CELEBRITY Chef Jose Luis “Chele” Gonzalez is one of the finest chefs in the world. Born in Torrelavega in the north of Spain, his star-studded culinary career came at a time when Spanish culinary scene was booming with Michelin Stars and modern gastronomy was on the rise.
He decided he wanted to be a chef after entering Artxanda Culinary School in Bilbao at the age of 25.
He trained and worked in only the best restaurants in the world including Andra Mari, Arzak. El Bulli, El Celler de Can Roca, Nerua Guggenheim and
His trips to Asia on his three weeks off brought him to the Philippines where he eventually opened his now famous Gallery Vask in partnership with Architect/Artist Juan Carlo Calma in 2013.
His awareness of common ingredients using the latest techniques with an innovative perspective, which he calls anthropological cuisine, best describe the dishes in Gallery Vask, which has won multiple awards, including putting the restaurant in 39th Best Restaurant in Asia.
Looking back, I missed three opportunities to meet this celebrated chef.
There was PETCO President Marissa Nallana to the Madrid Fusion Manila 2016 and Crimson Resort & Spa’s offer to fly me to Manila to dine at Gallery Vask in April 2017 prior to the opening of Enye in Cebu.
Then I was in New York when Enye was formally launched in September 2017.
The excitement of meeting Chef Chele was mounting so Crimson’s Marketing Communications Director Mia Mae Sy alerted me of his visit last Feb. 8 and 9.
The boldly elegant Enye with classic/contemporary design features a wine cellar, charcuterie room and show kitchen to allow guests to enjoy the experience from preparation to table service.
And there he was—Chef Chele standing in front of the show kitchen giving a last minute look-over on the prepared dishes.
I thought he looked very youthful (his photos gave me the impression he was much older).
Warm and gracious, he acknowledged our presence and promised to drop by our table with his characteristic thick Spanish accent.
Friendly and skilled food attendants greeted us as we took our seats. While Mia took care of the menu selections, chilled Musso Chardonnay 2015 was poured.
Enye offers authentic contemporary Spanish cuisine with a strong Basque influence.
Chef Chele explained that he is not from the Basque Region but grew up close to it.
The traditional menu selections have “Basque-ified” take on the Spanish words.
For blissful starters, we enjoyed the Pintxos or Pinchos in Spanish, a delicious finger food with Parmesan mousse stuffed in toasted sliced bread with assorted toppings of Jamon Iberico, salmon and roast beef.
The Croquetas were rendered soft and silky with béchamel stuffed with jamon, chicken and chorizo.
The best croquetas I have ever tried! The Txangurro or roasted crab mousse in shell was just as good.
Carpaccio de Wagyu with Parmesan ice cream and pine nuts was an extraordinary treat to our palates.
To honor Cebu, Chef Chele created the Lechon Cebu Tacos with mango salsa, jalapeño-frijoles (beans) mousse and sour cream.
We just had to make room for Arroz con Bogavante or stewed lobster paella, creamy and the lobster bursting with freshness.
And for a sweet ending, we indulged in Texturas de Calamansi, a deconstructed calamansi cake, mousse, ice cream and biscuit.