Juan Carlos Gonzalez
Juan Carlos Gonzalez was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to a large family of Spanish and Italian descent. Gonzalez, one of 35 first cousins on his father’s side, fondly recalls large family gatherings as the reason he initially became interested in pursuing a culinary career. “We always hosted Thanksgiving at our house,” he remembers. “My dad was in charge of the outdoor cooking—cochon de lait, seafood paella, and barbecue. Mom had the gourmet touch in the family; she injected turkeys with Champagne, baked three-cheese flan, and stuffed chayotes with seafood we caught that day. They taught me to appreciate food at a young age. Everything was fresh and seasonal, and considering my Spanish and Italian heritage, it was all full of bold flavors.”
Gonzalez began his culinary career with a rare and highly coveted opportunity as an apprentice under Chef Eric Ripert of New York City’s revered Le Bernardin. He caught on quickly and worked most stations of the kitchen in his first year. In 2000, Gonzalez relocated to New Orleans to work for Commander’s Palace under the helm of late Chef Jamie Shannon. Gonzalez quickly adapted to the bold flavors of Creole food and fell in love with the city and its cuisine. Proprietor Ti Adelaide Martin selected Gonzalez for the position because of his foundation of culinary knowledge and appreciation for the restaurant’s style. “As Ti’s mother Ella would say, I didn’t require much ‘Creolizing,’” he says. Gonzalez continued his career at Commander’s Palace for the next five years, eventually working his way up to sous chef under current Executive Chef Tory McPhail.
After Hurricane Katrina flooded New Orleans in 2005, Gonzalez was offered the position of executive sous chef under longtime colleague and friend Chef Danny Trace at Café Adelaide. Three years later, he made the move to Houston to assume the position of executive chef at Bistro Alex & Bistro Bar in Houston. “I’ve been so fortunate to work for some of the country’s most renowned culinary minds,” Gonzalez says. “I’ve learned from the best, and Bistro Alex gave me the opportunity to grow and mature as a chef.”
After more than a decade of culinary experience with the Commander’s Palace Family of Restaurants, Gonzalez returned to New Orleans in 2012 as the executive chef for SoBou, the newest addition to the expanding restaurant group. His menu reflects his upbringing and culinary training, combined with the flair of New Orleans street food and Louisiana’s freshest ingredients. “SoBou will be a modern Creole saloon, authentically Louisiana with a great list of cocktails,” Gonzalez says. “This restaurant fits my philosophy of combining perfect execution of straightforward cooking methods with accents of bold flavors to let the freshness and quality of the ingredients shine.”
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