Interview with Ernesto Gomez

Restaurateur | Vancouver

I sat down with Ernesto last week in his Nuba Restaurant in Gastown over some delicious Mjadra and Lamb Hushwie and talked about his restaurant and music interests and of course business. Each time I talk with him I am inspired.

Ernesto Gomez grew up in Mexico City and came to Vancouver in 2006 with the drive to do something new and exciting. He is a Michelin trained chef and Cornell graduate who’s worked the front and back of house in different establishments in Paris, San Sebastian, Los Angeles, New York and Mexico. He is a co-owner of Nuba as well as the co-founder and owner of The Waldorf Hotel.

As a kid growing up, what did you want to be?

Always wanted to be a cook, spent lots of time in the kitchen.

What drives you to succeed with your different restaurants?

I did fine dining for many years and I got tired of it. There was a level of pretention in fine dining and no real connection with the customer. Developing Nuba with my partner Victor, we wanted casual, healthy and customer satisfaction. Making people happy and feeling good has driven Nuba in the community. Everyone is welcome.

Would you identify with being an entrepreneur or restaurateur foremost?

Neither, I like and enjoy what I do. I am happy to start work, I work 7 days a week, but don’t take many vacations. I see it as a creative, artisan process.

What are the most challenging elements of running restaurants?

  • Commitment to quality in a value oriented concept
  • Keeping a healthy bottom line
  • Community engagement
  • Keeping balance with everyone’s experience

Define your version of “community”

Starts with what you do and where you are standing. The culture inside the company, staff and management share the same values. Alliances with people and supporting the team you built, block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood. Art, social and community working together.

What do you like to do in your off time outside of business?

  • Snowboarding
  • Making music
  • Listening to music
  • Producing music
  • Exploring the outdoors
  • Rafting
  • Walking

What is your favourite dish in one of your own restaurants? And in which restaurant?

Mjadra at Nuba

What do you like to eat when eating outside of your own restaurants?

Simple food, ethnic foods, good food

What are your Favourite restaurants outside of your own?

  • Maenam
  • Boneta
  • Rinconcito Salvadoreno Restaurant
  • Bao Chau
  • S & W Pepper House in Crystal Mall

Which cities around the world provide you with culinary inspiration for your restaurants when you travel?

  • San Sebastian, Spain
  • Mexico City
  • San Francisco
  • Montreal

Where do you get your creative inspiration?

  • I like challenges. Opening a restaurant is always a challenge, each restaurant tells a story.
  • Architecture of the buildings
  • Telling stories, I am a very visual and auditive person.
  • Listening

What is your beverage of choice – beer, wine or juices?

Wine (alcoholic) and Fresh Juices (non-alcoholic)

You have a “chef-in-residence” program at the Waldorf Hotel, tell our readers what they can look forward to in the near future

  • Peruvian
  • Steakhouse menu
  • Tiki-Polynesian
  • French menu

I hear The Waldorf Hotel is planning to add a communal kitchen for tenants – tell our readers all about this

We started out as a traditional hotel, people coming for extended stays would stay a month, we have switched our strategy to be an extended stay hotel (for photographers etc). Creating a communal kitchen for the people living there, evolving the community and its an added service.

Who are your mentors?

  • Victor Bouzide (vast knowledge of the order of things)
  • My father and grandfather
  • Alberto Ituarie

What was the plan for The Waldorf?

The idea of the Waldorf was partially food and sharing values with my partner Tom. Taking my democratic everyone’s welcome to mixing music, art and culture. I played in bands and music before working in restaurants.

What is the secret for a business to succeed?

You need to have an honest product and commitment to what you do, your clientele and your community, hard work for sure. Perseverance, risk taking.

What is on the horizon for you and your restaurants in the near future?

  • Opening of the next Nuba restaurant in Kitsilano
  • Opening the next Nuba restaurant in North Vancouver
  • Expanding internationally and opening Nuba in California
  • Expanding our products into grocery stores
  • Open a Mexican restaurant in the city
  • Open a French restaurant in the city
  • In the Waldorf Hotel –adding lots of music opportunities, we just opened a recording studio

By: Richard Wolak