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The Best Female Chefs in Baja California, Mexico

It’s not often you get to celebrate two top female chefs’ achievements in one day. I was lucky to have had this experience and participate in two events celebrating the best female chefs in Baja’s culinary landscape.

While the events were certainly monumental, the real treat was tasting the food of these two legendary Baja California chefs.

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Sabina and dona esthela Queen's of Baja's Culinary Landscape.

Sabina Bandera (left photo) has long been known for her famous fish tostada stand in Ensenada, La Guerrerense. After 56 years of serving the freshest fish tostadas in Baja California, she recently opened her first restaurant location.

Doña Esthela (right photo above), the woman behind the wildly popular La Cocina de Doña Esthela was presented with an award for “Best Breakfast in the World”. The award was given by the international culinary website and mobile app FoodieHub.

These events happened on the same day, and I was one of the lucky few who attended both events.

The Queen’s of Baja’s Culinary Landscape

The Queen of Breakfast: Doña Esthela

dona esthela chef baja with alexa meisler travel writer

It is no exaggeration to say that Doña Esthela is the queen of breakfast in Ensenada. First, she did just win the tastiest breakfast in the world award. Second, the food is authentic and delicious. Not only does La Cocina de Doña Esthela makes salsa and chips daily, but she also makes queso fresco (cheese).

La Cocina de Doña Esthela homemade salsa and cheese

Doña Esthela is known for several favorites such as pan de elote (corn bread muffins) and huevos rancheros (eggs with red salsa), but it is the house-made machaca (dried, shredded beef) that won the Foodiehub award for best breakfast in the world. The machaca is spiced with serrano chiles, bell pepper and garlic, scrambled with farm fresh eggs. It is served with a refried beans, freshly made warm flour and corn tortillas as well as the house-made queso fresco.

While the machaca won an award, it’s her lamb borrego that is considered her house specialty and signature dish. There are also popular dishes that aren’t on the menu, such as the Sinaloan dish Chilorio made with shredded pork marinated in adobo and cooked with blistered chiles, oregano, cumin, cinnamon and garlic.

La Cocina de Doña Esthela machaca

This gorgeous oven cooks the freshly made tortillas throughout the day.

La Cocina de Doña Esthela

La Cocina de Doña Esthela is truly a phenomenon. Doña Esthela began selling chips and sodas and progressed to include a few very simple foods. She then began cooking for the local construction workers for many of the wineries being built at the time such as Lomita. In fact, she didn’t even name her restaurant. The workers would say I’m going to each at Doña Esthela’s kitchen. Translated this is “La Cocina de Doña Esthela”.

Today she has progressed far beyond a chips and a few simple items. Not only have fans from Baja and San Diego continued to visit her completely family run business. Some might even say she has the best breakfast in the world.

La Cocina de Doña Esthela best breakfast in the world award
La Cocina de Doña Esthela

The Queen of the Fish Tostada: Sabina Bandera


One of the most anticipated restaurant openings in Northern Baja was Sabina’s Restaurant by La Guerrerense. Sabina’s food stand La Guerrerense has been featured and admired by great chefs around the world, such as Anthony Bourdain, Rick Bayless, Enrique Olvera, Javier Plascencia, Benito Molina and many more.

Sabina Bandera of La Guerrerense in Ensenada tostada
Sabina Bandera of La Guerrerense in Ensenada tostada

The new restaurant menu by Sabina allows her to expand beyond her famous tostadas and 13 gourmet sauces.

Sabina Bandera of La Guerrerense in Ensenada tostada

In addition to serving La Guerrerense’s well-loved seafood tostadas and clams, the menu features white and red seafood pozole, Ensenada style fish and shrimp tacos.

Sabina Bandera of La Guerrerense in Ensenada
Sabina Bandera of La Guerrerense in Ensenada tostada
Sabina Bandera of La Guerrerense in Ensenada

It’s not often you get to honor two top female chefs’ achievements in one day and celebrate the queen’s of Baja’s culinary landscape. After a day of savoring the culinary delights of these two extraordinary chefs, my taste buds may never be the same!

Thank you to my friends Fernando Gaxiola from bajawinefood.com and Scott Koenig from agringoinmexico.com  for planning and including me in this once-in-a-lifetime Baja experience.  

La Guerrerense food stand is located at 1st Street and Alvarado in Ensenada, BC. Mexico. The restaurant is a mere block from the famous fish tostada stand. Facebook: La Guerrerense 

La Cocina de Doña Esthela is located at Rancho san Marcos el Porvenir. From Highway 3 heading north, turn right on the dirt road where signs point to Hacienda la Lomita. +52 646 156 8453, Facebook: La Cocina de Doña Esthela

This article was originally published on 9/11/2016 and the most recent update is December of 2022.

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  1. This sounds amazing, I love food especially seafood and Mexican. I hope you learnt some great tips. Looking at your pictures made me hungry

  2. Fantastic to hear the recognition awarded to La Cocina de Doña Esthela and Sabina Bandera. Those fish tostados look amazing…it sounds as though I’m long overdue for a trip to Baja Mexico.

  3. I drooled through out your post. I bet all of the dishes were just as yummy as they look in the photos.

  4. Nothing better to begin the day than such a sumptuous breakfast. The post is fascinating and I loved the oven. I am sure this adds authentic flavours and aromas to the food,

  5. Ooh, that must have been quite a gastro experience. Two gourmet chefs….and so much of yummy food. I know that I would have gone crazy.

  6. Delicious dishes and healthy too! I noticed some for vegetarians too, which is a nice surprise. What a wonderful treat.

  7. Wonderful! As a chef myself I loved to read those stories. I just could relive the struggle, the fun, the pain and the daily moments of delight that came before the breakthrough. The happiness and the worries. The unwritten stories behind success. Thank you for sharing, Alexa! Besides providing a great insight in 2 interestig lifes, you gave me a new ambition to strive for!

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