Daniella de la Puente

I lived in Monterrey until I was ten years old and created lots of great memories in our three story home. We had a trampoline next to our house and all the neighborhood kids played with great joy and my best friend's mother prepared cakes in her kitchen and we would find ways to taste the frostings. My father was a businessman and as he jumpstarted businesses, we moved from Monterrery to Tijuana and by the time we settled in Tijuana, we had a lovely garden with a collection of fruit bearing trees. My grandmother lived with us and she became my roommate. Her name was Elena.

I was different from other children. I would write stories and tell them to my grandmother. I loved working in the arts by myself but my favorite pastime was spending time with Elena in the kitchen and since she was such a wonderful cook, we spent a lot of time together. In the summer, my grandmother would help me make pizzetas using handmade flour tortillas and we would make the tomato sauce and prepare them Hawaiian style. Then, we would sell them in the neighborhood.

When I was seventeen, I discovered my identity to be both gay and gothic. The gothic part turned out to be a phase but the gay part stayed. I would dye my hair different colors and dress in black and visit the local goth clubs. I loved the music of the time and at around this time, I had my first romantic relationship. For my eighteenth birthday, my parents joined forces with my girlfriend and they gave me a huge surprise party filled with candles and everybody was dressed as goths with dyed hair, dressed in black and black lipstick.

I was surprised to understand that people around me already suspected my gay identity. I remember that when I told Elena, she responded by telling me that it had been obvious for quite some time and that she considered it perfectly acceptable and even trendy. I believe that since I've always been very open about myself, I haven't ever felt rejected but fortunately, its all been a very positive experience.

I studied graphic design because my parents wouldn't let me study theater. When I graduated in 2002, I began working in graphic design and I developed a relationship with a woman that led to an entrepreneurial adventure working in a fast food joint called Quick Dog. I came to enjoy cooking in the restaurant. At around this time, Elena was diagnosed with cancer and because she was such a talented cook, I developed an urgency to cook as well. It was almost like I wanted to cook like she did. My grief was being consumed by food and Elena was always there to taste everything that I was cooking.

When Elena was hospitalized, I was at her bed-side, but one day, I remember coming home from the restaurant, exhausted from cooking and she was already in a coma. I held her hand and asked her if she was ready to rest. I swear to you that Elena opened her eyes, looked around the room and then smiled and died peacefully. My connection with her didn't die though and oftentimes I find little hearts thrown around my orbit and I know that it is Elena leaving them for me to find.

I love inventing new dishes and I love this passion that I have developed for cooking food. I received a scholarship in 2010 to study at the Culinary Art School in Tijuana and I began opening food concepts. Today, I have a business called La Cocina Secreta which is a private event catering and my clientele allows me to cook fresh, ingredient focused cuisine based around my feelings of what it is that they will enjoy the most. My purveyors help me to understand the seasonality of our local ingredients and I love doing what I do. The business is strong and we have a waiting list so I feel very fortunate.

Last year, an Italian friend that lives in Chile asked me if he could come to visit. Towards the end of his month long stay, we talked over champagne and we decided to have him be a donor for my baby. I had a son named André. He is young still but parenting for me has been an exceptional experience and he goes with me wherever I go ... like my little kangaroo. He goes with me to dance and to yoga. When I spend time in the kitchen, my son is with me strapped to my back. He smiles all day long and I feel that his presence in my life has been beautiful.