Let’s give Chele Gonzalez a break. He deserves it anyway. The year 2022 has been quite hectic and action-filled for the Spanish chef. He put Deli by Chele stall in a proper space, and also opened Samira in Anya Resort Tagaytay; took over Bondo Restaurant in The ‘Quin House in Boston for a couple of days; consulted for several companies along with business partners Carlos Villaflor and Cyril Addison; baked cheesecakes for his signature brand; did epic dinner collaborations with Labyrinth’s chef LG in Manila and Lolla’s chef Johanne Siy in Singapore; and judged for the San Pellegrino Young Chefs Academy—all that while having a baby with wife Teri. And, something he has long had a passion for, spin music.
On the last night of my short Aqua Boracay stay, he doubled as chef and DJ, satisfying the guests with cool dancing tunes and, of course, his fancy fare at his latest endeavor, the Sea.food by Chele Gonzalez, a restaurant offering astute interpretations of seafood classics.
The Singaporean chili crab came as crab meat drenched in a sweet-spicy sauce that was meant to be tossed in a fresh green salad. His Peruvian ceviche sat on a pool of cold gazpacho. And grilled octopus was skewered and served with satay sauce.
Traditional takes have been challenged by both Gonzalez and the Madrid-born chef de cuisine Jaime Ramos, injecting some excitement into the usual mix. And it didn’t apply only on the presentation. The flavor combinations had been reworked as well.
Their sweet and sour lapu-lapu had been seasoned with cilantro and orange, the calamari dressed in Korean gochujang sauce and the tuna tartare paired with strawberries. There was an element in almost all of the dishes that elicited curiosity, something many have come to expect from the playful mind of Gonzalez.
Matched with the elegant interiors of Ed Calma, the cocktails of David Ong and Jericson Co, and the stunning plates from Bali designed by Gonzalez himself, the thought behind the brand could not be any tighter, cohesive and attractive.
The restaurant was far from what the resort owners wanted it to initially be, confessed the chef. They were set on adding to the many Italian and Mediterranean eateries already found on the island. But Gonzalez managed to convince them to focus on seafood instead (of course, with a couple of meat options such as roasted lamb shank and Cebu lechon fried rice), being on an island and surrounded by water. His idea thankfully caught on.
Currently, he is working on the second branch of his deli at The Podium in Ortigas, and preparing for the holiday rush in his much celebrated Gallery by Chele, while juggling daddy duties at home.
Asked where he gets his energy and stamina from, he said, “From my team. The only way I can do what I do is to work hand in hand with my amazing team. We have grown together over the years. Also, chef Carlos is a genius. We complement each other. Maybe I’m more the face but we are equally important in what we do. I work hard to create a happy environment where people are motivated. I learn so much from them. Trust on them and delegate. My role is to lead amazing people.” INQ
Sea.food by Chele Gonzales is at Aqua Boracay Hotel and Resort, Bulabog Beach, Boracay Island, Malay, Aklan.
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