Shortly after their children leave for school, Ana Regalado and her husband, Ricardo, begin cooking and setting up filming equipment in their Maricopa kitchen. Lights and tripods sit on a countertop along with neatly placed décor and ingredients.
On this day, Regalado prepares potato taquitos and sopa de fideo, a tomato-based noodle soup. It’s a simple, meat-free dish that is savory and filling.
She smiles for the camera as she goes through multiple takes pouring the soup, sprinkling cheese and presenting the dish to film a one-minute video for her TikTok channel, Salty Cocina.
“Ten years ago, I never would have thought I would be doing this,” Regalado told InMaricopa. “I think the hardest thing for me has been getting comfortable with the camera because I’ve always been very shy. It’s been a process.”
Regalado may still be shy to talk, but each week she welcomes 2.5 million subscribers into her Maricopa Meadows home to teach them how to prepare a variety of Mexican dishes. She has gained attention on a local and national scale, finding herself featured on the “Today Show” and in The Oprah Magazine.
But even with all the recognition, Regalado stays humble. For her, sharing her cooking is a demonstration of love for others and her culture.
‘It’s like my sanctuary’
Regalado’s earliest culinary memories center around her early upbringing in Zacatecas, Mexico.
“In the short time that we lived there, what I remember most is my mom cooking,” Regalado said. “It was simple food, and we would eat whatever we harvested, like corn or cactus, because we lived in a very small town.”
That memory coupled with the smells of fresh fruit and meat grilling in the local markets solidified her love of food and cooking.
“When I’m cooking, it’s like my sanctuary,” she said. “It’s my zen. Everything else doesn’t matter.”
Finding that peace in cooking is partly what led to her starting the Salty Cocina TikTok channel. In the midst of COVID-19 lockdowns, Regalado began shooting her cooking videos for a dual purpose: find something peaceful to do while home and record her recipes for her children.
However, her kids weren’t the only ones who took notice.
“Once I started posting the videos, it really got a lot of attention,” Regalado said. “I think it’s because they were simple recipes and people were at home. Everyone was looking for things to do and make at home.”
A team effort
Salty Cocina is a family affair.
“It’s usually a team effort,” Regalado said, motioning to her husband. “He does the recording and I do the cooking. It works out really well.”
At the beginning, though, Regalado worked solo while Ricardo worked in his home office.
“It took me a long time because I would have to be cooking, moving the camera, doing everything,” she said.
Now the pair collaborate in the planning, filming and editing of videos. Sometimes, ideas come about from meals they planned for the day or while out for lunch.
“I can tell when she gets an idea for a video,” he said. “She pushes the food around the plate, and I say, ‘what are you thinking?’”
Once an idea emerges, a typical session may take three hours to prepare and film, which they attempt to finish in the mornings while their children are out of the house.
They work well in unison. During their taquito and sopa de fideo filming session, the couple consistently asked each other for feedback on how to film sequences, or how the lighting or setup looked in each frame.
“He always makes it fun,” Regalado said. “With his help everything just runs so smooth.”
‘These recipes remind me of home’
Although Regalado cooks and shares various types of cuisine on her platforms, Mexican food is her specialty. She said each dish helps her feel closer to her roots because the sights and smells remind her of kitchens from her past.
Among the recipes is her tortillas since it was one of the first foods her mother taught her to make.
“My mom would make tortillas and I was always the nosy one looking to see what she was doing,” she said. “She would make the (dough) and I rolled out the tortillas. It was the first recipe I got down right.”
Those tortillas must be good because of Regalado’s many tortilla recipes, the most popular video is of her buttery flour tortillas. The 59-second video has more than 2.7 million likes and has been saved by TikTok users almost 450,000 times.
Her viewers share that yearning for connection to culture, according to her husband.
“When Ana makes her recipes and people try them, they say they’re reminded of being back home,” Ricardo said. “It reminds them of their mom, their grandma, their uncle. That’s what brings a lot of attention to her because she cooks from the heart and what she remembers from the past.”
“All these recipes remind me of home. Of simpler times, of my mom and my abuela, my grandmother.”
This story was first published in the July edition of InMaricopa Magazine.