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A Passion for la buena mesa

Celebrity chef Ingrid Hoffmann and her mother, Cordon Bleu chef Yolanda Ibarnegaray, share a lifelong love of cuisine and entertaining.

Just as instinct often guides her in sprinkling in a special spice when creating a new dish, Ingrid Hoffmann instinctively turned to her mother when she decided to publish her own cookbook, Simply Delicioso: A Collection of Everyday Recipes With a Latin Twist (Clarkson Potter), released in Spanish and English in 2008.

The star of Latin cooking and entertainment shows Simply Delicioso, on the Food Network, and Delicioso, on Galavision, credits her mother—professional chef and former restaurateur Yolanda Ibarnegaray—for inspiring her to become one of today’s most visible cooking personalities.

“She’s the biggest supporter,” says Hoffmann, 43. “When the concept of Simply Delicioso came up, she said, ‘Do it and I’ll help you.’”

That’s the way it’s always been for this Colombian mother-daughter duo, whose shared passion for good food and entertaining has made them business partners and catapulted Ingrid to international stardom.

“When Ingrid was growing up, I was constantly cooking, trying new recipes and creating new dishes,” says Ibarnegaray, a graduate of the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris. “She was always by my side in the kitchen.” In fact, little Ingrid, who started to show her own interest in cooking when she was six years old, would often clamber up onto a stool to reach the stove, her mother adds.

Dinner at the Hoffmann home reflected varied traditions from both sides of the family: traditional German dishes from father Billy Hoffmann’s family, and Colombian, Bolivian, Basque, Peruvian, and Argentinean dishes from the maternal side. Add to those other international cuisines as they appeared on Ibarnegaray’s menus.

“I don’t recall ever having food that was kid’s’ food,” says Hoffmann, whose recipes clearly draw from her personal smorgasbord of culinary traditions. Yet the chica—Hoffmann’s nickname, which brands her recipes as “chicalicious,” her advice as “chica tips”—brings her own creativity and vision to the table.

“Ingrid’s style of cooking is very different from her mom’s,” says Steven Ship, managing partner of Chica Worldwide, Hoffmann’s media company. And, he adds, when it comes to her television shows, cookbooks, and other projects, Hoffmann is definitely in control. While the two are “very, very close…Ingrid’s the mastermind and executor,” Ship says, adding that “her mom is the encourager,” always ready to support and share her creative talents.

“Mom is the ultimate inspiration,” says Hoffmann, citing Ibarnegaray’s hard work and persistence, a work ethic that resulted in a successful catering business in Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles, for more than 20 years, and a restaurant in Bogota.

Hoffmann thrived working side by side with her mother. But, she says, “I wanted to fly on my own.” In 1985, she opened a high-fashion boutique in Miami’s Coconut Grove district, eventually expanding the business to a chain of four boutiques in Miami and Aruba.

But cooking and entertaining remained her passion, and she missed the restaurant business. In turn, Ibarnegaray, by now divorced, missed her youngest daughter. In 1992, the two opened a restaurant in Miami, and soon Hoffmann was asked to do a cooking segment on a local show. She wasn’t shy in front of the cameras; as a teenager she’d been a model and actress in Spanish-language soap operas. “It sounded like fun,” she says of the invitation. “I’m an adventurer.”

Shortly after that segment aired, in 2002, Hoffmann was invited to join Univision’s popular morning show, Despierta América. That led to the Spanish-language Delicioso con Ingrid Hoffmann in 2004, which then led to an appearance on The Martha Stewart Show in 2006. Next was the launch of her English-language Food Network show, Simply Delicioso, in 2007.

As a child, Hoffmann never imagined that she would one day have her own TV show, let alone two, and in different languages. “I thought, if I can swing this, then I would have made [for] myself the perfect dream job,” she says. “I love what I do. I do it with passion.”

Not one to rest on her laurels, this chica is still dreaming: she wants her own talk show and plans to continue focusing on developing healthier food products.

The one thing she didn’t dream about, she says, was that her dad would become her fashion critic. “He’ll call and say, ‘I didn’t like that shirt on you,’” Hoffmann says, laughing.