The taste of sweet childhood memories with Chef Maribel Aldaco

Ingrid Paredes - 15/02/2024

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Creative and determined, Maribel Aldaco weaves nostalgic notes into her pastries and desserts at her restaurant, Fauna. Discover the trajectory, inspirations and favourite flavours of the winner of Latin America’s Best Pastry Chef Award, sponsored by República del Cacao, as part of Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants 2023.

Born in the coastal city of Ensenada in Mexico’s Baja California, Maribel Aldaco was only seven years old when she had her first experience in the kitchen. “My mum had a lot of cookbooks in her house and I loved to look through them with my sisters and cook everything,” she says.

Having fallen in love with pastry after making cookies and cakes with her siblings and friends, Aldaco started studying gastronomy at 18 years old at the only public culinary school in Baja California.

Determined to fulfil her dreams, she was also working to pay for her studies. "I started in the savoury kitchen, even though I wanted to work with desserts. As I wanted to work in desserts a lot, and this was a possibility in Mexico, I decided to leave," she recalls. "My dad told me: 'No, you're not going, you can't leave school, you have to do this here,' but I told him that I would go." After deciding to become a pastry chef, she soon embarked on a new adventure at Merotoro restaurant alongside chef Jair Téllez.
Chef Maribel Aldaco dreamed about having a restaurant in her hometown

After finishing her internship at Merotoro in Mexico City, under chef Jair Téllez, Aldaco returned to school - but only briefly. Filled with an even bigger hunger for more practical knowledge, she paused her studies again to go to Spain and train at the prestigious Martín Berasategui restaurant.

Eventually, she went back to her homeland where she met her partner in business and, later, in life, chef David Castro Hussong. After finishing her studies, the pair travelled to the US where she worked at New York’s acclaimed NoMad and Blue Hill at Stone Barns and then at Quince in San Francisco.

In 2017, after hesitating at the thought of coming back to her hometown, Aldaco and Castro took the decision to open Fauna. "We hadn't been to Ensenada for eight years. When we left there was nothing," she explains.
Aldaco receiving her trophy during Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants 2023 in Rio de Janeiro

She was worried that, due to the remote location of the restaurant, they would not be able to attract diners. However, the prospect of this dynamic duo was enough to captivate locals and visitors alike. "David and I are very different, but we complement each other very well, he with the savoury and me with the sweet," she says, smiling.

When asked about being named Latin America’s Best Pastry Chef 2023, sponsored by República del Cacao, she says: “This award represents my passion for and dedication to this profession. All the effort and work I've done over the years and the discipline that was always vital to survive working in kitchens.”

While it remains the couple’s flagship, Fauna is not the only project that Aldaco is involved in: she is also overseeing pastry and desserts at three other restaurants: Bruma and La Morocha in Ensenada and El Tigre Silencioso in Mexico City.

Can I have the dessert menu, please?

Aldaco loves playing with textures, frequently recreating familiar flavours from her childhood and integrating ingredients according to the season. At Fauna, she has become known for her perfectly balanced desserts, which are always presented with a fun twist. Her creativity is strongly reflected in her dishes, which are crafted after analysing Fauna’s savoury menu and follow plenty of recipe testing before they are presented to diners.

The dishes change constantly at Fauna but, far from being a problem, this challenge Aldaco sees this as a blessing. “I think respecting the ingredients is very important, I don't like to put too much sugar in desserts. I also think that the fugacity of the ingredients is something positive because it makes me use my creativity all the time, work with what I have and create new things," she says.

Here's a short selection of Aldaco’s signature desserts:

Semifreddo with milk ice cream, cornflakes and crunchy caramel

This dish was the first dessert that Aldaco created for Fauna and was inspired by the cereal she had for breakfast every morning during her childhood. It features local corn, honey and milk and is the only dish that is always on the menu because of the availability of the ingredients. It has become one of the favourite desserts on the menu.
Semifreddo is Aldaco's most emblematic dessert 

Raspberry sorbet with grapefruit foam and raspberry gel

Ensenada is an important exporter and supplier of raspberries and, with the addition of the grapefruit foam, it serves as a palate cleanser on Fauna’s menu. 

Cheesecake with strawberries

This is a tribute to Aldaco’s mother. “It is a flavour that reminds me of my childhood and it is also my mum's favourite dessert. It’s made with strawberries because they are representative of Ensenada. They are delicious all year round and we harvest them in Bruma,” she says.
From left to right: Cheesecake with strawberries and Churro with guava 

Churro with guava

“For me, this dessert tastes like Mexico,” she says. The fried dough, the dulce de leche and the guava paste are very typical of the country and she finishes it with a little bit of sheep’s cheese made in Mexico as well.


A very challenging dish for the serene chef due to the delicacy and subtlety of the fruit flavour. After many tests, Aldaco managed to create a delectable dessert with yogurt mousse, persimmon crisp and ginger biscuit.

Now meet chef Maribel Aldaco in our video:

The list of Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants 2023, sponsored by S.Pellegrino & Acqua Panna, was revealed on 28th November at a live awards ceremony in Rio de Janeiro. Browse the website, join the community on Instagram, follow us on Facebook, visit us on X and subscribe to our YouTube channel and newsletter to stay up to date with the latest news and announcements.