Marcela Valladolid encourages travelers to find adventurous eats


For Marcela Valladolid, food, travel and memories go hand in hand. While travel has a sense of adventure, those meaningful moments will last much longer.

Many foodies know Marcela Valladolid from the Food Network. The talented and vivacious chef has traveled the world in search of new experiences. Many of these adventures have influenced what she eats, how she lives and have continued to impact her outlook on life. In truth, travel can produce many meaningful moments long after that vacation ends.

According to a Capital One survey, “82% of people aspire to describe trips as more meaningful to them and their loved ones.” That number is astonishing. From social impact travel adventures to just recreating a favorite vacation recipe, that trip is more than the time spent away from home.

Today, the world is part of everyone’s community. Sometimes a new food can spark and interest in a different culture. Sometimes a trip can create a love affair with a new food. When a person takes the trip, they become part of that bigger communication.

Recently, Capital One has launched the concept, The Purpose Project. This program looks to encourage travelers to experience meaningful moments. More importantly, it encourages the conversation about people seeking “to travel with a purpose to improve yourself, deepen your personal connections and leave a lasting impact on the places you explore.”

Marcela Valladolid has partnered with Capital One on this new initiative. Building on her belief that exploring cultures through travel has deepened her connection to her heritage, this partnership was a perfect fit.

Marcela Valladolid visits New Orleans, photo provided by Capital One

As part of this partnership, I had the opportunity to interview Marcela Valladolid. During this conversation, we spoke about travel, being adventurous and, of course, food.

Below is a transcript of that conversation.

Cristine Struble: Sometimes a big trip is associated with a momentous event (significant birthday, honeymoon, bucket list trip), how can any trip have meaningful moments?

Marcela Valladolid: Try and connect with the locals. Breathe in the local color. Get out of the golden cage and explore. Make sure you pick a destination where you feel comfortable doing that. Some vacations are certainly just for relaxing, recharging and literally not moving. Done that plenty. But get out there. Talk to people. Walk the town.

Capital One actually did a lot of research on the reasons behind why people travel and what they hope to get out of their trips. They found that most of us (70 percent) place a high value on having a purposeful experience during a trip, and that connecting with family and friends (88 percent) and discovering something new about ourselves (74 percent) were among the top desires when traveling.

I’m a big believer that when purposeful travel happens – when we meet, listen, learn and love people that are a little different than we are – we make the world a little better as well.

Marcela Valladolid at Café Reconcile in New Orleans, photo provided by Capital One

CS: Often people choose travel locations less for adventure and more for relaxation, how can travelers incorporate the adventure into their next vacation?

MV: DON’T FORGET YOUR SNEAKERS AND AT LEAST ONE WORKOUT OUTFIT! Seriously. Sometimes I’ve used it as an excuse to not venture out; not having the proper gear. But get up, dress the part and have someone point you in the direction of the zipline. If my mother and father-in-law were riding vespas in their late 70’s in the South of France, so can we! It’s all about your attitude. Also, be mindful of who you’re traveling with! I know that if my sister Carina is coming, Adventure is guaranteed. There will be four-wheeler rentals, hot air ballooning and possibly parachuting. With Philip, I know I’ll go to a Michellin starred restaurant and a walk through the most glorious museum or park. I thoroughly enjoy both. Respect your travel companion and their needs and travel goals and, my usual tip, GO WITH THE FLOW!

Speaking of adventure, I recently joined forces with my friends at Capital One for the Purpose Project, an effort aimed at igniting a conversation around what it means to travel with a purpose, and inspiring others to use travel as a way to connect with themselves and the places around them. In my opinion, travel is one of the most important adventures we can take because it has the amazing ability to teach us lessons about where we come from and where we’re going all at the same time. Capital One is focused on creating products and experiences that enrich our lives, including the rewards and access offered to customers so they can have these adventures while creating meaningful moments!

CS: Many people bring home souvenirs from a trip, is there another option to remember and relive that trip experience?

MV: Sometimes I start making photo albums on the actual flight home. It’s so easy now with apps to upload and create an album in a very short amount of time. Otherwise those photos stay on your phone or computer forever.

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CS: As people prepare/plan/get excited for an upcoming trip, should they start exploring flavors and foods from their upcoming destination?

MV: Goodness no! Head out with an open heart and an open mind. Heck sometimes the best idea is to not even ask what you’re eating until after you’ve tasted it! Unless there’s a life-threatening allergy, just go for it!

CS: How can a traveler find “authentic” cuisine when they are traveling?

Speak to the locals. Hotels sometimes have partnerships with certain restaurants that limit them to those suggestions. So ask your cab driver, or even your bell boy. Honestly, I don’t even trust on-line reviews. The human palate is so subjective. Every opinion you read comes from a person with a very different life experience than you and very different food expectations. Granted you want good, clean, safe food but, again, locals know best.

As part of the Purpose Project, Capital One partnered with Tastemade to create Purpose Project, The Series, where they collaborated with a diverse group of travel enthusiasts and partners, including yours truly, to bring purposeful travel to life. I traveled to New Orleans where I got to experience the soul-filling dishes of Café Reconcile, along with the greater purpose they serve in the community. It doesn’t get much more authentic than soul food in the Big Easy!

Stay tuned for my Tastemade New Orleans episode which will be airing on Tastemade Facebook Watch in late March. Hopefully it inspires you to seek out adventurous eats on your next trip and learn about the history behind the cuisine of the culture you’re experiencing.

CS: Are there any foods that found too exotic to try? Why?

MV: Not in my book…

CS: What advice would you give the non-adventurous eater who wants to explore and travel more?

MV: If you’re super picky I would probably suggest asking for sauces/condiments on the side. Order dishes to be shared so you’re not sitting with a giant plate of something you don’t love just in front of you. Maybe do just a little research to find foods that are comparable in flavor/texture so you know what you’re getting into. But stay open. You only live once!

Related Story. Alex Guarnaschelli shares the perfect snack recipe. light

I would like to thank Marcella Vallodolid for taking the time to speak with me. Also, I would like to take Capital One for facilitating this interview.

Are you ready for some adventurous travel? From food to experiences, meaningful moments are waiting on your next trip.