Chatting with Luz Nereida Rosado (Cielito) is like taking in the scent of kindness and good vibes, as from a freshly served dinner. Not even in the gloomiest of pandemic days, did she feel lost or stop any of her projects; in fact, when you ask her about it, she replies bluntly: “It has only changed my way of working”, and appreciates the arrival of digital technologies in her life.
I met this chef, influencer and businesswoman in November 2019 at the Gourmet Trinidad event, which was held in this central Cuba town as a huge party that brought together important figures of the local and Caribbean cuisines. But Cielito had been to Cuba before, as an organizer of the iconic Le Diner en Blanc event that took place in Havana in April that year. “Working there was a great experience. The bravery of the Cubans, their courage and ingenuity to do what it takes, no matter how, as long as it gets done, despite all the shortages … that’s a great lesson!”
From television, she went on to develop her special food brand and wrote her book Cielito Rosado: Para todos los días, which sold 40,000 copies.
As a child she would be mesmerized watching her mom among pots of Creole cuisine; when she visited her grandma, she was greeted with a plate of tasty spaghetti and a raisin pudding. She closes her eyes, breathes in and revisits the aroma of those days. “It was something magical that led me to passionately enjoy every step of the cooking process, using the ingredients that the earth gives us every day. It’s like the artist who makes music and, when playing his notes, senses the deepest emotions”, she recalls.
“I started out in TV, print and radio, where many doors were open. Among the things I enjoy the most are orchestrating gastronomic events – from managing and coordinating chefs, restaurants and important participants – to designing menus and connecting culinary schools for each event”.
Her passion for cooking is such that she has managed to expand her work scope to realize a wide range of projects in her thirty years of experience. She hosted daily shows like Las Sabrosuras de Cielito and Cielito, What’s Cooking? broadcasted across the United States and its territories. In addition, her website (www.cielitorosado.com) has become one of the most visited culinary sites in Puerto Rico. Her cuisine, mainly artisanal, is often acknowledged as a culinary authority. She also owns a natural food and fine pastry manufacture.
“When I started developing products under the Cielito Rosado Cocina Artesanal brand, I became a certified sugar artisan…”Cielito Rosado
“Food styling for brands and culinary products is also among my favorite endeavors, as well as my online presence. It’s wonderful to be able to increase people’s desire to consume a food product through its image.”
From television, she went on to develop her special food brand and wrote her book Cielito Rosado: Para todos los días, which sold 40,000 copies. With the surge of the internet and social networks, she enlisted in yet another culinary adventure, promoting her brand—which is her name— through recipes, projects and tips on her website. “All the pictures of my dishes are taken by me and I am passionate about telling the world how rich the Caribbean cuisine is, especially if we use the main ingredient for each experience and recipe: adding lots of love!
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You promote artisanal cuisine, why bet on this culinary approach?
When I started developing products under the Cielito Rosado Cocina Artesanal brand, I became a certified sugar artisan by developing cookie, jam and pastry lines that were widely welcomed. That’s where it all started. I bet on the artisanal – because I believe in local produce, creating recipes in line with the vision we have today for a gastronomic revolution based on four main premises: sustainability, health, solidarity and satisfaction.
What are the advantages of artisanal cuisine?
The most important advantage is to achieve authenticity; the use of the most natural food elements, and handling them safely in order to preserve flavor and quality.
You have stood out in the media world as a businesswoman, influencer, show host and best-selling author. Is it hard for a woman to make her way as an entrepreneur or a business person?
There have always been many stereotypes regarding men and women in the business world. That being the case, the world has changed, giving opportunities to great women with lots of courage, although I don’t deny that sometimes it’s a harder path; but discipline, courage and integrity have helped us get where we want.
How do you assess women’s representation in Puerto Rico’s culinary world?
Despite the fact that, as in other countries, Puerto Rico’s culinary world is mostly populated by men, we have managed to reach a high place with a lot of effort, training and tenacity, which has enabled great men cooks to show respect and admiration for women cooks. This makes me proud and very happy, because women have shown, once again, that we can go as far as we want, something that men deemed unthinkable many years ago.
