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Interview with Chef Chele

Barbara: Hello! Good Morning everyone! Thank you very much Chef Chele for being with us today at the Member’s Corner. You don’t need any presentation because I am sure all the members and all the friends of La Camara know you already. Chef Chele has been working in the best restaurants all over the world. In Spain, several Michelin stars like Arzak, Andra madi, Azurmendi and now, he has his own restaurant that is one of the best 50 restaurants in Asia. So, please Chele introduce yourself and your restaurant.

Chef Chele: Ok, so my name is Jose Luis Gonzalez but since I was a kid, everybody called me “Chele Gonzalez.” So, I arrived in the Philippines around 10 years ago. First, I was working for hotels. First, it was Shangri-La and Sofitel. Until I open my own restaurant in 2013 that is Vask and Gallery Vask what evolved in right now as Gallery by Chele. Aside from that I have a consultancy company called Adviche. We do a lot of F&B, you know, from very simple things like a kiosk to big corporations and hotels. We do anything related to F&B world and we always give advice in anything that’s innovated, in anything that’s about business and anything that is related in sustainability and local producers. That is one of our most important part and we have been doing a lot of partnership in the Philippines. That is a little bit of who we are at this moment.

Barbara: Yeah, that makes the difference really. How did you arrive to the Philippines? How did you make the decision to come to this country?

Chef Chele: I am from Cantabria, from Torrelavega and then, I studied culinary in Bilbao. Most of my life I have been living in the North Spain. I studied Marketing and Business 4 years in Oviedo, in Asturias. Then, I open my business at 22 years old. I had a bar for drinks and music. And then, I studied Culinary in Bilbao. After, I moved to San Sebastian to work in Arzak y mugaritz, then, in one of these ten years, I was 1 year in Cataluña, El Bulli and Celler de can roca. And then, come back again to Bilbao to the Basque Country to work in Nerua Guggenheim. That was my last time of life in Spain was actually in the Basque country. Amazing Experience there! And then, I used to come to Asia for vacation every year. I loved it since the first time I come! Something stole my heart.

When I resign after working so many years in fine dining and some very very intense gastronomy, I needed a change. I wanted to work at hotels to also get that experience and then I put everything I had. I had a vacation organized. I put my chef jackets and I told my friends “I’m not coming back. I will look for a job here in Asia.” And they said “Are you crazy?” “You don’t know anybody?” “No no. I don’t know anybody. I just want to see.” I have an offer in Australia but I just wanted to be in Asia. Our trip was between Thailand and Philippines. At the same time, I was in vacation, I gave my resume. I went to the hotels, I go to the Executive Chefs and I had different offers actually between Thailand and the Philippines. But I don’t know why it was the inside voice, maybe the cultural aspect that we have together between Filipinos and Spanish that I just felt comfortable here and I gave a chance in the Sofitel and I never left again. That was almost 10 years ago.

Barbara: 10 years ago? WOW! What a wonderful decision. How has the Philippines changed during these 10 years? The consumer? Also the country? What do you think?

Chef Chele: There are things that I think they haven’t changed so much and I think that is something amazing about the Philippines and the Filipinos – those strong family values. Those in other countries over the years have changed in the modern world. Here they remain intact. Many people say “Many over the years, when the Philippines modernize, it might change as they change in the other countries. But here, I think it’s intact. Those values for Filipinos are the most important things.