By The Latin Kitchen Staff

jennifer-betancesJennifer Betances’ passion for cooking dates back to her childhood, when she and her brother, Armando Christian Perez (aka Pitbull), enjoyed classic Cuban meals prepared by their Tia. Jennifer’s focus on healthy, creative meals that honor family and tradition pays homage to those memories.

As a partner and the culinary contributor at SyndicatedNews.net, where she hosts her own cooking show, Cuban With A Twist, Jennifer shares her favorite recipes and food stories with home chefs who, like her, see their heritage as an integral part of their cooking. Jennifer is now on her own website!

Jennifer was the featured chef in Latina Magazine’s final issue of 2013, wherein she offers three mouthwatering recipes  guaranteed to please even the finickiest holiday dinner party guest. Here, we talk food, family and fun ‘At the Table with Jennifer Betances.’ Happy Holidays!

Dish you crave from your Tia: 
I absolutely, positively, love my Tia’s Steak and French Fries.

Secret ingredienta to make a dish pop: 
I have three secret ingredients: extra virgin olive oil, salt (sea and/or truffle), and fresh cracked black pepper. These are basic yet important ingredients for flavor in practically any dish.

Favorite Latin restaurant in the U.S.: 
There are so many I enjoy in the U.S. and thus so many to choose from. I would have to say my favorite would have to be Versailles in Miami, Florida.

Favorite Latin restaurant in the world:
Staying true to my roots, Versailles in Miami, Florida.

Favorite city to eat in: 
I have two favorites: pasta in Switzerland or steak and seafood in Miami at Prime 112.

Secret to a perfect dinner party: 
I love to entertain! I hosted a huge dinner party for my brother and other family members in Miami last summer. I feel the secret to a perfect dinner party is the opportunity to enjoy quality time with the company you are with, while engaging in inspiring, profound conversations and, of course, a perfect blend of food choices to fit the occasion. It’s about the whole experience.

Biggest food indulgence: 
My guilty pleasure has to be French fries and chocolate. Indulging in moderation once in a while is, in my opinion, perfectly acceptable.

Favorite vegetable: 
I love spinach! It’s a powerhouse super food that is packed with nutrients, antioxidants and omega 3- fatty acids.

Best food memory: 
My best memory has to be going to my Tia’s house after school and having my favorite meal, steak and fries. I often make this meal to remind me of those days, and when I do, the smells remind me that it’s time to pay my Tia a visit.

Ideal breakfast, lunch and dinner: 
I believe in portion control and even my favorite foods are within moderation.
Breakfast: Veggie Omelet with Goat Cheese
Lunch: Bacon Lettuce Tomato topped with Goat Cheese served on Whole Wheat Bread
Snack:  My homemade granola bars
Dinner: My Tia’s Steak and French Fries

Favorite Latin cocktail: 
I have two: my Twisted Voli Cuban Mojito and my Twisted Cuban.

Favorite kitchen gadget: 
I love the bench scraper. It’s an amazing all-purpose tool for working fast in the kitchen.

Perfect song to cook to: 
Two things that define my music selection when I am cooking: the meal and my mood. My music choices vary from salsa to old school to rock, and of course my brother Pitbull’s music.

Most adventurous food you’ve eaten: 
My respected friend Graham Elliot offers a once in a lifetime dining experience at his restaurant Graham Elliot in Chicago. I’ve experienced many unique food pairings there; for example, caviar, escargot, and octopus with fresh, rare vegetables. The combination of flavors was a Fourth of July for the palate – surprising, explosive, and delicious. Without question, it was the most unique and adventurous dining experience I have yet had.

Favorite fusion: 
My favorite fusion would have to be Latin fusion. I was raised surrounded by Latin foods. There are so many creative and unique blends of herbs and spices that can be mixed together to create powerful, flexible, and enjoyable recipes that can double as appetizers and entrées – even desserts. The flexibility of Latin fusion is endless.

Tip for at-home cooks:
I am asked this question often. Cooking an incredible meal doesn’t necessarily mean following a recipe step by step. I like to think of meal preparation as an extension of my creativity. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different ingredients. It’s ok not to follow a recipe. In fact, the best meals often result from adding a little bit of this and a little bit of that. It personalizes your meal and gives it a twist.

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