The Chef Who Traded Manhattan for a Smaller Island to Open Up His World
The curious case of Gerardo Gonzalez
The day before Gerardo Gonzalez moved from New York City to Grand Cayman in October 2018, he biked to Times Square and looked up at a billboard featuring a slender, blue-eyed Mexican American man. He turned his gaze toward the tourists at the intersection of 42nd Street and Broadway, one foot on the back pedal of his KHS track bike, and then back upward. The man on the billboard was smiling and wearing a gray peacoat. The man was Gonzalez himself.
This sure was a fine bookend to his time in the city, which began seven years earlier as part of a search for a fresh start. Back in 2011, Gonzalez resolved he wasn’t going to go the way of his family members in California — the ones from his father’s side who chose gambling and alcohol over everything else.
But he almost did in his twenties, when Gonzalez whiled away afternoons drinking 40s with friends in San Francisco’s Mission Dolores Park. He spent evenings drinking wine alone in his bedroom. He got a DUI. Eventually, there were bars he was no longer allowed inside. “I felt like I was just taking, taking, taking,” he said. He felt ashamed.
When he first arrived in New York, Gonzalez had maybe a few friends, and he planned to keep it that way. He would eat, sleep, bike, work, and work some more, first at Goat Town, then at Achilles Heel, where he was a line cook. In 2013, Gonzalez asked Nicholas Morgenstern, Goat Town’s owner, if he’d be open to his making baked goods for his new coffee shop on Stanton Street called El Rey.
We all hold some kind of potential — I really believe for each of us there’s some way of contributing to the world that feels correct, something that it feels like it’s what we’re supposed to be doing. Accessing that potential is another matter.
Past the alcohol cravings and living simply, slowly, regaining his own trust, Gonzalez accessed his, coming alive as he developed a colorful, vegetable-driven cooking style that went against the moment of chicken liver toasts and bone marrow…