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Keeping Focused and Consistent as a Chef

Chef Victor Gonzalez of Papa Razzi explains the many aspects of his job

Cooking requires a lot of concentration and a big passion, according to Chef Victor Gonzalez of the Papa Razzi restaurant on Elm Street. 

This passion can be seen in Gonzalez's work, as he is meticulous about all the things that need to be done in order to have successful meals brought to customers' plates every night.

A chef for eight years, Gonzalez starts his day at 9:30 a.m. and often does not finish work until 9:30 or 10 p.m. at night. Everything at the Italian restaurant is prepared from scratch and there are four new specials served a day.

There are many tasks that must be done including communicating with eight purveyors, and preparing the meals ahead of time, in which Gonzalez explained the tasks change from day to day dependent on what is being made.

Sometimes you "cut some fish, do some soups or do some desserts," he said. "It changes every day."

While Gonzalez explained that he has a "big chef" — a manager of all 12 Papa Razzi restaurants who is responsible for all the recipes — he and his chefs must come up with the specials on their own.

Often after working a 12-hour day, Gonzalez said he will get an idea for a special after thinking about what his tasks are for the next day and seeing what people ordered that night for dinner.

For example, his special this week was a piece of haddock with fruit relish.

Gonzalez said in addition to focusing his specials on what people's tastes are he also thinks about the weather conditions. He picked the fruit relish because it is good to eat in the hot weather. However, if it was wintertime, Gonzalez said he would make something warm.

Of all the choices on the menu, which include a wide variety of pastas, salads, pizza, and soups, Gonzalez said the most favored dish is Spaghetti Alla Bolognese, which is a pasta dish including pancetta, ground veal and mushrooms in a light tomato sauce with a touch of cream, according to Papa Razzi's menu.

But his favorite dish to cook is Scaloppine Di Pollo, a chicken dish, which includes fresh lemon, butter and capers. 

Coming to the United States when he was 15 years old and settling in Acton, Gonzalez began working at the Papa Razzi when he was 18 years old. He began as a cook and moved his way up in the ranks to head chef four years later. Altogether he has been working there 12 years, while he has been a chef for eight of those years.

Asked what he enjoys about his job, Gonzalez says without missing a beat that he loves to cook. He explains that his enjoyment of cooking came from his family.

Gonzalez works in a kitchen with 20 other cooks whom he manages on a daily basis. Most people often come to the restaurant at night, according to Gonzalez, who says they serve at least 150 people at dinnertime.

"We work extra hard to make sure the food is consistent and perfect," Gonzalez said of his work as a chef and the other chefs in the kitchen.

The challenge of a top chef's job, according to Gonzalez, is working with friends, many he has known since he was young, because he must exercise his authority as the boss and remain neutral at the same time toward all his workers.

But it is clear Gonzalez loves every aspect of his job and he says he draws inspiration from a chef who used to work there.

The most important thing a chef can do, Gonzalez said, is to always "be consistent" and that is something that Gonzalez wants to continue to do as chef in the many days ahead as he goes to prepare the daily dishes.

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