Mariela Manzano

My two sisters, Marisol and Mariana, and I, were raised in an intense and complex house in Guadalajara. I thank my grandmothers and my mother for inheriting to me this heritage of Mexican cuisine. On one side of the family, I received recipes that were city based and on the other side, recipes that were ranch based. There was so much variety in our home. My father is an accountant but he owned bodgeas for fruits and vegetables. My mother cooked in our home with a lot of heart and passion and I borrowed that from her. I loved smelling and tasting everything in the kitchen. I have always wanted to allow those aromas and tastes from my youth to resurface in my cooking. I was seven years old when we left Jalisco by train to settle in Tecate, Baja California.

At the age of 14, I wanted to work so I jumpstarted a catering business for small events. I did this until I was 18. My plan was to go study in Puebla but the family didn't want to let the baby go so far away. So, I enrolled in a cooking program in Baja and although my parents were skeptical because they knew that working in a kitchen was an enormous timesuck and they didn't want me to have to work such grueling hours. After a few years, I moved to study gastronomy in Tijuana at the Culinary Art School. In 2005, I graduated with two masters and an emphasis on traditional Mexican cuisine.

Two months after graduating from school, I began as the sous chef at Rancho La Puerta. I was the first woman to enter in an executive capacity. It was a marvelous opportunity and I worked there for six years. I was also starting an experimental kitchen out of my home in 2012 which would eventually become my restaurant called El Lugar de Nos. I work with about eighty percent local foods. My philosophy is to concentrate my efforts in Tecate where we are working to become a real Pueblo Mgico at the north end of the wine region of Valle de Guadalupe. It was very casual to start and we wanted to do workshops and give cooking lessons. It was just four tables on Thursday and Friday and everything would be made from scratch.

I love where I live. I am grateful to the place where I was raised. It may be a small town and there may not be a wide range of options like there are in Tijuana and San Diego but that made it easier for me to open a place where all of us who liked that sort of thing could come together to enjoy great food and wonderful company. It is not a stiff place. We are inclusive of everybody from our town. In 2013, we went from being boutique to a restaurant three times the size of the original idea. We can now fit 120 seats nightly and we can do events for 350.

I am a woman that is in love with life. I am sure that since I chose to be a chef, I am a fanatic. I don't yet have children but I have three nephews that I love very much. Currently, I am showering them with all my love. I love their tenderness and their vulnerability. I am not certain if I will eventually have my own family but I hope so. Right now, I spend so much time at the restaurant that I don't know how I will manage my time with a child. Reflecting back, I cant remember a time when I wasn't positively smothered with love and attention by my mother so I hope that I can do the same with my future child. I want to dedicate all my time to both my personal life and my professional life. It is clear to me that my own time management will be a struggle.