Nancy León

I was a calm, quiet child. Ivette was the first of my parent's children, then me, then my little brother, Rafael. We liked to lay down on our parent's bed at night, all of us. My father, Rafael, is third generation Chinese Mexican and my mother, Hilda, is pure Mexican from one part Guadalajara and the other part Sonora. My father followed in his father's path to open Chinese restaurants in Tijuana but at home, my mother did all the cooking. She prepared traditional Mexican cuisine and oftentimes, we would visit our father's restaurant, Chan's, to enjoy Chinese food. I was very loved and supported and spent most of my time happily with my baby brother.

My grandfather, Rafael León Mack, was born in Hong Kong and married a Mexican woman from Sinaloa. He opened a Chinese restaurant in Tijuana called Palacio Imperial on Revolución that lasted for over forty years. I became interested in the business of food not just because of my family's restaurants but also because of the taste of my mother's cooking. I remember following her around the kitchen asking her questions about the preparation of certain foods and the combinations of others. But I was really bad at numbers so my father wanted me to find a way to study numbers in case I ever decided to come into the food business.

At the age of 21, I traveled daily from Tijuana to San Diego to enroll at the Art Institute to study cuisine. During those three years, I begged my father to allow me to modify his menu and experiment in many different ways with the food. He always welcomed my contributions but it wasn't me cooking the food, it was more me working with the ingredients. When I graduated from the Art Institute, I was hired at the W Hotel in San Diego and began working the line. I wanted to learn everything. I started making salads, then went to the fryer, then line cook and I made a lot of enemies because I was hopping from station to station too quickly but I had a lot of support from my mentors in the kitchen. During this time, I had a lot of friends and one boyfriend after another. I am truly a romantic.

In 2011, my mother received a diagnosis for breast cancer and I no longer wanted to be going back and forth to San Diego. I also lost my student VISA allowing me to be in the United States. Regardless, I wanted to be just like my father. Loyal. He is my sensei. My father never left my mother's side. We knew she would be ok but we wanted to get her back to ok by her side. So, I came back home and my father asked me to come to the kitchen at Chan's in Tijuana. I fought the idea at first but my father prevailed. As a Chinese man, he needed to have his family united and together. So, I stayed and found a perfect place working with my father at Chan's. I loved the adrenaline of the kitchen. I was surrounded by men in the kitchen but quickly found my place and two years later, I took everything I learned and my father asked me to open our next family restaurant in Tijuana, Chan's Bistro. I asked my brother to come along with me to handle the numbers. We make a great team.

I want to have lots of children. I am caring and I have a lot of love to give. If I have three, I'll cut myself in three to give them all of me. I want an educated man. I need to admire him. I want him to be empathetic in his sensibilities and modern in his tastes. I'd love a man just like my father. Family first and business second.