It’s not easy, being the new guy. When Xian Gonzales first began working for the Silver Fox Steakhouse about seven months ago, he wasn’t sure what type of environment he was walking into. He’d heard the stories, sure. He knew the reputation. But he wasn’t sure if he was ready, if he was even good enough to work under Chef Bernard. But he quickly found that, yes, he was good enough. He proved himself in short order and he very quickly earned the respect of the owner and head chef of Silver Fox, Chef Bernard Ambrosino.
Chef Ambrosino passed away recently. And his death left a gaping hole in the back of the house and the front of the house. Quite frankly, his death left a hole in the entire community. But his kitchen staff, of which Xian is a major part, have pledged to keep Chef Bernard’s legacy intact by continuing to serve the type of food Silver Fox is known for, at the highest of levels.
We wanted to get to know Xian a little bit more, so we sat down for a Q&A session to find out more about the man behind the apron.
What’s your name?
My full name is Xian Gonzales
Do you have a nickname?
Not really. I guess they’ve been calling me “Mr. Positivity” lately in the kitchen, but I wouldn’t say it’s a full-blown nickname.
How old are you?
I am 29 years old.
Where’d you grow up?
I grew up here in Casper!
Why have you stayed in Casper?
You know, I think it’s probably more-so because of my family. I’ve always kind of wanted to move somewhere else, but I think, at the end of the day, the idea of leaving my mother behind or anything like that kind of slows me down.
What was your favorite thing about working with Chef Barnard?
Well, I hadn’t really been there too long at this point. I’ve only been here for like seven months. But as far as working with him, I definitely love that he was all about the restaurant and the customers. He was willing to put in the effort with everybody and not just stand aside and bark orders from the side. I love that he had the passion himself, and he would put forth that passion and effort and he would express those things and also teach those things to the rest of us.
What is the biggest lesson you learned from Chef Bernard?
The biggest lesson I learned is to just care for your people, you know? Care for your people and treat ‘em well. Having certain relationships and friendships with your staff and your coworkers, not just treating them like employees, really exemplifies the idea of building a family and making people happy. That attitude towards your people is going to be what makes them want to work for you and stick around be a part of that family.
Best thing about your job?
The creativity that comes with cooking.
Favorite dish to cook/serve at Silver Fox?
I’d have to go with the Chicken Duxelle. It’s a lightly breaded chicken breast that is cooked in a cream sauce with mushrooms and some other spices. I think the reason I like cooking that one is just because I feel like it has just a little bit more technique to it. It’s like, ‘Okay, I need an ounce of this and a dash of that.” It requires some creativity and it takes a little bit more thought.
Favorite dish to EAT at Silver Fox?
Right now I’d probably say that I’m pretty stuck on our blackened chicken. It’s pretty simple; it’s just blackened chicken with a side of vegetables and rice or potatoes or whatever. But it goes a long way for me trying to be active and eat healthy.
What do you do in your spare time? Hobbies?
In my spare time, I just try to hang out with people that I don’t get to see as much while I’m working; different friends and family that are outside of the job. I like to try and play music every now and then. I’m definitely learning a lot of new things like that. I play video games a lot too.
What is your favorite book and why?
My favorite book that I’ve probably ever read is a book called Witch and Wizard. It’s kind of a take on the modern times with a magical adventure fantasy thrown into it.
Best advice anyone has ever given you?
Well, I’ve been given a lot of advice at this point in my life, even just career-wise. But one of the things I’ve learned and never forgotten is a little quote: “Cook with confidence, even if you have none.” And I don’t know why, but that one really resonated with me at the time of hearing it. Basically, it’s just saying “Keep your head held high and even if you mess up something in the process of learning, you just keep trying and just keep going.”
What do you want the world to know about Chef Bernard?
I’d like them to know everything, if they could. But at the end of the day, he was an amazing guy. He cared about everyone; not just his family, not just the people he worked with, but everybody. Even people who came into his restaurant that he didn’t even know. He cared about everybody. He looked out for people. He was a genuine guy and he was a lover. That’s what I want people to know about him.
I really wanted to tell him something at Christmas. I wanted to get him a gift to express my gratitude and tell him how much I appreciated him. I really wanted him to hear those words, and know how much they meant coming from me. I mean, I’m sure he knew, but I don’t think I ever really got to tell him how much I appreciated him. And that’s what I wish I could tell him.
If you could tell people one thing about Silver Fox, what would that be?
We’re more than a restaurant. It’s basically become kind of a second home to people in Casper. Not just the employees, but the customers too. Everybody knows about it. Everybody holds it within their hearts in one way or another. It’s historical now. It’s more than a restaurant; it’s home.