If you've got a taste for some zesty chicken rollatini, we know just the guy: chef Gerardo Gonzales.
"Everyone in my family cooks," said Gonzales, 28. "My parents encouraged me and inspired me to become a chef."
Gonzales' professional career started in New York City at a white-tablecloth Italian restaurant. The chefs there "created the most beautiful, delicious food and I loved watching them work and seeing the finished product," said Gonzales. "I knew that's what I wanted to do too."
Today Gonzales, who lives in Highlandtown, is the executive chef of both Anastasia and Tapas Adela in Fells Point. This year, he's taking his talents to the Mason Dixon Master Chef Tournament held at the Inn at the Colonnade, Baltimore. His first round, Battle Napoli, will be held 6 p.m.-9 p.m. July 14.
"I've never participated in a competition like this, so I wanted to do it because it seemed like a good way for me to challenge myself," he said.
Before his big day in the kitchen, we got to chat with Gonzales about his favorite dish, tattoos and more.
Worst pet peeve? I can't stand a dirty kitchen, even at home. All the dishes have to be clean, the counters wiped down and the floors clean before I can finish up and relax.
What songs are you loving/hating right now? I listen to a lot of Mexican rap and hip-hop. My favorite artist is a group called Cartel de Santa. I really can't stand any reggaeton music.
Your worst habit? Constantly trying to be perfect. I get so frustrated when I'm not the best and I'm trying to learn to relax when I make a mistake.
Trend that has exceeded its natural lifespan? Skinny jeans on men.
Last movie you liked and the last you disliked? I took my daughter to see "Frozen" for her birthday and we both loved it! I didn't like the most recent "RoboCop." The first one was good, but I don't know what the deal was with the new one.
TV show(s) you can't get enough of? "Miami Ink." I love tattoos!
Last great meal you had? Mariscada (a shellfish stew) from El Salvador Restaurant on Broadway.
Favorite place to get a drink in Baltimore? We usually like to go to the Admiral's Cup after work. They have a good beer selection and live music.
Best advice you ever got? Life's too short to do anything other than what you love.
Favorite dish to cook? I love making the Australian lamb dish at Anastasia. It's char-grilled with my special blend of spices and oils and served with fresh vegetables. Outside the restaurant, I like making chicken rollatini, which is chicken stuffed with cheese, prosciutto, spinach and spices.
Your favorite thing about Baltimore? My entire family is here. This is the first time we've all been together in one place.
AS TOLD TO ALEXA COTTMAN-ROBINSON