Photos: Nina de Zayas
Better known as the Grand Canyon State, Colorado, in the United States, is home to a unique nature and scenic terrains drawing millions of visitors looking to get swept up in its natural splendor and fantastic food scene with infinite options. With a bevy of cities and towns, each with its own unique outdoor offerings, and cultural attractions, may be difficult to choose the best place to go visit. During the winter you can slope down the snowy mountains and in the summer you can mountain climb, go for long hikes, or enjoy some of the best food festivals, like the Food&Wine open in Aspen.
Born and raised in Argentina, chef Gonzo Jimenez has always been fascinated for nature, he worked in lodges and hotels in the south of Argentina, in the Patagonia region to be exact. It was there where he learned his craft as a chef. Inspired by the lakes, forest and outdoors, in so good #26 we talked about his life and how moving to the United States made his dreams come true.
Aurora is a town located on the East part of Denver, home to art galleries, cafes, museums and restaurants. Here Gonzalo Jimenez and his business partner David Lewis decided to open Miette et Chocolat, a unique place ‘where magic happens’.
How did you become the chef that you are today?
I became the chef I am today by working hard and being resilient, especially in the young days the kitchen is a tough environment where everyone throughs you a curve ball and you have to deal with the punches. I like to learn from everyone, not because you are the chef means you know it all. I like to stay humble with the feet on the ground.
In my younger years, I traveled a lot. First I traveled through Argentina in seasonal resorts and fishing lodges. At the age of 19, I started as a savory chef. One day the pastry chef quit and the executive chef asked me if I wanted to oversee the pastry production and that is how I began to discover my true passion. I decided to go to Pastry School in Argentina at the Gastronomic Institute of Argentina. After I got a chance to move to the United States back in 2009, I was 24 at the time, when I started working as the pastry chef for the St. Julien Hotel & Spa in Boulder Colorado.
I like to learn from everyone, not because you are the chef means you know it all. I like to stay humble with the feet on the ground.
I was very happy working there but I wanted more, and one day I got the opportunity to become the Executive Pastry Chef for the Hyatt Hotel in New Orleans and later at the Hyatt in New York City. I went from managing 1 pastry cook to 50 at the Hyatt.
It was a massive operation with 1600 rooms. Part of my job was to oversee the pastry of the restaurants, room service and banquets for up to 3,000 people. Funny thing is that I was 26 at the time – I was the youngest executive pastry of the company. I wanted the giant hotel experience. I think because of all of these experiences that I had in small and large operations I got to see many things and techniques and put that together and apply to that my own techniques.
How was your time in Chile before returning to the United States to create Miette et Chocolat?
Yes, after a few years working for Hyatt I was offer the position of Executive Pastry Chef at the Grand Hyatt in Santiago de Chile. I wanted to open my own chocolate shop with my name inside the hotel in Santiago. The project failed due to corporate rules and regulations. In the end the project couldn’t be finalized. I left the Hyatt to start working for Barry Callebaut and I became the head of the chocolate academy in Chile for almost 2 years; some of the best time of my life. I got the chance to meet and learn from the top chocolatiers.
I was very artistic as a kid and working with chocolate is creating art. So, for me, it is not a job but a hobby.
Can you describe a day at Miette et Chocolat?How many people worked in your team?
I have a business partner, David Lewis, who is in charge of all the economics and numbers side of the business, taxes, shopping etc. I am in charge of the creative side of the business. I have a total of 10 pastry cooks. We have two stores, where we do all the pastry production. The other shop is where we do the chocolate productions, and that is where we keep the heavy kitchen equipment. I was very artistic as a kid and working with chocolate is creating art. So, for me, it is not a job but a hobby. We are inspired by the outdoors; we spend many hours in the nature. It is a big part of what we do. Our shops are located next to Denver Stanley market. We search the best places to open, that are trendy, beautiful and unique.
Where do you want to take Miette et Chocolat? What are your expectations
The main idea for this brand is to be known worldwide. I want our creativity and excellence product to be known worldwide, I want to grow enough but carefully opening in key destinations when the time comes, still keep it authentic to its core soul. Without turning NO franchises.
Cannabis is a growing business and it is legal in Colorado, have you ever considered creating your own line of edibles?
So here is the thing, we have done some consulting in that business. It is an industry with a lot of money. The people who want to do this have a lot of knowledge in this matter and we have the chocolate knowledge, so we are a perfect match. It is a growing business but is not something we don’t do ourselves. It is an operation that is very hard to manage.
‘Here is my approach – if you want to eat dessert just go for it! Nowadays the chocolate and pastry world has gone into this trend of ‘not heavy’, ‘less sugar’, or ‘a healthier way’ of producing pastry items. But I have not.’
Your top three chocolatiers and why?
- Enric Rovira: He has his own style. He is brilliant.
- Raul Bernal: He works super clean. I respect him. He creates with simple things.
- Philippe Vancayseele: Director of the Chocolate Academy in Montreal. Belgium approach, I love his style and he knows 100% the process of how chocolate happens.
Have you ever been interested in participating at the World Chocolate Masters?
Yes I have, and I wanted to participate this year, but due to Covid traveling has been tough and many of the competitions have been postponed. I was going to travel to Mexico in October for the try outs at the Chocolate Academy. I want to represent Argentina. I don’t think there has never been an Argentinian chef competing at the WCM.
In order to do that, you have to compete against all South America in general. But this year there was no budget for the try outs in South America, so I will have to wait until the next time to participate.
You have a large volume hotel background. Don’t you miss that life? Are you better today than before?
I don’t miss that life at all. It was a great experience which helped me become the chef that I am today. Now I have more balance work life that makes me be more creative, having time to go outside and travel helps me be creative.
I want to grow enough but carefully opening in key destinations when the time comes, still keep it authentic to its core soul. Without turning NO franchises
What went in your mind when you created the desserts for so good.. magazine?
Here is my approach – if you want to eat dessert just go for it! Nowadays the chocolate and pastry world has gone into this trend of ‘not heavy’, ‘less sugar’, or ‘a healthier way’ of producing pastry items. But I have not. I did two confections which are emblematic in America. The first is Devil’s food cake but in a chocolate bar version. Simple as it is the flavors and the textures of the cake, and for that I use technology to use my own techniques being creative and try to do things no-one does. And the waffle is inspired by the famous American breakfast. I use the American flavors and play with an eye distraction, where you think it’s something but it is a chocolate bar inside with traditional flavors you find when you eat them.