Star-a-Day: Ana Quincoces
by Maria Russo in Food Network Star, Interviews, April 5, 2016
It was only recently that Star Talk broke the news that an unprecedented 12th season of Food Network Star is set to unfold this summer. For the first time ever, a prequel competition — Comeback Kitchen — will bring together seven past Star contestants for a no-holds-barred battle. The winner of this three-week tournament will join the dozen first-time Food Network Star finalists in the premiere episode on Sunday, May 22 at 9|8c. But before the new season kicks off, we’re introducing all 12 of the hopeful rivals in exclusive, one-on-one interviews. Keep checking back every day to meet a new member of the cast. Today we’d like you to meet Ana Quincoces.
A former lawyer with 20 years of experience, Ana, 49 (Coral Gables, Fla.), dreams of winning her own Food Network show, and she’s confident she is the one thing Food Network is missing. Ana is passionate about showing viewers how to spice up their dishes with Cuban flair; she has written Cuban cookbooks and currently produces her own Latin-inspired food line.
Describe your culinary POV in one sentence.
Ana Quincoces: It’s really enhancing everyday foods with Latin flavors.
Who are you most intimidated to be working with, Bobby or Giada?
AQ: Both of them. Probably more Bobby. His game face is a little bit more intimidating than Giada’s. Giada seems more approachable. But I think I could learn so much from Bobby because I think that he understands what I do more. But they’re both kind of intimidating.
If you could ask one of them to teach you one thing in the kitchen, what would it be?
AQ: I think I’ve learned a lot by watching Bobby over the years, and I think that Bobby stays true to his culinary point of view no matter what. I’ve seen him make Latin dishes — like a mofongo with tomatillo sauce. I mean, he will not waver, and so I think that I would love to learn from him the confidence to just — even if something is traditionally one way, just believing that he can make it better or make it as good with his own culinary perspective. I think that that’s a gift that he has.
What one thing do you really want to convey to the mentors about who you are?
AQ: I think that I would like them to know that this is so much my passion and that I want to teach people. I want to teach people that Latin food isn’t just Mexican food. There’s a huge misconception about that, and everybody thinks that Cuban food is spicy. And so I think that it’s not been done before. I don’t think that Food Network has really gotten my culinary point of view across, so I would like them to understand, really, what it is that I’m trying to do and kind of help me get there.
How did you prepare for this competition?
AQ: I didn’t. I did zero preparation. I had never even watched the show. And I have a lot of regret about that.
Win or lose, what’s something you want to take away from this contest?
AQ: I’m somebody that — I’m always in a state of evolution. If I’m not doing something new, I feel like I’m stagnant. Just challenging myself to do something like this. I got a letter from one of my daughters — and I have older daughters, they’re 24 and 25 years old, and they sent me a letter telling me how proud they were of me that I was doing something like this. That I am their role model and that I don’t back down from anything and that it’s just a great example for them. So I think I’ve already won.
What’s your greatest strength in the kitchen?
AQ: Making something from nothing. I will go into a kitchen with bare cupboards and very little in the refrigerator and I can make something really great. It’s kind of like a challenge. I think if you go to the grocery store and buy every single ingredient you need to make a meal … anybody can do that. So if I have something, some starting point, I will kind of figure something out with whatever’s available. That and the fact that I’m fast in the kitchen. I think I have an ability to balance flavors really well. Different dimensions of flavors and different layers of flavor. I think … the hallmark of Cuban cooking is very much like that. So, I think I have that ability.
What is the strangest thing we’d find in your refrigerator right now?
AQ: I have some drink that’s supposed to help with collagen and antiaging that I haven’t even tried ’cause it’s really gross.
What do you consider to be your signature dish?
AQ: I hate to say it; I don’t really have a signature dish. I think that the most-requested dish by my family is arroz con pollo only because it’s something that feeds a crowd and everybody loves it. I have a unique way of making it and it’s not your kind of pale, dry restaurant-looking — it’s very soupy, more like a risotto, and people really love that. And it feeds a crowd, so I would say that my family would think — that’s the most requested, I would say.
What’s your favorite food city to visit?
AQ: San Sebastien, Spain, by far. New Orleans I love too.
What dish or ingredient will we never catch you eating?
AQ: I don’t love gamey stuff, so I don’t love deer or venison and things like that.
What’s your favorite late-night snack?
AQ: I’m a sugar addict. It’s so bad. So anything with a lot of cream cheese frosting … anything that’s a vehicle for cream cheese frosting, whether it’s red velvet cake or carrot cake or hummingbird cake or pistachio cake, you name it. If it has a lot of cream cheese frosting on it, that’s my thing.
What’s your guilty-pleasure food?
AQ: Yeah, cake
What is one must-have dish at your last supper?
AQ: Pizza, stone crabs and carrot cake — really good carrot cake
What do you want to say about yourself to fans watching at home?
AQ: I think that the most-important thing that I want them to know about me is that if I can do it, you can do it. That it’s very important to me that I want to be accessible. That I’ve reinvented myself a thousand times and that women in particular — that if there’s something you want to do, go for it. I mean, I’m proof positive that you can. I was a lawyer for a long time and now I’ve written three cookbooks, I have my own food line and I’m doing a Food Network show — I mean, how cool is that? … And it’s never too late to reinvent yourself. And definitely that if I can do it, you certainly can do it because I don’t have any special skills, and I didn’t go to culinary school. I’m just a regular working stiff like everybody else and just kind of pursuing my dream, and I think that that’s a good thing for everybody to know.
Rapid fire: Think fast!
Ketchup, mustard or mayonnaise? Mayo
Chocolate or vanilla? Chocolate
Bagels or doughnuts? Doughnuts
Cream cheese or butter? Butter
Coffee or tea? Coffee
Burgers or hot dogs? Burgers
French fries or onion rings? Onion rings
White meat or dark? White
Cake or pie? Cake
French toast or pancakes? Pancakes
Beer or wine? Wine
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