Éric Gonzalez: A highly talented chef and artist
Éric Gonzalez has been the executive chef at Stonehaven Manor since July 2020. Éric was kind enough to talk to us about his background in particular and his perspective on gastronomy in general.
A gourmet before he was a gourmet, Éric Gonzalez is originally from Juan les Pins, in the south of France and grew up in a home with the flavours of his mother’s countless small dishes “It was my first important contact with the kitchen!”
Éric Gonzalez attended the culinary school in Nice and completed his internship at the city’s airport restaurant. “The first six months were very difficult for me, but I hung in there. I will humbly admit that everything was new to me, I had to learn everything: the techniques, the spirit and the rigour.” Éric learned from incredible teachers who, beyond their toughness, instilled in him the values of the profession, so that in the end, he finished first in his class and was the winner of the session!
An impressive career path:
- Through a friend of his parents, Éric Gonzalez landed his first real job at the restaurant La Côte d’Or of the excellent chef Bernard Loiseau. “Bernard Loiseau, he was intoxicating! He was funny; he could drop a line during service and make the whole team laugh. Then tighten the screw during service and everyone would shut up. Excessive maybe, but he was close to his guys, to his team… he was very inspiring.”
- Éric Gonzalez worked at the Côte d’Or restaurant for two and a half years and made a huge impact in the kitchen. He then left to work as a chef de partie for Jacques Chibois at the Hôtel Gray d’Albion in Cannes – “2 Michelin stars, 19 out of 20 in the Gault & Millau; I loved the typically provincial flavours of the menu.” A totally different experience, but just as rewarding.
- Éric then left to do his military service for a year and when he got out, he went to work in a restaurant in the region for a season to “get back into the swing of things.”
- Afterwards, Éric worked at the restaurant La Belle Aurore, where he had his first experience as a chef; the restaurant was listed in all the guides of France.
- Then he worked at the Clairefontaine restaurant, the restaurant for ministers and heads of state. “The first year, at the age of 27, I got my first Michelin Star and 17/20 Gault et Millau: it was an indescribable feeling!”
- Then, Éric decided to move to New York City to Pierre Cardin’s Maxim’s restaurant. At Maxim’s, Éric was the executive chef and stayed in that position for four and a half years. At the time, the restaurant was very popular and had 3 New York Times Stars. “I fell in love with New York. However, the lifestyle was stressful; it was both magical and exhausting. It’s better in Quebec for sure! New York is like Disney World for adults; the city never sleeps. I was constantly working because, as in everything, the results come with what you invest.”
- In 2000, Éric Gonzalez was approached by the people of the Hôtel de la Montagne in Montreal to take over the kitchen of the Lutetia restaurant. He arrived in Montreal at the end of 2000. “I liked the fact that several great chefs had worked in this kitchen and that there was a heritage to be showcased. Four years after his arrival, the restaurant closed its doors and he was approached by the Holder brothers to take over the kitchens at Le Cube (formerly Vauvert, now Hambar). “I stayed for two years. The past of this restaurant was prestigious, we had to be sure! I developed an excellent restaurant where my team and I did a great job. I could have stayed longer, but the proposal and the vision for the future were not what I was looking for, so I quit.”
- He then moved on to the St-James restaurant, the Ferreira restaurant, and the Laloux before being approached by Marc Bolay for the Auberge St-Gabriel. In late 2009, Marc Bolay and Éric Gonzalez met, and in January 2010, Éric started as chef at Auberge St-Gabriel. “I think that the Auberge is a heritage of Quebec that is not well known and that deserves more. We had to give it back its letters of nobility. Thanks to Marc Bolay’s investment, who was a visionary at the time, Bruno Braën‘s splendid decor and Éric’s refined cuisine, the Auberge St-Gabriel became one of the best restaurants in town. “I must admit that it was great. The team was fabulous, it was high-flying. I still have the A of the Auberge engraved on my heart! That’s for sure! I was really happy there, but after four years of loyal service, I wasn’t getting where I wanted to be.” Even though Éric loved the Auberge so much, he decided to leave. “I wish them well because they deserve it, but it broke my heart. And then I made a bad choice. I had a bad experience; I’d prefer we skip that period.”
- That’s when the Casino approached Éric with an upcoming project. Since the Casino mainly favours internal career paths, the management team suggested that he join the family first. So he spent a year in charge of the kitchen at the Mont-Tremblant Casino. Then, in early November 2015, Éric left for a 5-week internship at Joël Robuchon’s Atelier in Paris, Place de l’Étoile, with the project to open L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon restaurant in Montreal! In March 2015, the announcement was made of the opening of L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon restaurant in Montreal at the Casino and it was announced that Éric Gonzalez would be the restaurant’s executive chef. He was responsible for the successful opening of l’Atelier. “I think what excited me the most was working in such a beautiful space, in such a beautiful kitchen, with the most starred chef in the world! THE reference!”
- Éric Gonzalez left Atelier in December 2018 to pursue other projects. He temporarily served as a consultant for Stonehaven Le Manoir, where he handled the interests and revised the menu. Subsequently, the new owners of the St. James contacted him and the contact was good. Éric returned as their executive chef and stayed for about a year.
- Éric Gonzalez’s second stint at the St-James was interrupted by the pandemic, which forced the restaurant to close. He took advantage of this interruption to get involved with the organization La Tablée de Chefs with his friend Jean-François Archambault. He helped the organization prepare meals for thousands of people in need across the country.
Executive Chef at Stonehaven Le Manoir
Since July 13, 2020, Éric Gonzalez has held the position of executive chef in the kitchens of Stonehaven Le Manoir. “I am very well established, it’s a heavenly place. We work hard, but it’s relaxing. We have a good setting, in the middle of nature, it’s beautiful.” He appreciates his new job, which has allowed him to reconnect with nature and with the human side of cooking during this pandemic period that has shaken people. The facilities at Stonehaven Le Manoir are breathtaking, and the chef feels right at home. The context is ideal for Éric Gonzalez to let his creativity speak for itself!
Written by Élise Tastet
Photography by Marie Soleil Cloutier