An immigrant who grew up in Central Islip is one of the 15 participants in the new season of “Top Chef”, which premieres on Thursday at 8 pm on Bravo.
Byron Gomez, 32, who cooked at top restaurants like Eleven Madison Park and Café Boulud before becoming a head chef in Aspen, Colorado, says career success is “through drive, determination, deep and big dreams. I could to be some of the best in the world in my field, to the point of getting the privilege of being on a show like ‘Top Chef’ and competing with amazing people from all over the country, so it just takes a little bit of dream and a lot of hard work. “
Gomez uses the term “dream” in more than one sense. “I’m a DACA recipient. I’m a dreamer,” he says, using the term derived from the “American Dream” for undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children. The government determines their status. Gomez, who arrived at the age of 8 with parents Martha and Senen Gomez, is currently pending citizenship. “There are a lot of people on Long Island, a lot of people in Central Islip who can relate to that,” he says.
As the middle child between two sisters, he had his culinary start one summer at the age of 15 “in Ronkonkoma, in a very famous restaurant called Burger King,” he says mischievously. “My second job was at TGI Fridays in Hauppauge,” where he cooked at various management positions, and “was a bit of a waiter because I wanted to get involved in everything that had to do with the restaurant world. And that was where it was started, “he says of his passion. “I started buying cookbooks. I started reading about cooks.”
The Central Islip Senior High School graduate later worked at the then Sheraton (now Radisson) Hotel on Motor Parkway in Hauppauge and began to fantasize. Myself and a line chef always talked about, “Oh my god, I wish I could be in Mario Batali’s kitchen. ‘””
Gomez soon got a similar opportunity. After staying at a Southeast Asian restaurant in Manhattan, Gomez moved to the Bronx and eventually began working for the pizzeria of Daniel Boulud’s newly opened three-part Boulud Sud near Lincoln Center. “With three restaurants connected, I asked my chef, ‘Hey, can I come to work on my day off and learn something new?’ I never went [a formal] Cooking school but being with Daniel Boulud for five years was a great cooking school. “
From there, Gomez moved to the two-star Michelin restaurant Atera, followed by the three-star Hotel Eleven Madison Park, which topped the list in the 2017 restaurant guide The World’s 50 Best. You can see him on the “Eleven Madison Park” episode of the Netflix documentary series “7 Days Out”. He then worked at the restaurant’s Hamptons popup, EMP Summer House, in 2017 and 2018, and then at the EMP Winter House in Aspen. He fell in love with the city and secured a job as head chef at Tony Restaurant 7908.
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When he felt ready, he applied for the current season from Top Chef in Portland, Oregon. “It was pretty intense,” he says of the season that started filming in early September. “This line-up was really amazing. We all got on really well from the start. The fact that we were in the same boat and going through the same situations definitely made that connection a lot better, even to the point where we are now everyone stay in touch. “
From Frank Lovece
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