Executive Chef Tahiz Gonzalez of Nonna Carola talks about reopening, new menu and life.
BY LILIAN PENA
Executive Chef Tahiz Gonzalez
Spring has arrived and with it brings a rebirth of fresh, local ingredients that Executive Chef, Tahiz Gonzalez of Nonna Carola Italian Ristorante in Mamaroneck can’t wait to get her hands on. The restaurant recently held their grand re-opening after the second closing in December 2020 due to the pandemic, introducing a new seasonal menu, farm-to-table cuisine, focusing on locally sourced ingredients and beverages.
Tahiz sat down with Westchester Women and shared her love of food, cooking and life.
When asked who her greatest influence was, the response was met quickly with a smile . . . her father. He was not a chef but an engineer. Every weekend he would take Tahiz and her mother to a variety of cool restaurants in Mexico City. Later they would cook at home, her father making fried rice or different recipes usually found in restaurants. She joked about her father being such a great cook. She would watch him and think he was the best. Tahiz would ask her father to get some fresh masa so she could make her own tortillas. She wanted to get her hands in the cooking process with her dad.
Gonzalez began cooking when she was seven. She would tell everyone in her elementary school that one day she was going to have a restaurant of her own. As she grew older, Tahiz knew she wanted to be a chef. At the University in Mexico, she
decided to study Industrial Engineering. Although she liked it, she quickly found out that the Cordon Bleu had partnered with the University and set up their kitchens in the same exact building where she was studying engineering. What are the odds? The rest is history.
Professionally, Tahiz told us that she admired Chef Thomas Keller. She’s been following him a long time, seeing what he’s accomplished and his passion for what he does. During the shutdown, Tahiz would watch Keller’s random videos on Instagram, cooking various things from his kitchen. She admires those who like to show that they are not in the business for anything other than the love for what they do.
Coming from some of the best restauants in Mexico City and then Nomad and 11 Madison Park in NYC, Tahiz’s goals are to create beautiful, fine dining dishes with a modern twist. She wants the restaurant’s clientele to experience great food outside of Manhattan. Some would ask her what’s next after working in the finest NYC restaurants? Simple, Tahiz wants to get a star. Just one to start off with is fine. And, she believes she has the best team in place at Nonna Carola. She was given the wonderful opportunity to have the entire kitchen renovated and ready to create a seamless workflow.
Tahiz shared that she and her team have been working tirelessly, trying and testing new ingredients for their spring menu. Gonzalez is working on a fabulous rib-eye dish, seared with some swiss chard and baby cauliflower. It might sound simple she added, but when prepared properly it is beautiful. She also created a completely vegan dish stating that if you didn’t know it was vegan you wouldn’t be able to tell. It is an all-cauliflower dish . . . pickled cauliflower, roasted cauliflower puree, tempura cauliflower and bulgar mixed in creating an incredible bite. Veggies don’t have to be looked upon as something not to try she added. Tahiz pays particular attention to the local ingredients found at the Mamaroneck Farmer’s Market.
Nonna Carola is following all CDC safety protocols, for example, check-in temperature for both patrons and staff. They also recently installed an iWave air purification system, incorporated dividers between tables and spaced tables to adhere to social distancing guidelines. Nonna Carola is also creating a touch-free mobile menu app so that customers may order on their phones instead of touching a menu.
We asked Tahiz if she and her staff play music while cooking. She laughed and spoke about the debate they had on whether to play music or not. She recently listened to an audiobook talking about a cheesemaker in Europe who actually believed in the benefits of playing music for their cheese as it ferments. They decided to play music but something smooth like her favorites, John Mayer, the Beatles and lite 60s rock. Tahiz loves to sing and hinted that if the kitchen played any Katy Perry, she would be singing all day. Cuban jazz is also a favorite choice while creating her delectable dishes.
What does an extremely busy executive chef make for herself? Tacos. But not just any tacos. They sound as mouth-watering as her menu at Nonna’s. Tacos al Pastor . . . marinated pork in chiles and achiote for 24 hours. After roasting the pork, it should be nice and crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. Toppings include roasted pineapple, cilantro, onions and lime. On the Italian side, Tahiz loves to cook Mushroom Tagliatelle (also on the menu), using their handmade paste, and a variety of sauteed mushrooms in garlic oil.
In her “downtime” Tahiz enjoys working out each day and loves riding her bike in Long Island City to sit by the water. She also loves dancing…salsa, latin rhythms and many other types of dance.
Because the restaurant business and chefs in general are mostly a male-dominated profession, Gonzalez shared that it is tough for women. Because she is small in stature, first impressions are usually disbelief that she is a chef. But that quickly changes when they see her accomplishments and her inviting persona. She is a self-proclaimed perfectionist who knows what she wants. Her biggest goal is to always strive to be better and set a positive and warm example for everyone.
Nonna Carola, 211 Mamaroneck Avenue, Mamaroneck