Q&A: Jose Gonzales, Cuba Libre

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For 8 years, Jose Gonzales has been the Executive Chef of Cuba Libre at Pointe Orlando, a restaurant and rum bar that celebrates Cuban heritage, art, music, flavors & traditions.

What cuisine is your specialty?

At the moment I specialize in Latin American and Caribbean cuisine; however, I do have experience in many different cuisines which I have learned during my 25-year career working in a variety of restaurants.

 What’s your favorite local restaurant other than your own?

I have several favorite restaurants that I visit on a regular basis. For Italian, I love Fresco’s Cucina Italiana on Turkey Lake Road because is made with love. For sushi, I found a gem on Maguire Road in Ocoee named Umami Sushi and Izakaya. And lastly, I enjoy the traditional dim sum at Ming’s Bistro.

What’s your go-to meal at home?

Pasta with canned tuna ragout and roasted garlic bread.

Where do you shop locally for interesting ingredients?

International Food Club located 4300 LB Mc Leod Road has some unusual and exotic ingredients that can help make a fun gathering. I also shop at Whole Foods Market (all locations), but especially the one in Dr. Phillips.

Which kitchen gadget could you not live without?

I have a few favorites: a mandolin because it gives me specific cuts that I am looking for when making salads or a stir fry; Whirly Pop when I feel like staying in and eating popcorn while watching a movie; and a stick (immersion) blender because with it I can make a sauce or soup really fast.

What was your favorite bagged lunch as a kid?

My mom used to pack me all kinds of different sandwiches. I have to say that is a tie between a traditional ham and cheddar cheese sandwich with mayonnaise and ketchup, and a grilled cheese and strawberry jelly sandwich that would be cold by the time I got my lunch break.

What’s your most guilty junk-food pleasure?

Corn chips and salsa and/or Funyuns with hot sauce!

What 3 things are in your fridge at all times?

Sparkling bottled water, a bottle of Champagne, and assorted cheeses. You know… in case of emergency.

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