HOME > Solange

Solange Muris

The house were I was born in an isolated community in Cuernavaca had a nice garden and mandarin and papaya trees. The cooking was done by my mother but since she was a kindergarten teacher, she didn't spend hours in the kitchen. She would give us jicama and cucumbers to tide us over and then she would make the food. I remember that we had a great breakfast ritual where we would all eat together in the morning. It is such a special tradition that I have incorporated it into my present life as well. Nobody leaves the house in the morning without having had a nice breakfast.

My mother is the daughter of an Irish Catholic father and a German Jewish mother. My grandmother escaped the war and came to Mexico. She met my father in her networks of socialists and anti-yankees and my grandfather at the time was a New York Times photographer based in Mexico. My grandmother was a great cook and she taught my mother what she knew. My mother was very interested in feeding me fruits and vegetables primarily. My father was the opposite. The only vegetables he ate typically were the peas in the fried rice. Culturally, we placed a lot of importance on the vegetables in our dishes when I was a child.I was a well mannered child. I wasn't a trouble maker. I had a nice childhood. I had a lot of disciple and my father was an authoritarian and so there wasn't a lot of room to be irresponsible.

When I was 18, I was very confused and I flirted with studying medicine. When I told my father that I wanted to study in Mexico City, he denied the idea. He told me that I was a small town girl that had no business being in the big city. I cried and my mother did what she could to convince him but he denied my right to leave the small town. It was a whole family drama. At the time, my father worked for a multinational company that had a branch in Greensboro, North Carolina. I went with him on a site visit to spend time with a cousin and I discovered a culinary arts school in Charlotte. I almost fainted from joy because I was already focused on learning how to cook and practicing my techniques that I had established ideas even as young as fifteen. So, I asked my father if I could study in Charlotte since I wasn't allowed to study in Mexico City. Surprisingly, he agreed. I launched myself on a life changing crazy adventure that marked my life forever.

I graduated three years later and in 1996, I came back to Cuernavaca and I didn't know what to do nor how to get paid. There was a group called Women Struggling for Democracy and I attempted to work as a cook but it didn't work out. My father told me that food and politics don't go well and he was right. It was a failure. As I was attempting to find my way, I went to a wedding where I complained in public about my station in life and Benito Molina's mother overheard me complaining and told me to connect with her son in Ensenada. The next day, Benito's mother showed me a photo album with Benito's menus. All sorts of opportunities arose from this chance meeting and most of them I rejected but then I received a call to come to Ensenada to the Esquina de Bodegas where Hugo d'Acosta was working as a winemaker. I opened an atlas to see where the hell Ensenada was in Mexico, then, Benito sent me a plane ticket and I embarked on my second wild life adventure.

The ocean in Ensenada allowed me to learn what it was like to cook with fresh ingredients. I ate a swordfish when I first arrived and I fell in love with this place. Instantly, I also fell in love with Benito too. I cooked for a year in Santo Tomas and Hugo left to tend to his family vineyard and Benito and I decided to make our mark. We searched for a location in Ensenada and we opened Manzanilla in the first location where we cobbled together friends and family money and toughed it out for eight years.

In 2002, Reforma did a feature on Benito and the doors opened wide at our restaurant. We began to earn a lot of respect and heads started to turn towards Ensenada. We found a beautiful spot for our second location and in 2007, we had a baby girl named Oliva. Benito and I had been married since 2002 and she was a very planned child but I didn't understand what it was like to work and be a mother. I grew up in a bubble of love with what seemed like an expert mother and I didn't know exactly how to re-create that for my child. But I knew that I was going to try. My job is nocturnal and very physically demanding so my lifestyle is a lot different than my mother's lifestyle but I have to always figure a way. My daughter lives for Saturday to come to the restaurant to work with us.

I feel grounded. I feel like I have realized myself in a healthy way. I understand the ingredients better today and I understand the value of Mexico better today. All the dishes that I cook are stamped with the banner of Mexico. Fifteen years ago, the moneymen used to turn their gaze towards the French or Spanish restaurants in Mexico City where they would drink French or Spanish wines to showcase their class. Today, the Mexican restaurants and the Mexican wines are on par and struggling to be respected just like the rest.