With her catering business affected by the pandemic and with the illusion of opening a new restaurant in Pedraza, chef Samantha Vallejo-Nágera (51 years old, Madrid) repeats for the ninth time as a jury in the successful ‘MasterChef’. The program of La 1 travels tonight (10:30 pm) to Talavera de la Reina (Toledo) to cook with Carlos Maldonado, the first and only culinary candidate to have a Michelin star.
– Do you think that ‘MasterChef’ has come closer to the genre of ‘reality’ with contestants who are more characters?
–’MasterChef ‘is done by the contestants. Pepe, Jordi and I are the same as always, and it is true that each time we get along better. I would call this edition the most normal, because people are normal. When they do a casting, they see the people and at the end there is a level of cooking, there are social skills and people who are cool. This year they are very cooks, very fighters and very competitive. It is true that the age group is quite small, they have more or less the same profiles. And then we are television, and we do a show. The good thing is that the three judges are complementary, and that is important.
“Who do you have the best time with?” With celebrities or with the anonymous?
-I love anonymous people, they have that thing that they really want to dedicate to the hospitality industry and it shows. Now that we are finishing filming the anonymous one, I am looking forward to filming the ‘Celebrity’. And then I also love children, I am a super babysitter and this year I had a great time. I am delighted with all the editions, I really enjoy it.
“Do your children have the kitchen bug?”
-Roscón wants to go to ‘MasterChef’ every day. She makes a potato omelette and every day she tells me that this year she wants to go to ‘MasterChef Junior’. He’s very funny, he loves the show. My kids have a good time watching it. Get hooked from the beginning and be part of those characters who end up entering every house and knowing that they are disconnected, that their life is to cook, take out knives, have fun and enjoy an experience.
–It has been a very difficult year for the hospitality sector, how has the pandemic affected your catering?
-Well, stopped because we must take into account that we are used to doing a service for large numbers of people, so that has disappeared. The pandemic in the catering sector has struck us down. Can’t gather people. We work for things for 1,000, 2,000 or 500 people; weddings or corporate parties. The caterings have disappeared and it is stopped. We have enjoyed the ‘MasterChef’ recordings more because we have been focused on them. I’m really enjoying it.
–But he has had the courage to open his own restaurant in Pedraza (Segovia) in the middle of the pandemic. How is the experience being?
– I have opened my house-tavern restaurant in Pedraza, in the middle of the pandemic, because I had already bought the house and had started to do the work and of course what do I do, won’t I open it? By numbers it might have been more profitable not to open yet, but with the hope you have for a new business, hoping that people can come to see us and eat steak. And I hope that soon we can record a test of ‘MasterChef’.
– How do you handle the criticism? He was questioned about that episode in networks with his son …
-If I really felt attacked by real things that I talk or think about … If I were a fanatic with a radical ideology, maybe I would feel attacked. But you know that it was something unintentionally, totally verbal, of which I apologized because it was not my intention. Criticism will upset me when someone sincerely attacks me about something. Unfortunately, people in Spain always have a negative opinion behind an anonymous social profile and then they find it difficult to say things to your face. If I have a bug, tell it to my face. I am who I am, I try to have a real profile, in the networks I tell my routine as a mother and a cook. Whoever doesn’t like it, don’t follow me.
–Your eldest daughter seems to be going down the hospitality path, right?
“You just turned 18, Chloe, and I’m delighted.” He is still in school, but he is going to study hospitality next year. I encourage her. She is doing it all, I let her enjoy it as one more. I don’t want to get in the way. I want her to be her, to do her own thing. Now she works weekends in the house-tavern, and they are all delighted with her. And if she introduces herself to ‘MasterChef’, I’m going to spank her anyway (laughs).
-This year the casting has a lot of presence of women. Are you proud to see the role of women in the kitchen and on the show increasing?
-I think it’s very good that we are men and women equally everywhere. Neither one nor the other. And for women to have a presence, that’s fine with me. The woman has to be valued as we are. It is a very feminine year.