fox about her worldly culinary upbringing and the vibrant, adaptable recipes in her new book, Spice Kitchen.
On the podcast, I recently chatted with Chef Ariel Fox. Chef Ariel is best known as the winner of Hell’s Kitchen in season 18 and as a guest judge on Food Network. Off-screen, she is the Regional Vice President of Culinary for Landry’s at Dos Caminos and Del Friscos. She recently released her latest book: Spice Kitchen: Healthy Latin and Caribbean Cuisine.
In this episode, Chef Ariel shares all about her worldly culinary upbringing and the vibrant, adaptable recipes in her new book.
Listen to the full episode here or keep reading for some of my favorite moments with Chef Ariel.
Tell us more about your journey to becoming a chef
I came from a multi-cultural family with many cooks. I was born in San Francisco to a Columbian mother and a German and Irish father and spent some time living in South America when I was very young. I also grew up with a Black stepfather from New Jersey. So, I had many worldly influences in my life from a young age.
I first realized I was interested in food as a career in high school when I worked on an organic farm selling veggies to chefs at the San Francisco farmer’s market. I didn’t know I wanted to be a chef then, but I realized that food was something people could do for a living.
After two years in community college, I pivoted to culinary school.
Then when I was just 25, I competed in Hell’s Kitchen. I didn’t win, but I was determined to push myself to improve as a chef. So, ten years later, when they asked me to come back to the show, I came with a game plan to win!
Tell us more about your new book, Spice Kitchen
The recipes in Spice Kitchen are all about giving people options to cook a healthy take on traditional Latin and Caribbean favorites.
Growing up in Santa Cruz, I was probably raised to be more health-conscious than many, but I didn’t always necessarily eat healthily.
However, as I got older, I started thinking about what food made me feel good and what gave me energy. To me, “healthy” is no longer just about losing weight or being skinny. Instead, it’s more about maintaining good mental health, having enough energy to fit more throughout your day, and feeling good.
When I first started focusing on my health, I ate bland, repetitive, sort of stereotypical “healthy foods.” As you can imagine, I started missing all the flavors of my favorite foods.
The traditional Latin and Caribbean recipes I treasured weren’t the healthiest recipes, so I asked myself, “how do I still enjoy all these flavors while staying true to my new lifestyle that I want to live?”
The answer was the Spice Kitchen cookbook!
It uses substitutions like cauliflower and cashews to help you make creamy but healthy recipes — but it is also designed so you don’t necessarily have to make the healthy version. It also includes many traditional sauces and dressings you can use to help keep foods exciting and flavorful. I love this book so much, that I find myself using the book in my own kitchen when I am cooking at home!
Spice Kitchen: Healthy Latin and Caribbean Cuisine, by Ariel Fox (Kingston Imperial, 2022).