In one way or another, the pandemic has impacted the lives of millions of people and many have had to reinvent themselves as they would never imagine. In a city like Toronto, where lockdown measures have been upheld for long periods of time, the lives of those who work in the hospitality industry have been severely affected.
Many have had to do the unthinkable––close their restaurants, change jobs or even move to another city. Such is the case of Chef Steve Gonzalez, who for many years, led the popular King West restaurant Baro.
On May 24, Gonzalez said goodbye to Baro and Toronto in a touching post on Instagram.
“Toronto, I will think about you daily and remember all the things I’ve loved about you. @barotoronto and everything that comes with the package I will miss you. My partners @mattyuniq @wbfarmer thank you for everything, I know that @barotoronto is in good hands and will get through this gong show that Toronto is dealing with,” the chef wrote in the post.
Gonzalez explained that the decision of leaving Toronto happened quickly. As a consequence of the pandemic, the chef and his family had to leave their old townhouse in Toronto. When calculating the costs of moving inside the city, Gonzalez and his wife Yindra realized that with that money, they could start over and move to Costa Rica, where Yindra is originally from. So they made the decision to start a new venture in the Central American country.
Now, the Toronto chef and his family live and work at the beach in Montezuma, Puntarenas. Steve and Yindra will be working in Hotel Moctezuma, a hotel that Yindra’s aunt and uncle built over 50 years ago. They will be the second generation couple in her family to run the restaurant Montezuma Latino Beach Food there.
“I feel truly blessed to be here and the love I get from [my wife’s] family and friends is genuine. You will see some old Baro faves with a Tico beach (Tico is an idiomatic term used for a native of Costa Rica) touch and yes, there will be chaufa but with mariscos (seafood in Spanish) or local pork products,” says Gonzalez. “Ceviches, tacos and great drinks will be on the menu as well as some typical food and flavours.”
The chef and his wife also run an Airbnb hotel set up with some other plans for the future. One day they would love to offer packages to get Canadians to visit Costa Rica.
As for Baro, Steve is still executive chef and a partner. He plans to visit Toronto 2 to 3 times a year to bring some new ideas and techniques to the team until a new executive chef takes his place and he can retire to the owner’s box with his partners from Honeycomb Hospitality.
The decision was hard, but Gonzalez knows that Baro is in good hands with Chef Justin Lee and a solid team that shares the same ideas and follows the vision that he put forward. Baro is currently getting ready to reopen soon.
“In the end, I’m a Toronto boy that met the love of my life doing what we do best. Hospitality had a daughter and made some moves so that we can all live happily and enjoy each other,” said the chef.
For now, Toronto will miss Chef Steve’s chaufa, but who knows? Maybe one day Torontonians and Chef Steve’s dishes will meet again on the shores of Montezuma beach.