April 2022 Featured Chef: Gonzo Jimenez

9 min read

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Chef Gonzo Jimenez wearing Clement Design C-ONE chef jacket

I am an Argentinian pastry chef and chocolatier who grew up in northern Argentina and I was introduced into the culinary world by coincidence. At the age of 17, as a young rebel troublemaker, I was kicked out of my parents’ house. In desperate need of survival, I found a job in the beautiful city of Mar del Plata on the coast. I started from the bottom, as a dishwasher. Right then and there was when I fell in love with the culinary world. Right away I took that job seriously I put all my efforts into learning and eventually started earning my first stripes in the industry by working hard and attending culinary school.

After Culinary School I started traveling around Argentina, doing seasonal jobs in hotels, and working as a young cook. I was introduced to the pastry world while working in a small hotel in northern Argentina at the age of 20. I was employed and working as a savory chef but one day our pastry chef quit, and the executive chef asked me if I wanted to oversee the production of pastry. With this experience, I fell even more in love with the culinary world and discovered that Pastry was my true passion. I was learning from older ladies that took me under their wings. They taught me that I was able to apply not only science but also artistic expressions when it came to presenting beautiful sweets and confections. Following my newfound passion, I decided to go to Pastry School in Argentina at the Gastronomic Institute and kept on working around the country focused on the field of pastry. Hopping from one pastry kitchen to the next, I was eventually introduced to and got involved in the incredible world of chocolate and its difficulties. I took it as a challenge and kept on practicing, reading about it, and creating with it.

As a son of a Spanish family, my goal was to end up working in Europe, but my cards were dealt differently and I came to the United States in 2008 instead. A small hotel in Colorado brought me in from Argentina, and that was when I developed their pastry department. With a small budget and a lot of passion, I started a little team of young people that were passionate about making every single pastry, chocolate, and bread in-house. That was quite a rewarding experience. 

Being in the US motivated me even more to become a better chocolatier and pastry chef. Having access to the best pastry magazines I was able to see the amazing work from other professionals around the globe. Wanting to become one of them I kept on investing my small salary into chocolate molds, personal tools, and equipment and worked very long days to develop even more discipline in the chocolate and pastry field.

After traveling around the US and working for large hotel chains as an executive and a corporate pastry chef I ended up again in South America for a few years, again.

This time I was out of the hospitality industry and working for the largest chocolate corporation in the world, traveling around South America, teaching classes, doing demonstrations, and developing products for the industrial world of confections. 

After learning the different aspects of the chocolate and pastry world such as chemistry, finances, and creativity I was ready to jump out of the corporate boat and start my own small company. That’s when I decided to come back to the United States 6 years ago to start Miette et Chocolat with my business partner David Lewis - a small chocolate and pastry company located in Denver Colorado.

Being surrounded by mountains and having access to the best ingredients has helped me become even more creative, pushing the limits of chocolate, and coming up with concepts that sometimes even amaze myself! 

As a chocolatier and TV personality, I get to travel a lot, allowing me to teach and interact with other professionals and students, interacting and learning even more. Like I always say, those who teach get to learn twice, and this is how I keep being in love with this magical world of chocolate. 

                                                                                                                                

Q&A

Q1: Could you tell us a bit more about your business Miette et Chocolat? How did you go about creating the business alongside chef David Lewis? What is a normal day like at the pastry production shop compared to the chocolate production shop? What do you look for when hiring a pastry chef for your business? Finally, are you a believer of "you are what you eat" and do you utilize only the best ingredients available? How easy is it to uphold this standard in your area? What is your favorite ingredient going into 2022? 

AMiette et Chocolat is a company that started almost 6 years ago. Our first location was in the Stanley Marketplace in Aurora/Denver Colorado. Both business partners had the idea of starting a small chocolate company, with the vision of making creative and modern chocolates and pastries in an area of the country that was lacking these types of products and confections.

Pastry production and chocolate production are similar but set up in different facilities. Our pastry team creates all sorts of products such as petit gateaux, entremets, cookies, macarons, etc... Mainly production for our retail locations. Our chocolate team makes all the confections for retail and also all of our wholesale accounts (hotels, restaurants, markets, etc...) We produce everything from bonbons and truffles, to candy bars, bean to bar chocolate, panned items, and also our seasonal campaigns like easter eggs, holiday items, etc.. 

When hiring for a pastry cook or chocolatier I mainly look into the passion that the candidates carry. We want people that love what we do and will be able to stick with us for a good amount of time, learning and putting the effort that it takes in order to become a pastry/chocolate professional. Younger generations these days tend to jump around from one job to the next. But we look for people that are willing to put in the hours and are eager to learn. The same way I was at the beginning of my career and I still am nowadays. 

I don't know if I would categorize myself as a "you are what you eat" type of chef. I believe that it is great to utilize small and local farmers and producers and also source from smaller companies as much as possible. I am a strong believer in eating without guilt and indulging. If you're going to eat a pastry or chocolates, just go for it, don't look at the labels or the amounts of fat and sugar. It's all about finding a balance in life and health and being able to eat what we want without torturing ourselves counting calories. I think it's important to be healthy and that goes hand in hand with happiness - and chocolates can help with that!

