Chef Spotlight: Executive CHEF GONZALO COLIN of Cantina Rooftop in NYC
From the time he was a young boy, a passion and appreciation for cooking and putting forward impressive presentations were embedded in Chef Gonzalo Colin. It was the family time spent relishing in French foods, Italian wines and traditional Mexican spices that has made Chef Colin such a success at cooking across a variety of European-Latin cultures.
Chef Colin credits his abilities to the opportunities that were provided to him by brilliant chefs working from the bottom up. Upon his arrival to the United States in 1996 from Mexico City, Mexico, Chef Colin worked as a Garde Manger at Indigo, before being promoted to Grillardin, working under renowned Chef Scott Bryan.
His love of cooking grew while working in NYC as a Sous Chef at Merge and First, by Executive Chef Sam De Marco and the popular steakhouse Frankie & Johnnies. Chef Colin was lauded for his natural ability with people and food while working at Sequoia alongside Chef Salvador Pascual. Chef Colin took his first position as Executive Chef at City Bistro, in Hoboken, New Jersey in 2005. In 2013, he took on the role of Stage 48's Executive Chef for private events in addition to working with Ark Corp, where he learned the distinguished corporate techniques set by Chanterelle's Chef David Waltuck.
Stage 48 has now brought Gonzalo Colin on board as the Executive Chef of their new Cantina Rooftop, opening on Cinco de Mayo. The Mexican restaurant will spotlight the cuisine Chef Colin was raised on with signature dishes including Barbacoa de Cordero, Pollo Campestre and Grilled Black Angus Arrachera Steak. After spending a year traveling to 30 cities in his native Mexico, Chef Colin returned to Manhattan with the idea of feeding the body through the smell, sight and taste of food.
Chef Colin's love and enthusiasm for cooking is fully credited to his family, upbringing and culture, but the best is yet to come. Chef Colin states, "How do you cook with love? When you think that the people you are cooking for is your family, that's the secret ingredient. It is more than food to the body; it is a way of feeding the soul, a dish at a time."
What was your earliest interest in cooking?
My interest in becoming a chef started at six years old while watching my grandmother Gregoria, who I call Abue Goya cook. My mother and I used to visit her house, which is located in a small and almost magical village in Mexico. While at her house, I used to sit down and wait for the fresh homemade tortilla to come out of the comal (Artisanal clay griddle). When we were back home in the city, my mom and dad used to take turns cooking. My mom had my grandmother used the school of slow cooking, while my dad used to go crazy with his stilled fast cooking, fun and delish. At the age of 8, I started prepping my homemade frozen candies, wedge of lime and orange. I used to put salt on one side and sugar on the other, wait a couple of hours while they frizzed. I also used to make frozen banana's with chocolate powder.
Who were some of your career mentors?
Some of the mentors that I have had throughout my career who taught me about the traditional and rich foods of Mexico include my Abue Goya, Mom, Dad and Aunt Christina whom I consider my second mom. However, in 1996 Chef Scott Bryan of Indigo Restaurant is the one who taught me most of my French and Mediterranean techniques.
What culinary styles have influenced your career?
French, Mediterranean, New American and of course Latin American.
What do you consider the most distinguishing features of your work as a chef?
As a chef, I make sure that every dish I make is made with magic, respect and dedication. Thinking about my family while cooking allows me to put these special touches into every dish. I not only want to feed the body of those who eat my food, but their souls as well. This is a dream come true for me. I am very happy to be able to take on the responsibility of leading a kitchen team that respects and treats one another as a family. That is a very nice challenge to me.
What is your favorite meal?
If I were to have my last supper I would choose to eat Bouillabaisse and braised short ribs. At Cantina Rooftop I'm honoring those with our Mexican Bouillabaisse and Barbacoa de Carnero (slow braised Lamb Shank).
Tell me a little bit about your restaurant for our readers.
Cantina Rooftop is a destination place where you will get a taste of some unique flavors. I'm going back to my roots and preparing the food with a lot of respect and never forgetting where it all started. Each time I'm prepping my sauces, braising the carnitas, pork belly or the Barbacoa, my mind takes me back to my childhood. When you come to the restaurant and see a lady making fresh guacamoles, you won't be able to resist trying them. Mexican cantinas are considered small cellar bars where you are not only getting drinks, but also traditional local foods that are cooked by a Senora next to you. Here at Cantina Rooftop you will not only experience all of the above, you will also be able to enjoy a delicious cocktail while overlooking the city from our rooftop.
Cantina Rooftop is located at 605 W. 48th Street (between 11th and 12th Avenues), NYC 10036. They are open for dinner, weekend brunch, drinks and late night. All major credit cards are accepted. Call them at (212) 957-1700 or visit their web site at: www.cantinarooftop.com.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Gonzalo Colin