Three years ago, during a Veteran Day weekend blizzard, Sergeant Gonzalo Duran, began to have car trouble while on his first trip to Canada. He parked at a local mechanic and was told because of the holidays, it would take a few hours or the next day to fix.
Unfamiliar with the area, he went to the closest place for a meal. Braving the mountains of snow and a scary highway, Duran made it to Mexico City in Hamburg New York. Once he opened the door, the Martinez family were surprised someone had braved the snow to dine in.
After explaining the situation about his car and not being from the area, Mr. Martinez, the head chef and owner, notice Duran’s dog tags. They began to bond over each others service in the military. Mr. Martinez proceeded to make Duran his most famous dish, Mole. Duran was weary because he had refrained from it in the past, but felt compelled to have it. He was hungry and the chef insisted.
“It was one of the best meals of my life”, Duran states. It brought me to a place I never been before or felt since. I licked the plate clean and I’m thankful I managed to take a picture before I ate it, which “I never did back than”. Now you can see Duran’s Facebook @bxgonzo and Instagram @gonzalodurannyc are filled with his proud culinary skilled meals.
Duran spent about a week in Hamburg on his way to Canada, which didn’t happen that trip. Instead he spent it, helping the Martinez family collect meat during the shortage from the surrounding states because of the Pandemic. During that period, Duran learned the ins and outs of the restaurant business. Duran was such a natural that Mr. Martinez offered Duran a general manager position in a second restaurant, if he stayed. Unfortunately, Duran didn’t accept the offer because of his family obligations. “My mother isn’t well and my children were still young teens. This was the first time I thought about leaving the Bronx.”
Since then, Duran has been on a cooking path. He surprises even himself sometimes. He began taking the time to make more elaborate meals. When he moved apartments earlier this year, he began making home cooked meals for family and friends as a way to break into his new home and hone his skills.
Last week Duran began a new project where he would now go to other people’s home to cook as a private chef. All he asks for is a plate of food and no dishes. “I hate dishes” he states firmly. His compensation is simply a donation of any amount to his day job: Executive Officer for a Veteran nonprofit, Devil Dog USA Incorporated.
This past weekend, the Martinez family came to New York City to visit family for the holidays. With the storm closing off the highway to return to Buffalo, the Martinez were out of luck because they had checked out their hotel and were now stranded. Who would house seven people in New York City.
They gave a call to Duran, who only heard three guest total, welcomed them and decided to make them dinner. What Duran didn’t hear was that seven guest were coming over for dinner. When they walked in, Duran was surprised but accepted the challenge. The climax, Mr. Martinez himself was present this trip and Duran knew this would be his greatest moment as a chef. The pressure was on, everyone was hungry and it was too late to change the meal plan. But more could be added to the now already prepped meal for four.
Once everything was said and done. The food was plated but Duran was kind of embarrassed because, living like a bachelor, he didn’t have enough plates and utensils for everyone. He used paper plates and plastic forks. After the meal was done, everyone praised the food but Duran held off from getting Mr. Martinez’s answer. You see, Duran likes hard criticism, so he can improve his skills. He knew Mr. Martinez was a serious man.
The final moment came and Mr. Martinez shook his hand and said the meal was delicious but didn’t have any words for improvement. “When you cook a certain style, it will be different from someone else’s, so comparing is opinionated but I ate everything, and I licked the plate clean. The thing you need to focus on and which I am proud of you my son, you used the greatest ingredient of all, Love” said Mr. Martinez.
Duran has still yet to stop smiling.