Baking has always driven Susana Mijares' ambition. In 2009, she and her family moved from Torreón, Mexico to San Antonio and opened Délice Chocolatier and Patisserie on the city's far North Central Side. Seven years later, Mijares, a graduate of the Cordon Bleu Paris, has achieved another "lifelong dream" as a chef. Starting April 10, she will compete on the second season of the Food Network's Spring Baking Championship for a $50,000 grand prize. During an interview with the San Antonio Current, Mijares (aka The Chocolate Queen), talked about what it's like baking for her kids and what she hopes viewers take from her own personal story of determination.
Do you have the Food Network playing on TV all the time at home?
All the time! I have five kids and all of them watch the Food Network. I used to tell them that I was going to be on there one day. I teach my kids that if you have a dream and a purpose in life, you should just go for it. That's what my parents taught me. For me to finally achieve this dream, it's like all my family is part of it.
How do your kids enjoy having a mom who can bake sweets for them any time they want?
They love it! Since they were little kids, I taught them how to eat everything. I like them to try something before they say they don't like it. They know how to bake. They really enjoy it.
It sounds like food and family go hand-in-hand in your household.
I come from a very large family in Mexico, so we're always around food and celebrations like birthday parties. For me, food is a way to represent the union of the family. You can say a lot of things with a cake. I can speak through my food.
I can only imagine what a birthday party at your house looks like. Do your kids ask for customized cakes?
Yes, they want specific cakes! Sometimes they will draw me what they like. They tell all their friends. Whenever somebody needs a cake they say, "Oh, my mom will bring it!"
I'm assuming you're volunteered for a lot of bake sales, yes?
A lot of the time, yes! My kids will raise their hand and say, "My mom will do it!"
What are some examples of how you incorporate Mexican culture into the foods you bake?
Well, I was raised in Mexico and I studied in France and now I live in the States, so I try to make a mixture of all the cultures. I have this banana dulce de leche cream pie. I also make French macaroons and fill them with horchata flavor. I also have this recipe for dark chocolate cake with chipotle. It's so delicious!
The sweets at your chocolatier and pastry shop are pretty high end. Do you ever just stop off at a hole-in-the-wall panderia and pick up a few conchas?
I love conchas! If it's sweet, I love it. I like what I do, but I also like to try everything else. Especially in San Antonio, there are a lot of great places. I like to explore new restaurants and new bakeries. Everyone has their own specialty. I don't ever think I will be done learning about food.
Immigration has been such a hot-button topic during the presidential race this year. As an immigrant who is living the American Dream, what message do you have for people debating the issue?
I think if you have a goal in mind and you work hard for it, you deserve an opportunity. I am a very hard-working woman with a very nice family. That's what I'm showing people right now. I'm so glad I was given the opportunity to come here and to represent who I am. If we do our best and we are good people, we should be welcome and be proud of who we are and where we came from. It's so great that I get to do what I love the most in my life. I do it with a lot of passion. I bake my heart out.