Creative Cooking

Comida Caliente: Houston Family to Premiere Reality Cooking Show

One evening, Stefani Vara found herself in the kitchen with her sisters, her mother and her grandmother, eating, arguing and talking about life. And she had an idea.

"We were all laughing and saying things that you wouldn't normally say in front of your mother, and I thought to myself, this would be a great show," Vara explains.

Vara and her sisters grew up in the kitchen of her parents' Mexican restaurant, Casa de Vara, in Baytown, so food has always been an integral part of the family's life. After getting her mother and sisters on board, Vara and the family launched a successful Kickstarter campaign to raise production funds. The foursome exceeded their $10,000 fundraising goal, and quickly got to work on eight episodes of their show, "Comida Caliente," which will premiere on the Comida Caliente YouTube channel on October 1.

The show will star Dene Vara, the matriarch and keeper of the recipes, Danielle Vara Aleman, the oldest daughter, who is married and has four children, Stefani Vara, the middle daughter, who is a professional singer, and Dianna Vara, the youngest, who claims to be the best cook of the sisters. Together, the four, who describe themselves as the Mexican Kardashians, will recreate some of their favorite Tex-Mex recipes, and they promise there will be plenty of hilarious and intimate moments along the way.

"It's a reality-style cooking show, but it's also so much more than that," Danielle explains. "It's a celebration of culture and family and sisterhood, and I think people can get on board with that. We've got all levels of cooking in our family, and that's what makes it relatable."

The series was filmed in a cousin's kitchen because it had the right design and space for a cooking show, and all the recipes are from the family, in some cases handed down four generations, from Dene's grandmother. Dene explains that the point of the show is to teach her girls -- some of whom need more help than others -- how to cook the comfort food that is important to their family.

"We do this all the time," Dene explains. "This is part of who we are. We cook, we're all together, and we're kind of getting in each others' way. There are certain things some people don't want to hear, but they're going to hear it anyway, and somehow we manage to get through the whole cooking process and have a good meal at the end."

Of course, cooking with family rarely comes without disagreements, and the girls assure us that there will be plenty of moments in which tempers will flare.

"We definitely had fights about who the best cook was," Danielle says, "And all of us, except for poor Stefani, think we are." Danielle also noted that arguments arose any time the conversation turned to the love lives of Dianna and Stefani.

"I think cooking will help with their sense of confidence," Danielle says. "In the kitchen, when you're cooking for people you love, you want to do your best."

The Vara family's best recipe, according to Dianna, is their special hot sauce.

"That's something you'll see is very near and dear to our hearts." Dianna says. "I've had people tell me that if they could, they'd eat it with a spoon." Then she pauses, before adding, "I make it the best."

Much of the show's humor comes from Dene, but she swears it's unintentional. She maintains that her daughters sometimes have their minds in the gutter when she's explaining various cooking techniques or how, for example, you're supposed to eat her pork chops.

"In our pork chop recipe, it's imperative that you include the bone in cooking," Danielle explains. "Because the bone has lots of good flavor. Instead of just saying that simply, my mom would look at us and say, 'You have to suck the bone.' We were like, we just crossed the line from being a family show and being an X-rated show!"

Unintentional lewd jokes aside, the Vara family members hope that they can create a solid, entertaining show that might one day be picked up by a network. They want viewers to meet their family and relate to the way they get along with one another and share a passion for food and tradition.

"This is something we can leave behind," Danielle says. "We're not wealthy. We don't have trust funds or fine china to pass down to our children. But we have a hot sauce recipe."

To learn how to make the Vara family's hot sauce and more, watch their YouTube channel, which will air a new episode of Comida Caliente every Tuesday at 7 p.m. beginning on October 1.

Here's the trailer:

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Kaitlin Steinberg