Chef Q&A: Executive Chef Yuri Gonzalez of Cathy O’Clarke’s

Cathy O'Clarke's Irish Pub & Grille's Executive Chef Yuri Gonzalez' creatively presented, signature Soft Shell Crab Platter includes crispy fried soft shell blue crab atop a mound of garlic smashed potatoes served with crispy spinach, and Chef's three sauces, tomato vinaigrette, saffron vinaigrette and sweet soy sauce.

Jenine C. Ouillette/Special to the Eagle

Cathy O'Clarke's Irish Pub & Grille's Executive Chef Yuri Gonzalez' creatively presented, signature Soft Shell Crab Platter includes crispy fried soft shell blue crab atop a mound of garlic smashed potatoes served with crispy spinach, and Chef's three sauces, tomato vinaigrette, saffron vinaigrette and sweet soy sauce.

Cathy O'Clarke's Irish Pub and Grille

591 South Collier Boulevard, Marco

Cathy O’Clarke’s Irish Pub & Grille, 591 S. Collier Blvd., Marco Island Phone: 642-9709, Hours: Open 7 days, Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 12 midnight.

Began working at present restaurant?

Seven years ago in December.

Who or what inspired you to become a chef/cook?

Everyone in my family were great cooks especially my grandmother and my aunts. They let me help in the kitchen when I was little and I when I got older I decided I wanted to do the same thing and become a chef.

What was your first restaurant job?

The San’ Angel Inn in Puebla, Mexico. Puebla is known for its cuisine and famous for mole poblano, a spicy sauce made with chocolate, cinnamon and nuts.

How long have you been cooking professionally?

Approximately 13 years.

How would you describe your cooking style?

American-Italian? Actually, I’d say international cuisine — I’m very versatile.

What is your most popular dish?

Here at Cathy’s, it’s our Reuben sandwich for lunch. For dinner it’s my specialty stuffed grouper stuffed with crab, shrimp and spinach. Served with summer vegetables, mashed potatoes and topped with bourbon-spiked lobster sauce.

What is your favorite wine?

I’m not big on wine, but Mexican beer is good with spicy foods.

What is your favorite snack?

Fish and chips — ours is made with fresh, Atlantic cod.

Do you cook at home? If so, what would we always find in your freezer?

I’m at the restaurant most of the time and usually eat here, but when I do cook at home it’s usually Mexican dishes — enchiladas or tostadas made with fresh ingredients — something like that.

What is your secret ingredient? Why?

My fresh herbs — thyme, cilantro — just a little adds so much flavor, and epazote is wonderful for chicken quesadillas.

What annoys you most in the kitchen?

I like a neat kitchen — let’s leave it at that.

What do you enjoy most about your profession?

Making customers happy. That is, when I cook I want the food to smell good, taste good and look good on the plate so that people enjoy their meal. That makes the customers happy, you see?

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