Marcela Valladolid Reveals The Best Thing About Filming Selena + Chef - Exclusive

Marcela Valladolid describes herself as, "a classically trained chef, whose purpose in life is to show the true culture, food, and traditions of Mexico." Her cooking career began in her teens, when she worked in her aunt's cooking school in Baja, Mexico. Valladolid studied at both the Los Angeles Culinary Institute and the Ritz Escoffier Cooking School in Paris, where she learned the ins and outs of professional cooking and the finer points of the trade of a classical French pastry chef. The chef has authored numerous cookbooks, hosted and appeared on myriad cooking shows — both as a chef and as a judge — and is generally considered to be a master chef, especially when it comes to the cuisine of her Mexican heritage.

So what was the biggest surprise when Valladolid joined superstar musician and actress Selena Gomez on an episode of the HBO Max series Selena + Chef? The star took learning to cook very seriously. 

The show, now in its second season, features Gomez conducting "quarantine cooking lessons" with the assistance of notable chefs from a slew of culinary backgrounds, from Roy Choi to Nancy Silverton to Marcus Samuelsson; and as Valladolid was happy to report (and contrary to what some viewers may expect) the show is anything but a celebrity fluff piece. Selena + Chef is a full-on, in-depth tutorial that takes viewers through every step of a recipe, from initial prep to taking a bite.

The best part of Selena + Chef came after filming

When we asked Valladolid what the best part about filming her episode of Selena + Chef was, she had an answer right away. "I think the best thing that happened is I got a note after we finished the testing saying that she devoured all of the food and all of the leftovers," the chef said. "And I think that's... it's Selena Gomez. She's one of the biggest pop stars, or just celebrities, on planet earth, a kabillion followers." Clearly, Gomez loved the meal. 

Then the chef added, on a more serious note: "But more than anything, she's someone that was intimidated by this recipe, and she got to make it fully on her own, and it came out great. And that's the biggest satisfaction... I do a lot of cooking classes, and that's the most rewarding thing. That somebody comes back to you and says: 'Listen, I feel empowered to recreate this recipe myself. It's absolutely delicious.' And that's what I got from this show with her."

Selena means business in the kitchen

Valladolid said there was one major surprise when working on Selena + Chef, which she found "refreshing." The chef told us that Selena and her crew insisted on doing every single step of the cooking from scratch without any store-bought substitutes, nothing pre-prepped off camera — in short, no shortcuts of any kind were made. "With Selena, I loved doing the show because it was like no-holds-barred! Make the tortillas from scratch, get all of the traditional ingredients like chilis for mole. Don't skip on any of the parts of the recipe, don't streamline it, it was like teach her how to do this right."

"And," added Valladolid, "as a chef with a different cultural background like myself, that's so deeply rooted in tradition, to get that opportunity, and on such a huge platform, it meant everything to me. It was really special to truly represent, and truly cook my recipe as it needed to be cooked, traditionally... And she was such a willing participant, and the production, honestly, it was me that would push back when I was like: 'Are you sure you guys want to make tortillas from scratch? Because it can get sticky, and if you've never done them before...' and they were like: 'Nope, we're doing the whole thing.' And it was really, really refreshing to see that courage."

Taping Selena + Chef was not without its challenges

Of the challenges, Valladolid says at first she wasn't sure about doing classes remotely. "We did it like this online. It was interactive and we weren't in the same space, it was almost like a Zoom call... I am eternally grateful to her and her production, because I saw that it was doable. I was afraid about connectivity and internet issues, and I learned so much in that production, how they set up my kitchen, from lighting, from this to that."

"[The crew] were my teachers in those 10, I don't know how many hours, the production spent in my house setting this whole thing up... So, I'm so grateful to her and her production for that. And it was just really inspiring to... how many chances do you get in life to connect and have a conversation, and have a morning, or spend the day with somebody that has such a massive impact on people's lives? It must be really hard for her, I can't imagine."

"I think it was all pretty smooth," says Valladolid. "There was a moment where I sensed she needed a break, I'm a mom and I'm very in tune with other people's feelings and needs. And I was like: 'How about we take a five minute breather, and kind of get readjusted?' And it was perfect, because then we started on a whole new recipe."

There's a surprise in Marcela's Selena + Chef episode even she is wondering about

"I haven't seen the edit," Valladolid says, laughing, "so I don't know. I introduced my family, and I actually was just talking to my teenager yesterday because all of his friends... I have three kids and there's a lot of activity happening in my house. And we were giggling at the fact that we didn't know if he was going to end up on the cutting room floor or on screen."

"The thing that I'm most passionate about... I'm very grateful I fortunately get to include my family in everything. They're in all my books, they're in all my shows, they're in all of everything. So, [Selena] was very gracious and said 'Hi' to my babies and to my teenager. And I was like, I just hope they make it into the show because they're such an important part of my career."

You can catch chef Marcela Valladolid (and maybe even her kids!) on season two of Selena + Chef, streaming now on HBO Max.