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Ana Juncal

When I was little, our house had a very small kitchen. My mother did most of the cooking and having spent some time living in Oaxaca, she tended to cook Oaxacan food for our family. She would make mole, longaniza or any dish from scratch. At the time I did not enjoy all of the food but as I look back now, some of my fondest memories come from those dishes. I was not a very outspoken child but I was good at observing everything in my surroundings. I was also a good student and never gave my parents any real trouble. My family liked to have me around because I was well-behaved. I spent vacations with my grandparents in Mexico City and Estado de Mexico and my grandmother would often ask me to help in the kitchen along with the rest of the women. Men were not typically welcomed in the kitchen.

Having a psychologist mother and an architect father meant I was almost destined to follow in my father’s footsteps mainly because I was good at math and design. I was encouraged to follow that career path and after graduating High School, I moved to Mexico City where I completed seven semesters of architecture. In the university there was a branch of the Cordon Blue. I remember watching all the students in their chef attire and feeling something stir within myself. It just looked so cool to me. Unfortunately, my parents did not believe this was an option for me. They wanted me to get my architectural degree. Then, if I still wanted to pursue gastronomy, they would support me. As time went on, my interest in architecture continued to diminish and I did not feel inspired to continue. After some time, I knew it was time to take control of my own destiny.

Life in Mexico City was very different from what I was used to. I was faced with new opportunities, new people, new pleasures. Good living, good food and good drinks became an important part of my life and at first I wasn’t quite sure how to handle this fast paced cosmopolitan life. Being the youngest in my circle of friends probably did not help. Eventually I decided to move back to Tijuana and after my daughter Regina was born, I enrolled at the Culinary Art School in Tijuana. Even though I wanted to be independent, I knew I still wanted to be at home and around my family.

After graduating I started El Taller, a catering business specializing in molecular gastronomy. This was not easy and in order to supplement my income, I began working as an architect at my father’s company. But once again, I was soon faced with the reality that architecture was not my true calling. I started another business, Canela Rolls, making cinnamon rolls to be sold at cafés and restaurants. It took many trials to get the recipe just right but the food business is tough and this business did not make it either. At this time, my mother had her own landscaping company and I went back to the family business but this time helping my mother. After a few years I met Enrique, who is now my partner and the father of my second daughter, Nicole.

My third attempt at the food industry was a restaurant called The Sweet Room in Tijuana which I started along with one of my friends from the Culinary Art School. As probably every other food related business, we went through highs and lows. When my friend got married and moved away I decided it was time to make a decision: I was helping my mother and my boyfriend on each of their companies as well as working at my restaurant, in addition to being a mom to 2 girls. It was just too much. So I made the decision to close the restaurant and I came to work full time with Enrique.

Enrique and I have been together for nine years now. He is charming and I love him. We make a good match. He is an intrepid, risk-taking businessman and I provide a solid foundation and infrastructure for our company, which now has over 60 employees and branch offices in Colombia and Spain. Even with all the work involved in running such a successful company, being a part-owner affords me the opportunity to keep developing my craft in the kitchen, which I absolutely enjoy.