Chef Arthur Gonzalez Is Creating Dishes That Will Tantalize Your Taste Buds
Written By: Jane Adler
Photographed By: Callie Biggerstaff Panxa Cocina
As a first generation American, Chef Arthur Gonzalez is making his mark in the restaurant world through combining his German heritage with his Oaxacan roots to create his very own brand of food that is authentically inauthentic in fusion. Born and raised in Southern California, Chef Arthur’s introduction to gastronomy took place in his childhood kitchen where his grandmother artfully crafted a symphony of sabores (Spanish for “flavors”) each and every night. It was here that Chef realized his affinity for food was much more than just an interest. “I felt like I had a story to tell,” he said. And thus his journey began.
After an injury left him sidelined at his firefighter job, Gonzalez decided to enter the wild world of restaurant work. As the story goes, he started as a dishwasher and slowly worked his way up, taking advantage of any extra work he could get his hands on to prove himself worthy of the big leagues. He educated himself through experience, soaking up any advice he received like beer to a borracho bean.
“Every chef finds their place in the kitchen, whether you’re a sous chef, a banquet chef [or] an executive chef,” Gonzalez said. “Find your niche, find what really gets you motivated and you just go after that.”
He did. And Chef Gonzalez’ culinary quest led him to critically-acclaimed chef, Eric Distefano. The two became fast friends, culminating in Gonzalez being named chef de cuisine at Distefano’s successful New Mexico restaurant, Geronimo. The Santa Fe way of life seared itself into Chef Gonzalez’ soul, and its culture inspired him on a personal and professional level. Eventually, Chef’s appetite for autonomy was sated with the opening of his restaurant Panxa in 2015. When you walk into Panxa (pronounced pawn-zah), you are transported to a whimsical world of war horses, wildly creative dishes—like the Stacked Enchiladas—and a window into Chef Gonzalez’ mind. The name Panxa, which is Catalan for belly, provides that additional x-factor (literally and figuratively).
“We were all just sitting around one day and someone asked the question ‘How do you want your food to affect people?’” said Gonzalez. “The first thing it affects is their belly—and it just kind of evolved from there. There’s a huge Spanish influence in the Southwest so I looked up the definition and thought it fit.”
The menu at Panxa is a mixture of mezcal and moles and margaritas—oh my! When it comes to creating a dish, Chef Gonzalez is always changing, experimenting and improving. To him, the evolution of a dish is never complete. When it comes to creating the perfect paradox of a simple yet complex dish, there is no better example on the menu than the Stacked Enchiladas. This is a dish that embodies the essence of Gonzalez with each layer of flavor another chapter to his story.
“This dish is my interpretation [of a classic] with my own influences,” explained Gonzalez.
The dish, served a la carte, combines impossibly-tender, eight-hour braised short rib perched on tortillas made in-house and then stacked, almost like a New Mexico version of a Napoleon. Each layer is delicately dusted with cotija, a Parmesan-like cheese that gives the dish an unmistakable umami, and a confetti of queso Oaxaca. The stack comes swimming in a red and green sauce mirroring the Mexican flag as a subtle ode to its roots. The tasty tower is topped with a sunny-side up egg and a sprinkling of cilantro.
“I added these enchiladas to the menu because I wanted to highlight some of the wonderful New Mexican dishes and flavors that I fell in love with while living in New Mexico, while also featuring a dish that Californians could relate to,” he explained. “As a chef, I want to touch every palate on your tongue, every taste bud.”
In Chef Gonzalez’ cooking, there are no shortcuts, no cheat codes. Each dish at Panxa embodies time, balance and purpose. Even the decor is deliberate with its nod to the culture of New Mexico. From the turquoise accent wall to the aprons that pay homage to the adobe homes of Santa Fe, Panxa is the definition of soigné.
“For me, being here in California, I wanted to bring chef-driven food. I didn’t want to have tablecloths; I didn’t want it to be so formal,” Gonzalez said. “I want people to feel like they’re in my house, but they’re getting a meal from a badass chef.”
Well done, chef, well done.
Stacked Enchiladas Ingredients: Panxa Cocina
House-Made Corn Tortillas
Braised Short Rib
Chimayó Red Chile
Hatch Green Chile
Must-Try Sides: Panxa Cocina’s borracho bean side is made up of beer-stewed pinto beans, ham hock, chorizo and bacon. Trust us, you won’t want to skip out on these. Panxa Cocina
Native Knowledge: Panxa loves pups. They have a delicious dog menu and host a Mimosas and Mutts event every third Saturday of the month, offering half-priced Champagne and free ceviche. Panxa Cocina
3937 E Broadway
Long Beach, CA 90803
562.433.7999 Panxa Cocina