Name: Victor Parra Gonzalez
Location: Jaguar at the Bistro, 110 Main Street, Youngstown; 745-7141
Current Title: Chef and owner
Years behind the stove: Eight, professionally
Victor Parra Gonzalez is operating WNY’s most innovative Mexican restaurant in one of the most unlikely places. The former Bistro at the Old Fort Inn in Youngstown is now home to the young Acapulco-born chef, who trained in Montreal at Ecole Hotelier Des Laurentides and cooked on the line at the lauded Au Pied du Cochon during his time in Quebec. Flanked by his sister, who works as his sous chef, and his mother, who maintains a robust level of hospitality in the dining room, the young chef has gained a reputation among local food nerds for the full-flavored—and often modern—offerings at Jaguar at the Bistro. This month Gonzalez will participate in the Nickel City Chef competition, showing off his adept use of Mexican ingredients, hard-earned French technique, and youth-fueled experimentalism.
If you weren’t a chef what would you do?
I would have certainly been a car designer for a major company like Volkswagen or Mercedes.
Do you have a favorite classic dish?
Pork pibil. It takes over eight hours, but the results are impressive and the technique has been around for hundreds of years.
Is there a trend you’d really like to explore?
Rooftop gardening is fascinating to me: not only growing your herbs, but taking care of them, and then finally seeing them in a dish only minutes or hours after you collect them.
What restaurant are you dying to try?
Chef Enrique Olvera’s Cosme in NYC
What are your go-to cookbooks?
I have a good collection of books, [but] lately: UNO from Enrique Olvera for Mexican food, Eleven Madison Park for clean presentations, Paul Liebrandt’s To the Bone for innovation, and the last one, I don’t have yet, but I can’t wait to get my hands on Sean Brock’s Heritage.
Is there a food no chef should love, but you do anyway?
Wendy’s Chicken Asiago Ranch Club. I am guilty of loving that when I’m on the go, running from Buffalo to my restaurant.
Do you have a favorite LP to cook by?
In my kitchen you will always find some sort of mix of Aloe Blacc, Marc Anthony, or maybe Santana, as the night gets busier.
What is your favorite beverage to enjoy after a long day at work?
Clase Azul Tequila with three ice cubes.
What do you feel Buffalo’s food scene really needs?
A great butcher shop and a great fish supplier that care about quality and are committed to growing with us, as an industry. More chefs are using better-quality products, but we need the things that major cities have access to.
What do you think is the most exciting thing about Buffalo’s current restaurant scene?
Certainly it’s the mélange of chefs that are either returning to the area or relocating here, like me. We are ready to challenge ourselves to create the best food we can produce.
What should people know about Jaguar at the Bistro?
We are offering the upper echelon of Mexican cuisine, infused with things I have learned from my travels. I love hearing from people who are astonished to find that they actually love cilantro or guajillo chiles when used correctly.
Christa Glennie Seychew is Spree’s senior editor and food editor.