Why he killed it in 2015: The San Diego native didn't lose one ounce of California cool on his journey to the pint-size El Rey on the Lower East Side. Though the restaurant opened in 2013, Gonzalez helped it come into its own, earning one star from the New York Times this summer. The chef, who draws on his Mexican roots as well, also added a veg-heavy dinner service in February, meaning devotees can now crunch on tostadas and vegan chicharrones around the clock.
How would you describe your food? "Coastal Baja with Middle Eastern and Mexican influences."
What's your signature dish? "Sardine tostada."
Do you have a secret talent? "I've been working on a large collection of watercolor illustrations for the past 10 years. I hope to turn them into wallpaper soon."
What's your favorite kitchen scar? "Into the first year of El Rey, I tripped on a metal hatch door, causing a foot-long gash down my right calf. It was gnarly and witnessed by a crowd of regulars, coworkers and passersby. Twenty-six stitches at the emergency room and back by nightfall to place orders."Next Chef