Not many aspiring chefs can say they rubbed elbows with true masters of the industry during their early days of culinary training, especially at renowned restaurants such as The Quilted Giraffe, one of New York’s finest dining establishments. However, Chef Carmen Gonzalez can attest, having the opportunity to showcase her culinary skills there upon graduating from The New York Restaurant School.

Upon completion of her training, Gonzalez relocated from New York to Miami. Since then, her passion for excellence and undying dedication to her career has enabled her to acquire a following of loyal clientele in South Florida for more than 13 years. In 1989, Gonzalez opened the highly acclaimed Clowns in Coral Gables, Florida commencing the journey for her food aficionados who trekked with her to The Miami Club in downtown Miami and then to Tamarind at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel. During her reign at Tamarind, the Miami Herald stated, “It’s been a long time since a restaurant struck with such stimulating yet thought-out dining. Credit belongs to star chef Carmen Gonzalez.”

Today, Gonzalez is a veteran chef and celebrated culinary artist who has been in the food arena of over 20 years. Her creative flare for cooking is apparent on every plate she prepares. In March 2003, Gonzalez opened the doors to her latest venture, appropriately called Carmen the Restaurant (CTR) in Coral Gables, Florida, where she is the executive chef and sole proprietor.

Her dishes are unique creations of Post New American fare with distinct Latino flavor, which is a reflection of Gonzalez’s heritage that emulate Puerto Rican food customs including yuca, mofongo, plantains, and island mojito sauce. Since its opening, CTR has received rave reviews from several local and national publications. In November 2003, John Mariani, Esquire magazine, named CTR “One of the Best New Restaurants in America” - the only restaurant in Florida that year to make the celebrated list. The Miami Herald awarded the food and service with an “Outstanding” review, The New York Times proclaimed, “One the cities hottest hangouts” and The Miami New Times boldly stated, “The problem is that there are no problems.”

CTR has also received recognition from Food and Wine Magazine and Bon Apetit Magazine. Gonzalez continues to receive accolades from the industry’s most influential media including ZAGAT, which gave impressive ratings and a stellar review and Florida Trend’s infamous restaurant guide, which listed CTR among the state’s Best New restaurants. Gonzalez has also appeared on local television, David Rosengarden’s “Today on Food” on the Food Network, as well as the Today Show, MGM Latino, Televisa, and Univision.

Gonzalez’s loyalty to the community parallels her work in the kitchen. For over a decade she has been devoted to many charitable organizations and has received some of South Florida’s most notable awards for her commitment to helping those in the community. She has been a loyal supporter of Share Our Strength (SOS) for the past 15 years, Camillus House and a host of other local and international organizations including the renowned James Beard Foundation.

In addition to supporting countless community-driven associations over the years, Gonzalez has the found the time in a rather strict schedule to commit to two more charitable organizations, Feeding the Mind Foundation (FTM) and Chef Carmen Cooks for a Cure (CCCC), the latter through which she has pledged to raise funds for the ongoing research at the University of Miami Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Gonzalez has been the recipient for the Up and Comers of South Florida 1991, Woman of the Year 1996 from the Coalition of Hispanic American Women (CHAW), and Florida’s Finest 1996 awarded by Governor Lawton Chiles. In 1994, Gonzalez was presented with an honorary doctorate of culinary arts from Johnson & Wales University, an honor she shares with Julia Child and Madeline Kamman, making her at the time the third woman to earn this prestigious accomplishment.

Reaching the ranks of a celebrated star chef, a childhood aspiration of Gonzalez, and having the resources to help those who are less fortunate, a passion she has had since she can remember, Carmen Gonzalez feels as if she’s arrived at her final destination. “This is what I’ve always dreamed of,” she proudly states.






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