After falling in love with food and baking in a Home Economics class in seventh grade, chef Danielle Duran knew she had found her path. She has worked in the kitchens in some of LA's and New York's top restaurants — such as The Bernardin, and Le Coucou (a James Beard 2017 winner for best new restaurant) — and with some of the cities' top chefs, such as Sang Yoon, and Walter Manzke. Eventually, she opened her own restaurant, Amiga Amore, in LA's trendy Highland Park. She has come a long way since making her first pastries in middle school, but she says she has her sister and her abuelas to thank for that.
From the beginning, it was always the women in her family who inspired her love for food and cooking — especially her grandmothers. "They were always in the kitchen cooking up so many delicious things, whether you were hungry or not. The love they put into simple food definitely influenced me," Duran said.
She traces back her love for desserts from her abuelas' arroz con leche (rice pudding with milk, cinnamon, and sugar) and fresas con crema (strawberries with heavy cream). "She also made the best buñuelos that I would use to scoop up the fresas," she remembers about the popular Mexican airy fritters.
When it was time for college applications, her parents were going through a complicated divorce, so she thought culinary school was out of the question and ended up applying to a community college. But her sister knew about her passion for cooking and secretly applied to Le Cordon Bleu on her behalf, where she was accepted and ended up graduating with honors.
Driven, focused, and a bit of a "mama bear" in the kitchen, Duran is known as the queen of "Mexitalian" for her unique way of blending the best of her Mexican heritage with her husband's Italian roots. One of the best examples of this unique fusion that's become their signature is their "Abuelita's tiramisu," which combines traditional Mexican Cafe de Olla and Abuelita Syrup with Italian mascarpone cheese.
She admits she's a perfectionist who always strives for a perfect 10 in anything she sets her heart to. With conviction you truly can accomplish anything and you should never doubt what you love. "At times, things get tough, and kitchens are rough, but I know I will never be given anything I can't handle."
For more recipes, mouthwatering dishes, and cute family pics, follow her on Instagram @chefddz.
Credits: Illustrations by: Michelle Mildenberg