"A (Mexican) woman is born with, grows up with, and develops flavors and aromas. For them, it's something that nature gave them, only asking that they pass it from generation to generation in return. In the kitchen, a woman interprets her family history. It is part of her inheritance, of her life. When a woman also dares to innovate based on family heritage, we are rewarded with unique recipes and dishes."
-Victor Segura, La Nubes Bodegas y Viñedos
SAN DIEGO "Female chefs have been sidelined by a misogynist media in Mexico and the US that tends to only talk about the same male chefs time and time again," Sergio Muñoz, writer, businessman, and financier recently shared with us. His new project, MXCNAS (pronounced Mexicanas), focuses on female chefs in Baja California, telling their stories via first-person narrative and a series of elegant photographs by collaborator Cintia Soto.
To emphasize the disparity between female and male chefs in Mexico, Muñoz recounted a trip to La Cocina Que Canta at Rancho La Puerta for a women chef's event last year. "I traveled to Tecate with two busloads of people from San Diego. The only Baja California chefs any of them could name were Javier Plascencia and maybe Drew Deckman due in part to the publicity they receive."
Muñoz's goal with MXCNAS is to elevate the image of female chefs working in Baja California and eventually all of Mexico to match the reputations of their better-known male counterparts. He plans to do this via the online series, as well as a book, film, and other media outlets as the project gains support.
The first chapter of the English language version of MXCNAS will be released on January 26 and focuses on Sabina Bandera of famed street food cart La Guerrerense and Restaurante Sabina in Ensenada.
Photo: Cintia Soto for MXCNAS.
"The stories are written in first person. So Sabina is talking (about her life and experiences) to the reader," Muñoz explained. "Hopefully her friends and other people who have enjoyed her company and food will share their experiences with us as part of the project."
A snippet from Sabina's chapter provides an intimate look at the young Doña's earliest experiences with food in her home state of Guerrero, Mexico:
When I was seventeen, I used to go help my aunt in the Molino (mill for grinding corn). I didn't care for the classroom, I preferred being out in the field. I helped grow, fumigate, and tend to the plants that we were cultivating. We grew peanuts, corn, and watermelon in October. When we had a good crop, I would go out and sell on the street and in the markets. We had wholesale accounts as well. Sometimes we sold it from the trunk of the car. I worked with my father from six in the morning until seven at night and I wouldn't get tired.
-Sabina Bandera, MXCNAS
To-date, the stories and photos of 25 female chefs in Baja California have been completed, including Adria Montaño, Esthela Martínez, Flor Franco, Nancy Leon, and Solange Muris.
As the project evolves, Muñoz is hoping that a book, film, and other multimedia components will follow. He concluded, "I want to start a creative collective. I want to release a chapter every month and hope that chefs and friends rally to support Sabina, as well as the other chefs. I'll recognize the project's supporters each month in email as well as social media. The supporters become part of the collective."
For more information on MXCNAS, or to pre-order the upcoming book, visit www.MXCNAS.com.
San Diego-based culture, food and travel journalist W. Scott Koenig has explored Mexico and Baja California for over two decades. He founded AGringoInMexico.com in 2012 to report on south of the border destinations, food, culture and adventure. The website has since become an invaluable source of information on the burgeoning food and culture scene in Baja California, as well as the wider scene throughout Mexico. Visit Scott's websites and social media via the links, below.