The temptation to serve up Ingrid Hoffmann as a sultry, spicy Latina seductress is strong. Let's be honest: Watching the 45-year-old chef saunter around a kitchen is delightful. But to put her in that box is to treat her like leftovers, and you don't want to miss the entire dining experience — true indulgence lies in tasting the food.
The Cali, Colombia native moved to Miami in 1985 and dabbled in a number of pursuits, such as modeling, acting, and opening restaurants, before finding her true calling. "I'm a curious person, an adventurer," she says. While searching for her niche, she was drawn back to the kitchen, where she spent much of her childhood learning from her mother, a Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef. "I love the process of creating new recipes. You just dream up something — it could be a vague, abstract idea — and then the fun begins."
After Hoffmann opened a couple of restaurants, including the widely successful Rocca in the early '90s, her saucy personality pushed her to an even larger stage. A recurring guest spot on a Spanish-language cable program led to her own show, Delicioso, in 2004. Then it was Simply Delicioso on Food Network in 2007. Next came books, more shows, and even a short-lived but successful jaunt into the local food truck scene (she was behind Latin Burger & Taco Truck before ending her participation a few months ago). She is just getting started, she says.
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Hoffmann describes herself as an adrenaline junkie. Recently, capitalizing on the Delicioso brand, she launched a radio show and web portal (simplydelicioso.com). She's also behind a line of kitchen accessories, including cutlery that sold like panqueques calientes on Home Shopping Network last year. In upcoming months, they will be introduced in 4,000 stores nationwide — including Target, Kmart, and other big-box retailers.
With so much in the oven, it would be easy to neglect cooking. But that doesn't happen. "I allot time for recipe days," she insists, adding she won't forget the source of her success. And don't think she'll allow someone else to muddle with her brand. Her creations are her own, perfected at her Brickell-area digs. "I would never let somebody else create a recipe for me," she remarks.
Today, Hoffmann is one of Miami's most popular exports. She's a marketer's dream: attractive, vivacious, and, above all, hard-working. "It's not about being the most talented. It's about having passion and working hard," she says. Somebody tried dubbing her the Latina Rachael Ray. But we think "Maria Stewart" might be more fitting.
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