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Michael Gabriel, Owner of BTG 670 Catering Food Truck, Former Hell’s Kitchen Contestant

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Michael standing over a stovetop.

Year of Graduation: 2012
Program: AAS Culinary Arts and AAS in Hospitality and Restaurant Management
Current position: Owner of BTG 670 Food Truck and Catering Business
Age: 28
Hometown: Houston, TX

  • What was inspired you in wanting to become a chef?

When I was younger, about 8, I had to learn how to cook for my brothers and sisters. My mother, a single parent, had to work. The joy of seeing them happy because of my food, led me to think, I wanted to do that for everybody. That continued to grow, and became a passion. It’s now what I do for a living.

  • What did you do before coming to culinary school?

Before coming to culinary school, I’ve had many different jobs in resorts, country clubs, restaurants, fast food… and actually I owned a private chef business.

  • Would you like to speak a little bit about your participation in Hell’s Kitchen?

Hells Kitchen watch party flyerHells’ Kitchen was basically a boot-camp for Chefs. It was like what I’d imagined the kitchens are like in France, every single day, from the time you get up to the time you go to sleep. They really focus on dedication and commitment. They make sure that you can properly run a kitchen, cook, and work with other chefs. There are all kind of things you have to deal with when you are an executive chef or business owner.

  • What are you doing right now? Why did you decide to open a food truck? Describe a normal day of work.

Right now, I’m the owner of BTG 670, a food truck and a catering business. We are about to participate in pretty big events in the Houston Area. The most exciting project we have now is something with News Orleans: we’re trying to expand the business out there.

I decided to open a food truck in Houston because my wife is from Saipan (Western Pacific Island) and the food we serve is inspired by that place. We serve Chamorro food. As far as I know, we are the only ones serving Chamorro food here in Houston.

  • How would you describe the impact of your course at CIL?

The training that I received at CIL was some of the best training I could have received. I often think about coming back here, just to touch-base on the basics, making sure I don’t lose anything. I remember my instructors, how they focused on the techniques. Everything was built around the techniques. They wanted to make sure that if you seared, you seared correctly. That if you grilled, you grilled correctly. Sautée, roasted, baked, poached, whatever technique it was, it was done properly. It didn’t matter what type of food you‘d put with that technique, as long as you did it right.

  • What are your projects?

Michael standing with classmates from CILRight now I do a food truck event with Lamborghini, every first Saturday of each month. We do brunch there. I participate also in other food truck events all around the city.

I would like to create my own food truck event. What I would like to do is sort of an Alumni arrival. I know that we have a few alumni from the Culinary Institute LeNôtre that are food truck owners [Carvis Turner was mentored by Chef Gabriel and is now the proud owner of The Bird Gourmet Food Truck], and it would be great to create sort of a competition between CIL graduates. It would be great to see what people learned throughout the years after graduated. We could also see the evolution with doing some competitions between currents students and graduates, and allow people to showcase their food, what they’ve been doing.

  • Would you like to share an anecdote or a recipe with us?

I have a recipe I like, it’s a twist on Spam Musubi, a traditional dish form Hawaii. Spam Musubi is rice mixed with chili, ginger, spices topped with a piece of grilled spam and wrapped out in nori. I created the Spam Susushi, which we serve as sushi. I use a special sauce, Ching’Qwow that I created. I want people to say “wow’ at the end of the tasting!

  • Any recommendation for improvement?

Michael on Fox 26 newsNever stop, never quit! That’s the most difficult part, because it’s going to be hard. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I lost about a hundred pounds doing this. Everything around this environment, in this profession is hardcore and fast-paced. You’re going to get cut, you’re going to get burned, and you’ll have people that will hate your food. But you’ll also have people that will love your food and won’t eat anybody else’s food. Your only goal is to make sure you put everything that you have into the dishes that you make, to showcase the Chef that you are. If you don’t do that, it’s pointless to cook. You feed people with your food. You want them to feel all the love and passion you’ve given in the dish. And they give that love back to you, with the response of “oh my god”, “wow” and “yummy”, and little dances! You want to take people back to a special place, a special memory that makes them smile and feel good. You can serve food at the worst place and moment in the world, but as soon as the food is in their mouth, they’ll be happy.  Remember in the movie Ratatouille, the food critique is an angry man, but the ratatouille that a rat serves him takes him back to his childhood. That’s what I want to do.

  • Do you do anything besides cooking?

I love to fish. If I could, I’d fish all day long! I love cooking anything from the sea. I could work with it until I die.
Michael in front of his food truck

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