What are the ingredients for Cielito Rosado’s recipe for success?
That’s quite simple! There are only three steps to success in each recipe: select premium quality ingredients, follow the instructions and cook with lots of love.
What’s your favorite traditional Puerto Rican recipe?
There are many favorite recipes, but I could mention something as simple as the chicken fricassee with rice and pink beans, and if there is an avocado and/or a green plantain to make tostones, I’m madly in love.
What’s your own favorite recipe that you would like to share with the readers of Startup Cuba?
Mamposteao rice and chicken fricassee! A divine combination!
How much has the pandemic affected your projects? What have the best solutions been?
In my case, the pandemic has transformed or modified the way I work, and it has accelerated what was already coming: the advancement of technology and the internet, which we always heard was the future. It has brought me more projects. The best solution has been a wonderful thing: working from home! I love it! Telework, they call it.
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Being involved with Le Diner en Blanc event allowed you to get to know Cuba in 2019, how was your experience with the Cuban cuisine? Any anecdotes worth mentioning about the Island?
The Cuba experience and the Cuban cuisine were wonderful; the truth is I’m counting the days until I can return to cook up more amazing moments like the ones I experienced. One of the anecdotes involves Chef Fernando del Agua. When we were in the kitchen, working on an activity of the Grupo Excelencias, he was assisting me in the production to present one of my recipes. I ran into several situations in which something was missing and he always found a solution for everything. I deeply admire them [the Cuban chefs] and I am very honored to have had the opportunity to meet them. Chefs not only cook deliciously, it’s also about how they manage, and the courage with which they take on their culinary adventures, many times without having the proper tools or the necessary ingredients to make each dish, and yet they achieve amazing results. The same happened to us at Diner en Blanc Havana; there was always a solution to any obstacle you could find along the way.
Cielito Rosado’s Pollo En Fricase Recipe (Chicken Fricassee)
- Preparation time: 20 minutes
- Marinating time: 30 minutes
- Cooking time: 30-40 minutes
- Total time: 80-90 minutes
Yield: 6 servings
3 lbs. of chicken chopped and seasoned with:
- 3 teaspoons of salt
- 3 teaspoons of garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon of oregano
- 3 teaspoons of olive oil
- pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup onion, minced
- 1/2 cup tomato, minced
- 1/2 cup green pepper, minced
- 2 teaspoons of garlic, minced
- 2 sweet peppers
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
- 1 cup tomato sauce
- 1 cup white wine
- 1 bay leaf
- 8 stuffed olives
- 2 medium sized potatoes, peeled and chopped
- 1 cup carrots, chopped
- Salt to taste
Season the chicken in advance and leave it marinating in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
In a medium-sized pot, add the olive oil, then the chicken and cook at medium temperature for 10 minutes until browned on all sides. Set chicken apart.
In the same pot, add the onion, tomato, green pepper, garlic and sweet pepper, cilantro and cook at medium temperature for 2 to 3 minutes.
Add the chicken and the rest of the ingredients, season to taste and cover the pot and cook for 30 to 35 minutes at medium temperature.
Cielito Rosado’s Arooz Mamposteao Recipe (Stewed Beans and Rice)
- Preparation time: 10 minutes
- Cooking time: 12 minutes
- Total time: 25-30 minutes
Yield: 4-6 servings
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 lb. chopped cubed ham for cooking
- 1/2 cup onion, minced
- 1/2 cup green pepper, minced
- 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
- 1 1/2 cup red stewed beans
- 3 cups boiled rice
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, minced
In a large pan, heat the olive oil, add the ham cubes and sauté it for a few minutes at medium temperature.
Add the onion, the green pepper and the garlic to the pan at a medium temperature for 2 to 3 minutes.
Add the stewed red beans, the rice and sauté it at a medium temperature for a few minutes, later adding the minced fresh cilantro.
Use the liquid from the stewed beans in the dish (as much as necessary) so that the mamposteao is a little wet.