From Hell’s Kitchen to Downey — The Downey Patriot

Beverly Gonzalez leads the culinary program at The Arc – Los Angeles & Orange Counties. Photo by Alex Dominguez

DOWNEY — Beverly Gonzalez never seems to stay in one place for too awfully long. It’s just her; “she’s everywhere” she admits.

“There’s a lot of twists and turns in my life, which I love,” said Gonzalez.

Gonzalez, 53, has been in the restaurant business for 30 years, the last two years of which at The Arc in Downey as its executive chef and culinary instructor where she teaches and helps prepare people with intellectual and developmental disabilities for potential jobs in the culinary world.

“I love it. This is one of the best jobs I ever had,” Gonzalez said. “Don’t get me wrong, I’ve loved the experiences I’ve had outside of this, but this is a whole different world.

“I have a son who’s on the [autism] spectrum, and I understand it. As a parent, you want to give them the best. Like any parent, you want to give them the world, to give them that experience.”

Tapping in to her years of expertise, Gonzalez says that those in her kitchen need to “keep up with her.”

“I run this like I ran a restaurant, because I want to give them that experience,” said Gonzalez.

Gonzalez first planned on being “the best record producer in the world.”

After studying at Long Beach City College for two years, Gonzalez went to visit family in Colorado for the summer. She DJ’d for a radio station until she “got bored of Colorado,” which amounted to about three years. That’s when she returned to Los Angeles to further her career in the music industry. Unfortunately, the music industry is hard to break into, especially in LA.

“I decided to just go ahead and go to culinary school, because that’s my second love, is cooking,” said Gonzalez.

Gonzalez was exposed to cooking at an early age. Born in the Philippines, Gonzalez and her family moved to Buffalo when she was three years old. Coming from a large family, Gonzalez says “there was always some kind of party happening.”

“There was always food involved,” said Gonzalez. “My grandmother cooked. She pretty much raised me. My mom worked; she was a single mom, my dad passed away when I was younger.

“My mom worked, and of course my grandma took care of me, and she cooked every day. There was no such thing as going out to get lunch, eating out; that didn’t exist. Especially in the 70’s, it was always Grandma cooking.”

Gonzalez returned to Long Beach City College. While she earned her degree, she worked at several locations, including the Long Beach Marriot Hotel, the Queen Mary, and the Long Beach Convention Center. After culinary school, she went on to work at the Disneyland Resort as part of the opening staff at California Adventure.

Gonzalez had the dream of opening her own restaurant, however slowed down as her family began to grow. She married her husband in 1999, and took a break from the culinary industry when she became pregnant with her first son, born in 2002. Still, she found ways to incorporate smaller ways to continue working, saying that “she could never sit still.”

“My focus was on my kids at that time, but in between I still had to incorporate some type of working in an industry,” said Gonzalez. “As they got older, I got back into the industry; I had friends who owned food trucks.”

Gonzalez made several friends through her connections with the food trucks, including participants and winners of “The Great Food Truck Race.” Gonzalez worked for Slapfish food truck for two years before getting hired on at Border Grill in Downtown LA. It was there that Gonzalez would receive the opportunity of a lifetime: a chance to compete on “Hell’s Kitchen.”

Gonzalez competed on season 12, and was eliminated eighth. She says it was “a really good experience,” even if Ramsay called her a “donkey” a few times.

“I got to learn patience; more patience than I had in the past growing up young,” said Gonzalez. “As a young chef, you know, you’re very cocky, you’re egotistic. But once you have Ramsay down your throat, that just seems to disappear.”

“Hell’s Kitchen” wouldn’t be the only cooking show that Gonzalez would compete on, testing her mettle on “Cutthroat Kitchen” and “Man vs. Child.” While she’s considered going back and competing again, Gonzalez says she’s “Been there, done that.”

She lived and worked in Alaska – mostly for resorts and cruise lines – for three years before Covid-19 hit, severely stunting the tourism industry.

After making her way back to LA to seek work, Gonzalez eventually found her way to The Arc where she is today. But if there’s a theme to Gonzalez’s life, it’s that she can never stay in one place for too awful long.

“I want to retire. I know I’m still young. Like anyone else, I have dreams and some of those days I’m like, ‘Oh, I want to do nothing,’” said Gonzalez.

“For me, I’m trying to teach myself to be present, because I’m always thinking ahead. ‘How can I make it better? What can we do better than what we did today?’ I’m always excited about the future, but I need to say, ‘Okay, slow down because there’s always those challenges in between.’”