liana and Ernesto married in Mexico City decided to move to Oaxaca where Iliana had deep family roots and where she wanted to open a restaurant specializing in Oaxacan cuisine. Ernesto was a trained architect and initially lacked professional experience in the kitchen, but jumped in, and, as he says, “became her best student” Initially, there were many trials and tribulations, but by May 2003, their food was featured on the cover of Bon Appetit magazine with the caption: "The Soul of Mexico: bold flavors, romantic places, and rich traditions", The restaurant flourished until 2006 when their community experienced a very unsuspected damaging and ongoing political unrest, and Iliana and Ernesto were forced to sell their restaurant in 2007 and move to the United States.
Shortly after they moved to Austin, Ernesto began planning the El Naranjo trailer as a first step to learn about the Austin market and culinary scene. Iliana was offered a position as a cuisine specialist and chef instructor at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America on its new campus in San Antonio, where she hosted the first cooking classes offered dedicated to Mexican Cuisine. She is frequently asked to make national appearances to chime in on various aspects of Latin American cooking and to help people understand Mexican food beyond tacos and Tex-Mex. She often says, "If you talk to me about authenticity, I don't know what you mean. If you say tradition, then I'm with you."