In our area we have to be carful by keeping the same standards that our customers are looking for every time they walk into our shops. We also listen to what they want, trying to find a balance between being creative as pastry chefs/ chocolatiers but also not creating overcomplicated items with strange flavor combinations. We tend to roam around classic flavors when it comes to pastries and chocolates and we try to differentiate ourselves from other patisseries by utilizing modern techniques and beautiful presentations. 

My favorite ingredient of 2022 is the new roasted corn chocolate from Republica del Cacao. Produced in Ecuador, this slightly caramelized white chocolate is actually conched with corn. The flavor profile of this product helps me develop products that take me back to my roots in South America.

 

Q2: The Netflix original series Bake Squad is the first TV show you've been on, what was your biggest difficulty, if any, when it came to working in front of the cameras? What's your favorite picture or piece on the photo board so far? 

AThe T.V. show Bakesquad on Netflix was/is quite a challenge. I am quite comfortable working in front of the cameras, considering that I've travelled around doing demonstrations in front of large groups of people. But the main challenge is the long days of shooting and production. The show typically takes about a full month of filming and several other months of production. My favorite piece has been the giant chocolate Dragon egg so far!

Q3: It's safe to say you have a lot of experience working in hotels, from the St. Julien Hotel & Spa in Boulder Colorado to the Hyatt Hotel in Santiago de Chile. What are some of your favorite, and not so favorite things about the hotel experience? What's one major piece of advice you'd give to someone who is breaking into the Hotel Pastry field? Last, are you happy that you've sort of broken away from that industry.

A:I shaped my pastry and chocolate career mainly in luxury hotels. It was an incredible experience and I was able to travel around quite a bit, setting up teams, learning not only about pastries and chocolate but also learning the management and financial aspects of these kinds of corporations. Things that I can apply nowadays to my own operation.

The main advice that I can give to someone breaking into the hotel pastry field is that it is up to the pastry cook to build their own careers and form their own paths. The hotels are a great tool but it is up to each person to decide how they want to work inside of the hotel and how they want to develop the discipline that takes to become a successful pastry chef. For example, someone can be working at the most beautiful and luxurious hotel in Hong Kong under the best executive pastry chef, but that won't do anything if there is no discipline when it comes to showing up on time, working with discipline, cleaning and mainly being respectful. 

Hotels require long hours and lots of organization. Troubleshooting and multitasking are also key when it comes to being successful in this industry. I am now happy that I was able to break away from hotels. I like being outside of that corporate world, doing my own thing and being able to work as creatively as I want.  
 

Q4: Your Instagram is full of inspiration creations ranging from the iconic Baby Yoda to your incredible egg themed sculptures we typically see around Springtime. Do you have a favorite project you've worked on and shared with your community? What is typically your ideation process when creating a new piece? Where do you find most of your inspiration? 

A:I have a lot of fun creating many chocolate sculptures and fun pieces. In fact, on of our locations works as a chocolate boutique and chocolate art gallery. I come up with concepts that pop up in my head then try to execute as much as possible. I first start with digital drawings and images and then I turn them into chocolate. This is the fun side and hobby side of my job, I take it as a creative outlet. Most inspiration comes to me either from architecture, nature, or simply pop culture.

Q5: You are a fan of Ultramarathons, and we see you've clocked times in a variety of incredibly difficult races around Colorado. Some of which include the Lean Horse 100-mile race and the Tahoe 200 Endurance Run, a 200-mile-long race around the largest alpine lake in North America. Certainly, one doesn't just jump into running these intensely long races. Could you tell us how you got started running, why you began ultra-running, and how your career has progressed in the sport? Outside of running what do you find yourself doing to stay active? 

A: I jumped into the ultrarunning world when I moved to Colorado. I fell right into the Colorado lifestyle, being outdoorsy and simply enjoying nature. I started trail running for fun at the beginning, but with my all-or-nothing personality I took it to the extreme and ended up running races that take about 73 hours of running. I enjoy the outcome of each one of these challenges. They turn me into a better person and they make me appreciate the smaller and simpler things in life.

Ultrarunning also helps me become more creative. Most of the time, during long runs I come up with different concepts and ideas. Having a fresh mind and being totally disconnected from the phone helps me become more creative overall. Outside of running I enjoy mountain biking, gravel biking, skiing, and camping.

If you're interested in learning more about chef Gonzalo Jimenez check out Netflix original Bakesquad, visit chef Gonzo on Instagram at @chef.gonzo or if you're in the Aurora, CO area visit Miette et Chocolat or shop online and have their incredible products delivered directly to your front door. Finally you can find Miette et Chocolat on Instagram at @miettechocolat.

We appreciate you taking the time to read our latest Featured Chef series! If you're a chef or know a chef who wears Clement Design and wants to be featured please drop a comment below or tag us on social media @clementdesignusa.

Our goal in our features is to support and share stories from the incredible community of chef's that show us support each and every day!

If you have a direct question for Chef Gonzo, drop it in the comment section below and we will share his answers with you! 

As always, we appreciate your support and if you are reading this enjoy 10% off your next purchase when you use code GONZO10 at checkout.


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