Venezuelan Alejandro Toro has a knack for transforming Latin ingredients into relatable recipes that are sure to please any palette.
When he isn’t changing the world one menu at a time on his Tastemade series “The Good Truck” (currently streaming on Amazon Prime), or dazzling judges with flavorful dishes of arepas (which Toro admits is one of his go-to specialties), the 30-year-old foodie can be heard doing voice overs for Telenovelas and commercials in Espanol for major brands like Sprint, McDonald’s and Wendy’s.
We caught up with the Renaissance man to find out what makes him tick and how the Master Chef plans to meld his culinary mad skills with his compassion for others by doing good in the world – one meal at a time.
WCWW: Congratulations on success of “The Good Truck: Season 1.” I had a chance to watch the the entire season on Amazon. How exciting. How did you get involved with the project?
AT: The Good Truck is one of the coolest projects I’ve been a part of! I got to visit and participate with organizations that serve their communities and afterwards, we would partner with amazing local chefs and give back to the organizations’ staff and volunteers by preparing a delicious meal! This image is from episode 2, the organization is @FoodForward. The meal was prepared by our talented chef, Nyesha Arrington! If you’re looking to volunteer in Los Angeles, check them out!! Thank you, FoodForward, for doing something about the food waste in our community! In my eyes, one of the biggest issues we face here in the USA, is food waste.
You also did a segment with Zooey Deschanel for the Purpose Project. How did the idea come about?
The circumstances in which I got to meet and work with Zooey were extraordinary: A Tastemade travel show about finding purpose. The rebirth of a beautiful community. Sustainable farming. All Thanks to @CapitalOne and The Purpose Project, and talented chef and farmer Kipp Ramsey of Long Meadow Ranch.
Zooey got to meet my best version and I, hers, which is a beautiful, young, spirited woman who’s willing to use her reach to shine a light on things that matter. She’s as sweet as we’re used to seeing her be on TV.
After the fires devastated an entire Napa town, what was it like to go there and see a town filled with hope rather than despair?
For me? It was a very humbling experience. It’s hard for me to see devastation in other places. Especially because I come from a country with so much of it. Nevertheless, the damage the fires left is substantial and I was able to not only see it, but to hear firsthand from the people directly affected. In a way, I was able to “put myself in their shoes.” Coming from Venezuela, what we dream of most is a time where we will be able to rebuild our country. These people were doing exactly that: coming together as a society to rebuild their community, without selfishness. It gave me a lot of hope for Venezuela and for the U.S., too, to be honest. I love and believe in people and this opportunity confirmed that. I especially thank Tastemade and our director, Joey Lucas, for putting [this project] together so seamlessly.
How did you get started making a life in the kitchen?
I honestly never thought food would become such an important part of my career. I’ve always been around food – from watching my Colombian Nana cook for me and the family, to working in restaurants at a young age. I think the straight answer would be necessity. Necessity made me search for a job that led me to participate in Master Chef, which later led to getting very involved in the food industry.
Tell us about your experience leading up to your becoming a Master Chef.
I truly wasn’t chasing that opportunity. I had just moved to Los Angeles and I needed to get a “stable” job. Naturally, I opted for a restaurant job. During my search, I found ad on Craigslist which I believed described me: “Are you comfortable in front of the camera? Do you like cooking? Do you have a story to tell?” So I applied. Fast forward one year: I made it onto the show and was able to bring my “Venezuelan-ness” to many TV screens across the U.S. I was able to use the exposure to leverage my career and use the credibility to continue my mission to share culture through food.
How has your Venezuelan background influenced your cooking?
In every way possible. I grew up in Venezuela and eating Venezuelan food is all I knew. Oddly enough, my love and appreciation for Venezuelan cuisine intensified after I left my country to come here to the U.S. After my Master Chef participation, I became a voice for the Venezuelan people through our cuisine – which ultimately made me even more passionate about our cuisine.
Who is your biggest cheerleader?
I’d have to say, I’m lucky enough to have several. First and foremost, my mom. She believes in me always and does a great job at reminding me. Also, my sister and grandma, who are always cheering me on! Recently, I found the love and attention of a beautiful Mexican gal named Vivianne – whom I must say, has also helped bring out the best version of myself. I’m a lucky man to be surrounded by smart and supportive women!
How do you meld all your passions into your love for food?
This has actually been a challenging part of my journey. How to put together all my passions and furthermore, how to monetize on them. Instead of me finding the way, I think it found me. . . I travel! And through my travels, I connect with people through food, completing a full circle. This way, I get to try different foods, learn how to cook them, and show them to the rest of the world. Full circle!
Explain your cooking style.
Homestyle cooking! The type of food you share with your friends and family. I prefer meals that are slow-cooked and “one pot” recipes! I guess you could also say my style is Caribbean.
Where do you see this taking you?
I see myself becoming a sort of Latin version of Anthony Bourdain. Meaning: I will travel, connect with others from different cultures, and highlight what makes them special. From there? Who knows? Maybe I’ll also be able to help Venezuela in many more ways than I envision!
What is your go-to meal when eating solo?
Soups!! I love them, they’re good for me and delicious… Recipe? Easy:
- Boil water, add chicken, salt
- Add “sofrito”: Garlic, onion, celery, more salt and pepper
- Add harder ingredients like Yucca, ñame, Carrots
- Add softer ingredients like Corn, Cabbage, Bay leaves
- Finish with cilantro and lime
- That’s a simple one for you!
Okay, now we’re going to play a game. I’m going to say a phrase, and you’re going to finish it with the first thing that comes to mind. Ready?
What does a typical day look like?
Ha! No such thing as a typical day for me.
Worst business/life advice you have received.
Settle. Stay safe.
A little about you that nobody knows
I love sports. I’m very competitive, especially with basketball. But I also love board games, guessing games, etc. Oh, and road trips. I looove road trips. But I think you knew that already!
What I listen to when cooking My REGGAE SALAD playlist on Spotify! Please follow!
My favorite meal of the day is Breakfast
I can’t live without Arepas
Most weeknights you’ll find me playing guitar, editing and cooking dinner
When all else fails Taco stand
If I weren’t a foodie, I’d be skinny
Everything tastes better with good company