san diego pastry chef, firefly eatery, san diego chef

Meet Mariana Barajas, the San Diego Pastry Chef Behind the Firefly Eatery & Bar’s Delicious Desserts

How She Creates Her Confections

Growing up in a deeply culinary family, our San Diego hotel’s Executive Pastry Chef Mariana Barajas was surrounded by strong role models from the start. Mariana’s mother, grandmothers, and aunts all played an important role in fostering her fascination with cooking and her innate confidence in the kitchen. After graduating from Southwestern College, Chula Vista’s Culinary curriculum in 2010, Mariana dove into the savory side of the industry. An accidental placement in a pastry course turned out to be a fortunate development, and she grew to appreciate the art. Mariana went on to graduate with accolades from the prestigious Art Institute of California – San Diego.

In 2013, Chef Mariana joined The Dana’s pastry team, working her way up to Executive Pastry Chef in less than two years. With a keen eye for detail, technique, and artistic design, she is an important asset to the culinary team. Mariana enjoys creating fresh and interesting desserts, and challenging herself to new techniques as much as she can. With her love for travel, Mariana also works hard to bring her learning into the kitchen, where she can keep creating outstanding desserts and designing stunning experiences for guests.

Despite our busy schedules, we were lucky enough to catch up with Mariana and chat about her inspirations. Read on for some insights, and possibly some new culinary ideas of your own.

Describe your cooking style.

If allowed to have some freedom, which I usually am, my style consists of traditional components that I try to style either out of the ordinary, or as naturally as it comes to me. I enjoy somewhat of a modern ‘rustic,’ or agrarian, style of plating. Using cake clusters that resemble rocks, fresh garnishes ‘sprouting’ in between mousses, while incorporating bright flavors, and as much seasonal flair as possible. I want my dishes to look like something else, and make the guest curious about what they’re about to eat, so when they taste it, it’s even more surreal.  

What drew you to a cooking career?​

It was a bit of an accident actually. I never thought about doing something like this for a career, but it just turned into something I enjoyed doing—now I just get paid to do it.

Do you cook at home? If so, what’s a go-to meal?

Nope. I prefer eating out to keep up with trends!

What is your signature dish?

Chocolate chip cookies.

What’s the best cooking advice you ever received?

“Practice, practice, practice.”


Spring is approaching, and the season for delicious takes on traditional sweets is upon us. Why not try something unconventional the next time you whip up a sugary treat?


At the Dana, our people are everything to us. Keep reading our blog to learn about our Mission Bay hotel staff, their stories, and how they stay inspired.