Chef Daniela Soto-Innes relies on her diet (including quesadillas) to keep her energized.

By Mara Santilli
Photo: Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images

Asked what makes her cooking so incredible, chef Daniela Soto-Innes doesn't miss a beat: her childhood in Mexico City. She's tapping and twisting those memories to create eye-opening, modern Mexican dishes that have gained a huge fan following (she won the 2016 Rising Star Chef of the Year award from the James Beard Foundation at age 25) and put New York City restaurants Cosme and Atla, where she's the chef and a partner, on everyone's most-beloved list.

We chatted with Soto-Innes about starting culinary classes at age 5(!), her pre-dinner routine, and what feeds her passion. (Related: Time-Saving Healthy Cooking Hacks From Blue Apron's Head Chef)

On the "cooking gene"

"My great-grandmother had culinary training, my grandmother managed a bakery, and my mother dreamed of being a chef. She became a lawyer but always took cooking classes, and she started sending me when I was 5."

On finding creativity in the kitchen

"I piece together inspiration from memories. My dad would apologize for picking us up late from school with crushed meringues, and my mom would treat us with our favorite corn soup. Those two ideas became the corn meringue dessert at Cosme. The kitchen there smells like toasted corn. It takes me straight back to Mexico."

On making time for fitness

"Yoga centers me before a hectic shift. Or I run or take a strength class. Always something physical. I also rely on an energizing drink called switchel, which has ginger, cayenne, and cider vinegar." (Related: I Tried Switchel and I'll Never Drink Another Energy Drink Again)

On her favorite kitchen utensil

"All kinds of spoons. A memory of my dad polishing spoons inspired me to bring them back as souvenirs when I travel. I use them for everything from stirring to tasting to serving."

On her diet (and her splurges)

"I do intermittent fasting and eat only between noon and 8 p.m. It keeps me energized. I mostly avoid starches, but I can't pass up a cheese quesadilla." (Learn more: Everything You Need to Know About Intermittent Fasting)


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