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Obituary

Beloved Long Beach Chef Arthur Gonzalez, Behind Panxa Cocina, Hideaway, and Roe, Has Died

Update on May 12th: The gofundme account mentioned in this story for chef Arthur Gonzalez is now up. 

“He was a real kind soul.” - Arturo Enciso

Long Beach’s food and drink community woke up to learn the news today of the untimely death of pioneering chef Arthur Gonzalez. According to a post on Caring Bridge, Gonzalez suffered a heart attack on Saturday, May 7th at 12:30 AM. He split his time between his Long Beach New Mexican restaurant Panxa Cocina and Tribe at Riverwalk in Castle Rock, Colorado. He was at his Colorado home when it happened. After the sudden heart attack, he fell into a medically induced and natural coma after he underwent two surgeries—one to insert a stint into his right ventricle and another to insert a heart pump on his left side. He was on a ventilator before dying.

An outpouring of support including social media posts full of tributes from Gonzalez’s friends and foodservice family around Long Beach started to show up late last night. He leaves behind his wife, Vanessa Auclair, and three dogs, Prince, Cash, and Gracie. A gofundme page will be posted soon to help with funeral costs.

Gonzalez grew up in L.A.’s southeast city of Cerritos and was one of the most passionate and prolific chefs in Long Beach in the last decade. He opened The Hideaway, Roe Seafood, and Panxa Cocina. In Colorado, he also founded Tribe Catering and also an outdoor cooking project named Watchfire Excursions,” where he took friends on nomadic cooking excursions off the grid. 

At his restaurant Panxa, he championed the Hatch chile way of life and introduced thousands to the bold flavors of New Mexican cuisine, specifically his legendary bowl of posole. He loved to talk about his Oaxacan grandmother and how he would help her prepare meals at an early age. 

Before dedicating his life to feeding people on a daily basis, Gonzalez worked briefly as a firefighter. He started his career in the culinary arts as a dishwasher and quickly worked his way up to the position of pastry and sous chef of Spaghettini Restaurant in Seal Beach. It was in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where Gonzalez started a mentorship under  James Beard Award-winning chef Eric Distefano of Coyote Café and Geronimo, and began his commitment to cooking southwestern cuisine and bringing his passion to Long Beach. Santa Fe is also where he met Auclair. 

Mentorship, respect, collaboration, and consistent support of fellow hospitality colleagues are traits that many bring up when they remember Gonzalez. Gusto Bread’s co-founder and baker, Arturo Enciso, tells L.A. TACO that Gonzalez believed in him even when he didn’t believe in himself and that his dedicated team of staff followed him wherever he went, whether it was Roe, Hideaway, or Panxa. 

“He believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. I’ll never forget the time he said, ‘If you ever want the real deal Hatch green chile, I have 3,800 pounds in freezers all over Long Beach!”

Enciso shares that the last text he received from Gonzalez before he passed was one of support, stating “I can't tell you how amazing it is to see your growth and dedication. It is people like you that give me hope that there are true artisans out there.” 

“He will be missed but he left the world a better place.” - Alex Ruperto

In the spirit of collaborating, Gonzalez purchased the milled heirloom corn that he used for polenta at Panxa from Gusto, and the two were in talks about future menu collaborations this spring and summer.

“Chef Art was a talented and accomplished chef, and he leaves behind a legacy we must not forget in L.B.,” Enciso continues.

L.A. TACO had the privilege of attending a pop-up he recently did at Panxa Cocina to honor his sous chef of many year, Alex Ruperto, who was moving to the east coast. He closed the restaurant for the night and let Ruperto take control of his kitchen to transform the menu into a modern Filipino pop-up. Long Beach’s dominant Asian and Pacific Islander community came out to enjoy the pancit cooked with fish stock and Hatch chile-filled lumpia. It was an unforgettable night in Long Beach’s food community, made possible by Gonzalez’s generosity to share his space.

“Chef art was my mentor, big brother, and best friend,” says Ruperto.

“Long Beach didn’t just lose a genuinely great, talented chef; it lost one of its most empathetic, loving friends.” - Brian Addison

“You always knew when he walked in the room but he was the kindest and most gentle soul. He would literally give you the shirt off his back. He was always trying to do better and be bigger and grow. He wanted to help put Long Beach on the map. Most importantly he created a loving family in his restaurants and because of that, I have some of the best friends in the world. He will be missed but he left the world a better place.”

Brian Addison, a longtime food writer in Long Beach who covers the city’s dining scene Long Beachize broke the news this morning. He calls Gonzalez a friend and shared the following statement with L.A. TACO. 

“It’s often hard to address these things because what you feel like saying begins to sound like cheap tokens of expressing loss—but with Chef Art, we truly lost an essential cog in the Long Beach food scene. His love for New Mexico, where he started his culinary career, created one of the few places west of Arizona to exemplify and highlight New Mexican food. Even more, though, what makes it hard to not choke up is the fact that we lost someone who was, simply put, so damn kind. Whether you found yourself at the bottom of the well looking up or just simply having an off day, Art was there with not only arms wide open but an ear and heart that were open as well. Long Beach didn’t just lose a genuinely great, talented chef; it lost one of its most empathetic, loving friends.”

Julio Gutierrez, the owner behind Long Beach’s Chuntikis cocktail pop-up, took over the Panxa bar for the night. “I told him thanks again for the opportunity but he told me, ‘I try to tell stories with food, you're doing it with drinks, don't limit yourself to just a bar, brother.’

I felt that.”

L.A. TACO will update this obituary with the link for his gofundme as soon as it is available. 

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