Chef Chele Gonzalez takes diners on an intimate journey through the special moments of his life in the Basque region with the introduction of his fresh tasting menu at Gallery by Chele

He left Spain 11 years ago to deepen his culinary education and immerse himself in flavours of the globe. Now, chef Chele Gonzalez proudly pays homage to his roots. As the chef-partner of Gallery by Chele, he eagerly and anxiously waited for things to return to normal during the pandemic which truly placed the F&B industry in a pinch. After several years of not seeing family or setting foot on home turf, Gonzalez decided it was time to take a much-needed break.

“From summer to winter, I revisited my village in the North, in Cantabria, Spain. I was able to reunite with my family, my land, my heritage, and what I have known for most of my life as comfort food,” he says. “My mamá is now 89 years old, nearly 90. I don’t know if I will ever have the opportunity to spend this much time with her again. She was the woman who inspired my love of food. I made sure to enjoy every moment,” Gonzalez adds.

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Refreshed, reinvigorated and inspired, he arrived in the Philippines bursting with ideas from his soul-soothing gastronomic home visit. Named Re-Encounters, Gallery by Chele’s new multi-course tasting menu tells a descriptive narrative of his upbringing and a renewed perspective on the flavours of his youth. Gonzalez explained how he tasted some of his childhood favourites with wide-eyed wonder and saw them with a new appreciation for their origins and techniques now that he had experienced so much more of the world.

“Surprisingly, my perspective of that cuisine has completely changed. Now, I feel a distinct difference, a renewed interest and a fresh point of view,” Gonzalez mentions. “It was interesting how much I missed Asian food. And how excited I was to rediscover each and every special dish from that part of the world in a different light.”

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This culinary journey began at the mountains and by sea of Cantabria, where he was born then traversed to the culinary meccas of San Sebastian and Bilbao where he trained and developed an unbreakable bond with food. With each course came a touchingly personal story, allowing diners to peel back the layers of chef Gonzalez’s life. From handwritten postcards, recipes, to photos of family and artwork of food, each memento breathed life and added depth to every dish. We understood more about who this man is, and why these meals mean so much to him.

Re-Encounters clearly is more than just a menu. Through this gastronomic tale, we see a chef rediscovering his native land while finding a greater appreciation for the home he chose, as almost all ingredients in the menu are sourced from the Philippines. “I feel both eagerness and a deep honour as I take this opportunity to bring part of my Spanish heritage back for Gallery by Chele patrons to enjoy,” Gonzalez says.

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Since its inception, Gallery by Chele has championed supporting local, and sustainable cooking. Chef Gonzalez threw himself into Filipino culture and learned all about our produce, falling more in love with what the country had to offer to cuisine.

“I am excited for Re-Encounters,” shares Carlos Villaflor, Gallery by Chele’s executive sous chef. “I’m proud of how we blended two traditions into a celebration of Chele’s personal journey.”

The 10-course meal we indulged in began with ‘Destinations’: small bites that kicked off with lechon croquetas, and a stunningly simple set show-stopping pastrami pinxto with, basil and dill mayo with tomato marmalade.

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The main event is titled “The Journey”, and comprises artfully constructed and conceptualised plates. From a stunning raw tuna with strawberry, basil and watermelon gazpacho sorbet, to his take on a classic Basque pil pil, re-fashioned with Bangus belly and a grouper collagen emulsion. He excitedly features a cosy huevos con jamon (sharing that egg is his favourite ingredient and thing to eat) made with beer jus, Baguio beans and black truffle shavings, and also something called Hybrid, which is sous vide squid en su tinta but with influences of a Filipino adobo’s flavours thanks to the contribution of chef Villaflor. A melt-in-your-mouth txuleta with potato done two ways and confit bell pepper finishes the hearty meal.

However, be sure to save room for dessert like his famous truffle burnt Basque cheesecake, and some new surprises with sago con leche or what he explained to be a popular Spanish delight called Sobao which is a butter sponge cake soaked in milk served with a charcoal milk ice cream.

Make sure to reserve a spot as they are currently fully booked up to two weeks in advance! Re-Encounters will be available from March until June 2022.

Guests can choose between a 10-course tasting menu for PHP4,400+ 10 per cent service charge or a 6-course tasting menu for PHP 3,400+ 10 per cent service charge. Wine, cocktail, and non-alcoholic beverage pairing options are available.

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