Cowboy Ciao's Lester Gonzalez Dishes on His Kitchen Pet Peeve and His Grandmother's Tortillas
This is part two of our interview with Lester Gonzalez, comfort food enthusiast and Executive Chef at Cowboy Ciao. To catch up on Gonzalez's food truck fantasies and his take on the bacon obsession, check out part one of interview.
Katie Johnson Lester Gonzalez, Executive Chef at Cowboy Ciao
National/international chef you admire: I've always been a huge fan of Mario Batali because I'm big into charcuterie. His style is more clean.
Favorite ingredient to work with: I like working with garlic. I love garlic in everything. It adds certainty to it. Maybe it's the Mexican in me, too, that likes the garlic. Don't get me wrong -- I won't take garlic in my desserts.
Pet peeve in the kitchen: Not seasoning. No one likes to eat bland. There's a reason why we don't put salt and pepper shakers on the table. Everything should be well seasoned.
Cowboy Ciao The newly opened Cowboy Ciao at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport
What would you say to aspiring chefs: That it's hard work and never lose your passion.
Where did your passion for cooking come from?: Well, when I was a kid, if you didn't cook, you didn't eat. My grandparents ran a corral, and they were busy tending to the livestock. But as time went on and my grandparents got older, I was cooking for them.
So what was your go-to food as a kid?: Burritos. My grandmother used to make homemade flour tortillas on this old wood-burning stove. It was the best. My grandpa used to grow Indian white beans, then I would boil them and fry them. It's one of the things I miss.
One year, we had this huge storm and our power was out for almost two weeks. And my grandmother had to cook outside. Those were some of the best meals.