More Than Mardi Gras: Chef Marcela Valladolid’s Surprising and Rewarding Trip to the Big Easy


Traveling to an unknown area or culture can create some anxiety, but also can be so exciting! Learning about the cuisine, history and culture of a new destination is one of the most rewarding parts of traveling if you keep an open mind and are willing to embrace the new and different!

My recent trip to the Big Easy with Capital One was no different – and it piqued my interest, curiosity and passion for the city's rich and delicious culinary past, present and future.

Being a chef, my goal with each trip is to discover through each bite of food – getting to know the people, city and culture of the place, but, more importantly, how can each of these trips help in my PERSONAL growth. What can I learn about myself? What's out there that I'm clueless about? Not just in terms of food but in terms of PEOPLE and how THEY experience the world. That's what makes me so passionate about Capital One's Purpose Project – they have intentionally ignited a national conversation about the role of travel in our lives as a vehicle for deeper personal discovery so that when we travel we don't just change where we are, but who we are. And how we need to reignite our ability to connect with people. To look up from our phones and get out of our comfort zones and really see how our own programming has stopped us from not only embracing people different from us but in seeing the TRUTH in ourselves! 

This was my first time in New Orleans and wasn't sure what to expect, I always associate Mardi Gras with the city. Wow, I was surprised by this amazing city! During my trip to New Orleans, I was able to visit the amazing Café Reconcile, an organization that teaches youth in the community life-skills through cooking and serving food at the café. My friend Noelle Scaggs met me at Café Reconcile and we had the opportunity to meet with Chef Eugene, the Executive Chef at Café Reconcile to learn more about the Café and its work in the community. While I was there, I even taught the group how to make my favorite guacamole recipe and a few of my favorite kitchen hacks! I'm always surprised how little people know about true Mexican food and excited to tell them all about my favorite cuisine. These kids were eager to learn. Great learners. Excited. Respectful. Beautiful souls. It was so inspiring to see and hear firsthand how working at Café Reconcile has changed so many lives. 


Although it was my first visit to New Orleans, it was so rewarding and inspiring to see how the community continues to thrive following Hurricane Katrina. Capital One continues to invest in the New Orleans community and having the opportunity to see their impact on the community was so fulfilling. Capital One works closely with many nonprofit organizations in the community including Café Reconcile and Propeller, a New Orleans based non-profit that supports local businesses and entrepreneurs. Propeller was founded after Hurricane Katrina to help provide new opportunities and positive impact on the economy. Recently, Propeller helped a young female entrepreneur fulfill her dreams and open her yoga studio. I love seeing fellow female entrepreneurs and am proud to be a Capital One partner!

I've always had the urge, inspired by my parents, to give back to my community. But life always seemed to get in the way but now I'm so committed to use my platform to show my family are willing to make the changes to BE the change we want to see in the world. 

Now more than ever, I think it's so important for us all to be open to discovery – of people, culture and communities different from our own. Whether you do that like I do by biting into a po' boy made by an old Italian family establishment or talking with the chef, wait staff and patrons in line at renowned Café Du Monde – or by an altogether different means – it's important that we take the risk and book the trip that will help us step out of our comfort zone and experience something different. And, if possible, introduce your friends and family via photos or food or good old conversations! It is only through understanding different cultures, worldviews and perspectives that we realize we're all much more alike than we are different.

Watch the full episode on Tastemade by clicking here!  I hope my trip inspires you to take your next trip and join me in the conversation by using #MeaningfulMoments to share your purposeful travels.


As a Capital One Purpose Project Partner, Marcela Valladolid will be sharing her purposeful travel experiences and how travel has shaped her life on her blog and social media channels. Follow along and share your stories with #MeaningfulMoments.

Find more tips on how to travel with purpose on the Capital One Purpose Project Hub, in collaboration with The Points Guy.

<< Back