Flor Franco

I was born in Tuxpan, Veracruz. My father, Antonio, was a farm owner and my mother, Amelia, was a business owner. We were seven children and I was the seventh child. Both of my parents knew a lot about farming and cooking and the nutrition of fruits and vegetables. My mother cooked for the family on the weekdays and my father would get involved on the weekends. My mother was very interested in portion control and she would limit the fats and proteins and she would increase our vegetable intake. She also had a strong emphasis on dishes made with corn or masa and chiles. I have a sweet memory of feeling ill and my mother would make me a black bean soup with aguacate oloroso and masa dumplings. It has a very particular flavor and aroma and it reminds me of being comforted at home with my mother.

I always wanted children and I remember when I was very young, I would talk to my friends and tell them that I wanted six children. It seemed like the perfect number in my head. I loved the way that my parents raised me and my mother was always trying to be a better person. She pushed us to dream. I thought that I would be a unique mother but based on the foundation that I learned from my mother. I left Tuxpan at sixteen and I went to a student program in Michigan and then went to college in Guadalajara. After college, I was 23 years old and I had a fiancé and we got married and settled in San Diego.

A year after we were married, I had our daughter, Luz Amelia. She was named after my grandmother, Luz, and my mother, Amelia. My marriage didn’t last long and I divorced my husband and went through a tough time dealing with domestic violence. I wasn’t scared to leave my husband because I knew that I wasn’t supposed to be mistreated. I knew it was the right thing to be on my own and my family supported from afar in México. I spent a good number of years alone. I was pregnant with my second child when I was going through the divorce but even if those years were hard, I did what I had to do. I read one time that you didn’t need both parents to have a great childhood, all it took was to have a great mom or a great dad, one or the other but it wasn’t necessary to have both. So, I promised myself that I would be the greatest mom ever. Looking back, I am proud of the strength of the bond that I created with my daughter because of those difficult times.

Through it all, I was working in transnational customs between the US and México. I began to deal a lot with perishable goods and agricultural products and so in 1999 I started to do a little catering as a side job. Things progressed nicely and eventually I started getting requests for recipes from actual chefs. I loved cooking so it was a very automatic transition to become a chef later on after a few years of catering. I have accumulated about 1,500 recipes and my style is definitely based around southern México. I am happy to try all the other cuisines but with the richness and freshness of Mexican cuisine, I wouldn’t imagine being recognized for cooking any other way.

Luz Amelia was really tough to cook for when she was young. She was limited to rice and bread and she wouldn’t eat any animal products. There were only a few vegetables that she would eat like broccoli and romaine lettuce. Through the years, my daughter and I have been able to travel and eat together and she now has a very sophisticated palate. If I were to share one meal with my daughter, it would be my mother’s black bean soup with masa dumplings and aguacate oloroso.