Ofelia Toledo Bacha Pineda was born in the city of Juchitán de Zaragoza in the isthmus of Tehuantepec in the state of Oaxaca. Daughter of a traditional Zapotec family, she fell in love with the art of regional cooking and by the age of five was already a talented student of its marvels and enchantments
As a young woman in Mexico City for advanced studies, she profited from the opportunity to study in depth other styles of cuisine and culinary culture. After several years of study and work in the Federal District, Ofelia decided to settle in the city of Oaxaca with her small daughter. Her house here soon became a meeting place for fellow Istmeños who enjoyed her culinary arts so much that they urged her to open a restaurant serving authentic Istmeña food. She took up the challenge and Yu Ne Nisa was born - the pioneer restaurant in the city for this rich and varied cuisine.
Faithful to her roots in a family of artists, poets, musicians and artisans, Ofelia created in this simple house a lively and welcoming nook that quickly conquered the hearts and palates not only of other Istmeños but of all Oaxacans as well as visitors national and international.
Even before the formal opening of the restaurant which would be Yu Ne Nisa, the fame of her cooking reached the ears of many connoisseurs and researchers of Mexican gastronomy, among them Diana Kennedy and Rick Bayless. They came looking for Doña Ofelia and were enchanted with the dishes they had the opportunity to try.
Diana Kennedy, originally from the United Kingdom who fell under the spell of Mexico and became a revered authority and writer of many books on Mexican cooking, greatly enjoyed Ofelia's cuisine and recommended it to friends abroad.
Rick Bayless, owner/chef of the Frontera Grill and Topolobampo restaurants in Chicago, is also a writer of cookbooks and famous in the world of gastronomy. He was so impressed with Ofelia's cooking that, on various occasions, he brought the staff from his restaurants here to enrich their culinary skills, applying in his Chicago restaurants what they learned here. He then invited Ofelia to present a gastronomic exhibit for his clients and to give a cooking course for the public and staff.
Without doubt, the visit of these esteemed colleagues was an important factor in the decision of the New York Times to send a reporter to interview Doña Ofelia and to publish a full page article in that prestigious paper about 'the Zapotec Wizard of Istmeña Cuisine'.
From this began a string of interviews and articles that appeared in national and international publications, among them the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, La Jornada, Exclesior, Día Siete, Lonely Planet, Frommers, Mexico on Line and many more.
To the point where invitations began to arrive for her to present gastronomic exhibitions in many places in México and the United States, as well as appearances on local television. In addition are the exhibitions locally and in Tianguis and tourism fairs, among the most important being:
For six very hectic years Doña Ofelia managed her own team of professionals in the kitchens of the Hotel Calinda Geneve in the Zona Rosa of Mexico City, while operating the Restaurant Yu Ne Nisa and participating in the many events and promotions of Juchitan gastronomy in the state of Oaxaca.
The only sign for the restaurant Yu Ne Nisa has been the figure of a woman from Juchitán covering the more than twenty feet of the facade. Painted by the Juchiteco artist Jesús Gallego, it now represents Ofelia´s friend Zobeida 'la Iguanera' who is also 'the Lady of the Iguanas' of the famous photographer Graciela Iturbide.
The interior of the restaurant has always been enlivened by the art of various painters and sculptors from the Isthmus - with some pieces on consignment for sale to art lovers. All of this work and artistic activity does not lessen the talent and attention to creativity and quality of the Istmeña cuisine - the Prehispanic, traditional Zapotec, Mestiza and the contemporary but authentic - and the pleasure of her valued clientele.
Currently Doña Ofelia is implementing one more project - dedicating a small space in the restaurant for a mini-boutique where she can exhibit and sell select pieces of traditional jewelry, artesanía and the beautiful huipiles of her native Juchitán.
In 2007 she began the production of home cooked mole in paste form: delicious Oaxacan mole - black and red - in the unequalled Yu Ne Nisa style. As it is truly 'home made', production is necessarily limited but she will be happy to fill special orders whenever possible, given sufficient lead time.
In September of 2008 she presented a new dish - Chile Ofelia. Not the usual 'chile en nogada' served during Independence month but a personal creation guaranteed to delight every palate. And so she continues to expand her culinary arts and to share her talents and the delectable results with all and sundry.
She participated in various events and contests in 2010 commemorating the Mexican Independence and the Revolution, among them the Guillermo Ríos International Gastronomic Congress as chef, speaker and moderator, and was a finalist in the categories of main dish and entrée in the Historia y Sabores de México: Menú Bicentenario contest.
In 2012 she was invited to participate in the Baja California Culinary Fest and gave master classes in events at Tijuana Innovadora, the Culinary Art School, etc. and in 2013 presented the festival of Oaxacan and Isthmus Cuisine in Cancún.
The years continue full of the challenges and satisfactions of this labor of love and in this 2016 she continues to participate in gastronomic exhibitions with the Secretarías de Cultura and de Turismo in Oaxaca and has been guest chef at events in Morelia, Mich.; Chihuahua, Chih; San Luís Potosí, SLP; Monterrey, N.L.; Distrito Federal, among other cities, as well as giving cooking classess to select groups.
She is active in the programs of the Conservatorio de la Cultura Gastronómica Mexicana in the preservation of traditional Mexican cooking. Through all the ups and downs of this life Doña Ofelia maintains the authenticity of istmeña cooking - food elaborated with love and creativity that delights the eye, the nose and the palate, savoring the history, beauty and talent of this privileged bit of the marvelous world of Oaxacan gastronomy.
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