Juan Carlos Gonzalez
Location: New Orleans
Why He's Amazing: Because his dishes inspired by Creole and Puerto Rican street food—like shrimp-and-tasso pinchos [bar snacks]—take pub food to a new level.
Culinary School: The Culinary Institute of America (Hyde Park, NY)
Background: Internship at Le Bernardin (New York City); Commander's Palace, Café Adelaide (New Orleans); Bistro Alex (Houston)
Quintessential Dish: Duck "debris" (confit) and butternut beignets with foie gras fondue and chicory-coffee ganache
Born: Puerto Rico. "Over there, the food, culture and music are unbelievable. I find a lot of similarities in New Orleans."
First Mentor: Eric Ripert at Le Bernardin. "I was 18 years old, going on 19. I was a kid, right out of high school. I went to the interview, and it was chef Eric and me, and he was like, 'You don't have any schooling. You don't have any experience in the kitchen and you don't know anything. I'll hire you.' And I was like, 'Sweet. How much am I going to get paid?' And he said, 'You're not.' I worked [as an intern] for free for him for one year...It was a great experience."
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.