In her native Ukraine, Maria Tulchevska performed audits for huge corporations. But when Tulchevska and her husband moved to Northern California in 2014, an online recipe for a multi-layered mousse cake triggered an obsession: She made hundreds of versions of that cake in her quest for perfection – then began selling it. Tulchevska was accepted into an elite course led by renowned French-Swiss pastry chef Amaury Guichon then launched her own pastry school and bakery – which she sold when her husband accepted a position in Southern California in 2021. Now Tulchevska is executive pastry chef for Puesto locations throughout California.
What inspired your signature mango cake at Puesto Los Olivos?
We had an escape to Mexico – everything had been so busy, with our twins, with the move. I was standing on the beach, on that warm sand, eating this mango, like a child … I remember taking a bite, the juice on my hands, the ocean breeze … I realized that, for me, this is the life – Mexico, this mango, this sand!
But wait, were you at Puesto yet?
I was waiting for a plane at the airport in Mexico when I was invited to apply. I did not yet know Mexican culture, but I understood this Mexican vibe. We did the interview … and I started to develop recipes. I remembered that mango, that emotion, that peace – and I wanted our guests to travel with me to that spot.
Can you describe the dessert that resulted?
Mango mousse, coconut cake, passion fruit cream, Mexican chocolate … Nature created a perfect flavor profile with mango. Passion fruit and coconut add to the tropical feel. Between thin layers of Mexican chocolate, I hide sea salt, the taste of the ocean. Lime zest brings freshness – limes are everywhere in Mexican cuisine!
I’m Ukrainian, taught by a Swiss-French pastry chef, in the United States, creating Mexican desserts. The challenge for me now is to dig deeper into Mexican culture.