Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Beloved Local Chef and Icon Passes Away

Chef John Gonzales (Image courtesy of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation)

WILLIAMSBURG — The Historic Triangle was shocked to learn of the recent passing of beloved local icon, Chef John Gonzales.

Chef John Gonzales (Image courtesy of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation)

Chef Gonzales, who was the owner and executive chef of Williamsburg’s A Chef’s Kitchen, was a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and devoted his career to culinary excellence.

He served as Executive Chef for both The Ritz Carlton-Fairfax Hotel and The Watergate Hotel in Washington D.C. Chef Gonzales also worked as a consultant for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation before eventually becoming the Executive Chef for the Foundation’s four taverns along with other properties under the Colonial Williamsburg banner. He also published two best-selling cookbooks for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, “The Colonial Williamsburg Tavern Cookbook” and “Holiday Fare – Favorite Williamsburg Recipes.”

Chef Gonzales, along his wife, Wanda, are most recently known for A Chef’s Kitchen; a unique dining experience right in the heart of Merchants Square. This was more than a restaurant; it was a culinary adventure.

Chef John Gonzales (Image courtesy of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation)

With charm, a flare for performance, and an awe-inspiring gift for cuisine, Chef Gonzales gave guests of A Chef’s Kitchen a cooking demonstration that was more akin to a masterclass in the culinary arts while serving his delicious creations to them.

A reviewer for Frommer’s described the experience at A Chef’s Kitchen as, “one of Williamsburg’s finest—and most fun— vacation activities.”

The Williamsburg-native had deep roots in the community, having spent his childhood in the Robert Carter House right in the Colonial District.

The news of Chef Gonzales’ passing left many in shock. Several commented not only on his unparalleled culinary talents, but also on his passion and enthusiasm.

Chef John Gonzales (Image courtesy of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation)

Noreen Graziano, owner of Creative Cuisines in Williamsburg, said, “John was such a charismatic person.  His smile would light up the room during his cooking demonstrations.”

Williamsburg resident, Ed Ellington, and his wife, Pat, were regular patrons of A Chef’s Kitchen and, in that time, the couple developed a friendship with Chef Gonzales. Mr. Ellington, an amateur photographer, was invited to A Chef’s Kitchen to capture photographs of Chef during his demonstrations. Chef also invited Mr. Ellington to bring in extra lighting to capture truly memorable moments. “He was very friendly… I feel like I was a true friend,” said Mr. Ellington to WYDaily.

As community members pause to remember the Williamsburg native turn local culinary legend, what is never lost on anyone is the impact Chef Gonzales left and how he embodied the spirit of hospitality that lives in the Historic Triangle.

“Losing such a talented, inspirational, enthusiastic chef before his time really makes all of us in the restaurant community stop and reflect for a moment,” said Graziano.

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