Alejandra Ramos of Great American Recipe talks hosting PBS competition – Tricks and Tips

Alejandra Ramos of Great American Recipe talks hosting PBS competition

Have you been watching The Great American Recipe over on PBS? Have you fallen in love with the contestants, judges, and host Alejandra Ramos as much as we have? Have you loved seeing the diverse dishes and individuals on your screen?

Over the last few weeks, as we have gotten to know all of the people on this show we have definitely enjoyed watching all of the interactions on The Great American Recipe. And at the heart of those interactions (in many cases), is the host of the series, Alejandra Ramos.

Ahead of the season finale (fingers crossed for more seasons), we had the opportunity to chat with Alejandra Ramos about the show, what it was like to host the series, and if she would do it again. And if you know us, then you already know we had to ask about her favorite guilty eat!

Alejandra Ramos talks to Guilty Eats about hosting The Great American Recipe

The Great American Recipe. Credit: Courtesy of PBS/VPM

Guilty Eats: What has been your favorite part of hosting The Great American Recipe?

Alejandra Ramos: “There’s so many things that I love about hosting the show. First of all, it was such a great opportunity to be able to host a show that has such a beautiful sort of message and and style and feel to it. I love that it’s such a warm and friendly show the way that our contestants are, yes they are competing, but they’re just, warm, good friends. They all became a family. And it was just such a joy to be able to be at the lead of that.

I like things that are positive, and that are uplifting, and that promote the beauty and joy of food. And so I like getting to be part of that. Something that’s sharing the happy and joyful side of food competition versus something that’s a little bit more negative. I enjoy the fact that I don’t have to judge so I don’t have to pick favorites or I can really just enjoy the food. I can taste everything. I can be friends with everyone. Because I don’t have the hard job of having to pick favorites and send people home. I really just get to enjoy and be their friend and their sort of cheerleader and support. And so that’s been a really cool thing for me.

What else do I love about the show? It was honestly really just such a fun shoot. We all became friends. We’re in this very rural area, so it’s not like people were out and about all the time. We were pretty much just there. So it meant that we talked a lot and we hung out and we can joke around behind the scenes and it really was a very sort of warm, family-like environment the entire time.”

GE: Did you have a favorite challenge from this season?

AR: “Oh, I did have a favorite challenge. I will say they were all very fun, but my favorite challenge was the one that we just saw last week (episode 6 “Mix It Up“) when we had the recipe swap. I think the recipe swap was probably one of the most fun days and it was just so fun to watch too because the cooks are all so talented and they all came in with their recipes. And so they had a certain level of competence and preparedness because these are things that they’ve been cooking their entire lives.

But when you think about it, a recipe needs to not only be something that you can cook, it needs to be something that can be shared and that can be replicated by other people which is why we’re making The Great American Recipe cookbook. So I think that that was an important challenge because it kind of showed that these recipes can be translated by other people who don’t have that same experience. So it was just really fun seeing like Dan cooking Mexican food and the way that Sylvia was like I have no idea what cacio e pepe is but I’m just gonna give it my Sylvia spin. I loved Robin’s Mediterranean take on Foo’s dish. They just all really kind of took the dishes and did such a great job with it. And Nikki, like poor Nikki didn’t like baking and she didn’t even like pumpkin. But her pumpkin bread came out spectacular. We loved it. We were all eating it behind the scenes. So they did a really great job of it. It was super fun.”

GE: Would you do it again? And do you hope they have another season of The Great American Recipe?

AR: “I would 100% do it again. When I first heard that the show was going to be on PBS it was an automatic yes for me because I’ve been a PBS nerd my whole life. I absolutely love it. And I knew that they were going to put together a really beautiful show and they absolutely did. So yes, I would 100% say yes every single time and I am absolutely eager for a second season.

And I hope that we’ll be able to announce some good news about that soon. But yeah, it’s such a great show. I think that what we’re doing is really awesome. And I would love to see this continue for many, many years. This country is a huge country and there’s so many food cultures and regions to explore. So you know, we need time to be able to do that.”

GE: Do you have any tips for people who are hoping to make a dish their own? For a lot of us, even if we’re in the kitchen, we’re not necessarily making our own dishes, but we want to make them our own. What would you recommend for people who want to do that?

AR: “I love that question. That’s a wonderful question. It’s actually such a great point of view about cooking. I think that taking dishes that you know and love or recipes that you know and love and finding ways to make them your own is really how you develop your point of view in the kitchen. And I think there’s a few things you can do. I think for recipes you should read them, and understand them, and follow them, but I take them as suggestions. I think it’s important to be flexible.

I love garlic. So if a recipe calls for two cloves, I still add more because I know my taste is I like a lot of garlic in that dish. So understand your taste and don’t feel bad about playing around with those ingredients. If you don’t like a certain type of fruit, maybe try to swap something else. And maybe, there’s a chicken dish recipe that sounds really interesting to you, but you’re not a big chicken person. Maybe try that marinade on a skirt steak or try it on some salmon. So there’s things that you can kind of play around with, if you like things a little bit spicier then you know bump it up a little bit at a time until you hit the point where you know that it really works for you and your palate. And I think that’s how you kind of play around with recipes. I love when I buy books from a used bookstore and they have notes in the margins because people kind of make adjustments as they go. And so when you try something you’re like, you know what, you added some lemon juice to this and it was great. So then you mark that down. And now your version of that recipe has lemon juice in it. And you just kind of keep going with that. And that’s how you build your repertoire. That’s how you kind of create recipes that are uniquely yours or your families.”

Guilty Eats: One last question, we are called Guilty Eats, so I have to ask what is your guilty eat?

Alejandra Ramos: “Look, I’ll be honest, I never feel guilty about eating. I never feel bad about anything delicious.

Let me think what am I super into. You know what I love potato chips. My snacky sort of I cannot turn it down food is definitely potato chips. I love the cracked black pepper it’s my favorite flavor. So if I have that anywhere near me I would just devour the entire bag. I don’t care how many serving sizes it says on the bag, it is one. It is one and it’s for me.”

To see more of Alejandra Ramos, check out the first season of The Great American Recipe on PBS and the PBS app. You can also find her on social media as well.