Omi Hopper Breaks Down The One Big Myth You Can Stop Believing About Puerto Rican Food - Exclusive

In Season 2, Episode 6 of "Next Level Chef," Omi Hopper finally got her hands on an ingredient that gave her an upper hand — plantains. The Puerto Rican social media chef had a hard time adjusting to the "Next Level Chef" kitchens, where — she told Mashed in an exclusive interview — even garlic was at times hard to find. "I'm like, 'Where the heck is garlic? They hide it, where is it?'" she recounted. "I'm looking for peppers, looking for cilantro. I'm like, 'Where's my cilantro? I got nothing green here.' There's so many times that I'm like, 'Okay, we're going to make our own adobo.'"

Hopper has never swayed in her culinary goals — a look at her socials is a testament to that. Visit the contestant's Insta-kitchen for pasteles de yuca, sopas de salchichón, enchiladas, empanadas, chicken thighs in mango chipotle, and more island flavors. "Puerto Rican food in specific, we don't get enough of a light," Hopper told Mashed. The social media chef is out to change that and to clear up some major stereotypes about the island's cuisine that she's constantly butting her head against.

Stop believing this about Puerto Rican food

Don't make the mistake of thinking that just because Puerto Rican cuisine re-uses the same ingredients, all the food tastes the same. "The biggest misconceptions are that our flavor profile is [all] the same, right?," Omi Hopper told Mashed. "Because, 'Oh, it's just plantains and meat,' or 'It's just rice and beans,' or 'It's just rice and meat' ... the ingredients are used in so many different ways. I can make plantains in 25 different ways. I can make rice and beans 25 different ways."

There's no single way to prepare chicken, either say Hopper. In fact, the protein is a base for many of Puerto Rican cuisine's most celebrated dishes from sancocho to empanada fillings. "I can make chicken — I can make stewed chicken so many different ways, maybe with the same flavor profile, but definitely, we'll have a different outcome depending on one or two ingredients that I may switch here and there," the "Next Level Chef" contestant specified. "I can go from pollo guisado to a pollo en fricasé by adding grape juice, wine, and beer, and still having the sofrito, the tomato paste, your garlic paste, your oregano."