Jane Adler profiles Chef Gonzalez, Panxa Cocina and Chef’s stacked enchiladas for Locale magazine.
After an injury left him sidelined at his firefighter job, Gonzalez decided to enter the wild world of restaurant work. As the story goes, he started as a dishwasher and slowly worked his way up, taking advantage of any extra work he could get his hands on to prove himself worthy of the big leagues. He educated himself through experience, soaking up any advice he received like beer to a borracho bean.
“Every chef finds their place in the kitchen, whether you’re a sous chef, a banquet chef [or] an executive chef,” Gonzalez said. “Find your niche, find what really gets you motivated and you just go after that.”
He did. And Chef Gonzalez’ culinary quest led him to critically-acclaimed chef, Eric Distefano. The two became fast friends, culminating in Gonzalez being named chef de cuisine at Distefano’s successful New Mexico restaurant, Geronimo. The Santa Fe way of life seared itself into Chef Gonzalez’ soul, and its culture inspired him on a personal and professional level. Eventually, Chef’s appetite for autonomy was sated with the opening of his restaurant Panxa in 2015. When you walk into Panxa (pronounced pawn-zah), you are transported to a whimsical world of war horses, wildly creative dishes—like the Stacked Enchiladas—and a window into Chef Gonzalez’ mind. The name Panxa, which is Catalan for belly, provides that additional x-factor (literally and figuratively).
“We were all just sitting around one day and someone asked the question ‘How do you want your food to affect people?’” said Gonzalez. “The first thing it affects is their belly—and it just kind of evolved from there. There’s a huge Spanish influence in the Southwest so I looked up the definition and thought it fit.”