Esteemed head chef, Gene Gonzales, shares with us his story as a restauranteur, a culinary giant, and how cooking helped him bond with his kids.
Cooking seems to run in the family for Café Ysabel‘s owner and head chef, Gene Gonzales. Both of his kids graduated with a business degree, but their passion for food and the culinary arts became their niches in life just like their dad. However, how did Chef Gene Gonzales balance being a dad while growing both Café Ysabel and the Center for Asian Culinary Studies as a business simultaneously?
Culinary Arts is not for the faint of hearts
The climb to the top in becoming a renowned chef was not easy for him. Today, chefs are easily recognized for their innovativeness but Gene Gonzales didn’t have that advantage back then. “I started at a period when chefs were treated as mere kusineros or were people that had menial jobs. I started going around talking to customers and they saw a rather educated guy that nurtured their wants and their restaurant experience,” recalled Chef Gene Gonzales.
Yet, Gene Gonzales made it as a culinary giant and dad
Besides going around, there were also the dreaded long work hours. But he made it work. “Hours were long but after school, my kids would come over and have snacks in the cafe,” explains Gene. “Weekends were sacred to us. I also did my best to indulge their hobbies like aquaria, painting, and even horseback riding. We did equestrian riding for 11 years before we finally got our own horse.”
Besides their hobbies, Chef Gene bonded with his kids through local and international cuisines. “Bonding time, aside from the hobbies, was also exposing them to all kinds of cuisines,” explains Gene. “My kids and I would take long yearly pre-Christmas vacations and explore local cuisines very deeply in any place here or abroad. Eventually, they got into culinary themselves. My son is a US Department of Agriculture scholar and was the first Filipino student to attend the new Alain Ducasse School for Professional Chefs. My daughter got into nutrition for small animals and has her own business in providing natural food for pets.”
Cooking can bring families together
Whether it’s through eating or learning recipes, food has always brought families together. Gene Gonzales’ long hours spent in the kitchen may have been taxing but it was his bringing his kids to have snacks in Café Ysabel that allowed them to bond despite the juggling of schedules. Today, Café Ysabel is still a celebrated restaurant for its Italian food with local twists. Plus, Gene is proud of his two kids as far as they’re going in both gastronomy and business.