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Maribel Villarreal

When I was four years old, we moved from Mexicali to Tijuana. We lived in the Chapultepec neighborhood. My mother did all the cooking and she learned how to cook from her mother who was from San Luis Potosí­. I was always wrapped around my mother's dress as a child. I was shy and quiet and soft. I did what I was told and I didn't cause any waves. When I was ten years old, I woke up before sunrise and prepared a huge breakfast for my family. I placed menus on the table and allowed each member of the family to choose their dishes from a list. I don't know why exactly I decided to do this but I do know that I enjoyed it tremendously.

I didn't change much as a person when I was in high school. I began to cross into San Diego to study at a school run by nuns and made a new group of friends but all in all, I was still shy, soft, serious and quiet. I may have been dreamer but I kept it all to myself. It took a lot to get me to open up to new people. I had a boyfriend from age 15 to age 26 and he was a long standing love in my life. When I graduated from high school, I decided to study graphic design in Tijuana. With four credits to go, I asked my father if I could continue studying because I wasn't fulfilled with my education. He said, yes. I decided to study the culinary arts. By this time, I had amassed a beautiful collection of hardcover cookbooks.

In 1998, I traveled to Paris and I fell in love with the culture. I enrolled at the Ritz Culinary Academy and studied super hard from 8am until midnight. I never wanted leave. I learned everything I could, including the service training and was offered a diploma in 2000. Upon returning from Paris, a friend invited me to a party where I met my future husband, Joseph. We had our first child in 2002, Giovanna. Within all my plans, even though I knew that I wanted to cook and support myself economically, I knew that I wanted to marry and have a family. It was difficult to balance my life but in 2004, I had my second child, Emilio, and I think that I have been able to manage both worlds.