Local duo work to share culture through food | News

Camila Salazar and Osmel Gonzalez were already a powerful duo before arriving in Healdsburg. But after two and a half years, they not only found a community within their work family at Single Thread, but created their own.

Gonzalez is the sous chef of Single Thread and Salazar the chef de partie. Gonzalez is a proud Cuban and Salazar a proud Colombian. In a predominantly Mexican community when it comes to Latinx population, they stand out – not just because of where they come from, but because of their history and the abilities that brought them to Sonoma County. They have been in the restaurant business for years and have moved on since arriving in the United States in their twenties.

The couple met in Miami and worked and lived in Spain before coming to Healdsburg.

“I was only supposed to stay here (in the United States) for a year,” she said. Gonzalez was an intern at a hotel in Miami. They started dating and Gonzalez invited her with him to Spain. Soon they realized that they both love adventure and challenges, but tackling them together would be easier.

Gonzalez applied to Single Thread after seeing on Instagram that they were hiring. He went from thinking they wouldn’t respond to a trip to Healdsburg, to spending three days “on stage,” or showing what he could do to get the job. Gonzalez said he wanted to work at Single Thread because he saw he had two Michelin stars — now he has three — and had worked at similar restaurants.

When Gonzalez applied to Single Thread, he didn’t know where Healdsburg was or what it would look like.

“We didn’t know how to pronounce the city,” Salazar said.

At the time, Salazar had returned to Colombia and returned to the United States to help Gonzalez move to California. But Salazar had no intention of staying.

“He was like, ‘No way am I doing this alone,'” Salazar recalled. Gonzalez proposed to Salazar at the Golden Gate Bridge. From then on, their story opens on a new chapter: California.

“When you’re a cook and you apply for a job, people need to see what you do. Yes, you can have a big resume, which of course helps a lot. But you also have to show what you can do. And sometimes you’re good for a team, sometimes you’re not good for a team,” Gonzalez said.

“I love the story behind what we do here at Single Thread. I fell in love with everything. I really love it. So it was like – no matter where you are – with a restaurant, it’s just , I want to be there,” he said.

Salazar said the advantage of being a cook is that you can go wherever you want.

“People are eating everywhere. People need cooks everywhere. So you can decide where you want to go, and there’s no limit to that,” Salazar said.

Their love for cooking came to them in different ways. Gonzalez lived with his brother in Miami and started cooking for himself. One day a friend who had a party rental business tried his food and offered to do a collab. He has done several caterers for weddings but his knowledge came from Youtube. He had thought about studying accounting, but he went ahead and went to cooking school.

Gonzalez said he realized how much he loved cooking when he saw the faces of a couple trying their food for their wedding.

“And I’ll never forget the look on their faces. They were so happy, there was so much joy. I was like, oh my god, I want to do this all my life. So it was a really great experience “, did he declare.

She said there’s nothing more satisfying for a chef than seeing someone’s face enjoying their food. Salazar was in her second year of law school when she realized she loved cooking. She had been cooking for herself for a while and became more interested over time. She took a few classes and then told her parents she didn’t want to do law anymore. They supported her.

At Single Thread, they both have different tasks. Gonzalez oversees the cooks and ensures the food meets restaurant standards while assisting the executive chef. Salazar starts his shifts at 4 a.m. and prepares to help with night shifts and at 6 a.m. the cooks arrive to prepare breakfast. She has worked in the morning since she became a mother.

For both of them, their job was an exciting challenge as Japanese cuisine was something they were not used to.

“I will say a lot of the ingredients that we use, I haven’t used before. So I didn’t know anything about them before. Which is great because we get exposed to new things and you learn,” Gonzalez said.

He was mainly accustomed to Latin and Spanish cuisine. Gonzalez had a hard time learning the new ingredients, but he wrote them down every day until he had them. He explained that everything at Single Thread is carefully thought out, from the veneer to the floral pattern.

“It’s kind of like a way of life,” he says. They use a method where the ocean, land and sky can be reflected in the food. Broth, for example, can represent the ocean, and land could be vegetables. It’s the first time they’ve worked this way and they both love it.

But all has not been a smooth path. Upon arrival, Gonzalez and Salazar first experienced fire season. Then, a global pandemic. This obviously caused some stress, but it never made them consider leaving. They both felt lucky to have had jobs during the pandemic. It also gave them the opportunity to start new businesses, such as Cuban and Colombian food pop-ups.

“When we were doing takeout, it was kind of like a different menu every day. So we did Cuban takeout for a day, which was really great. People really loved it. We also made Colombian food, you know, which Cami was making this menu. We loved how the community and everyone was there to support not just Single Thread, but us,” he said.

Gonzalez also hosted Cuban food pop-ups at Quail and Condor. For him, being able to share his culture in Sonoma County feels good. They already feel like part of the community, especially since their six-month-old daughter was born in the area. Salazar explained that it’s not as easy to prepare Colombian dishes sometimes because some ingredients are not available locally. She said that if she was looking for something, she knew it would have an impact on the environment because of travel. They both try to use readily available ingredients to reduce environmental impact – like using pumpkin instead of Yuca, so the flavors can be similar. Gonzalez said people can expect more pop-ups in the future; both think it is extremely important to showcase their cultures.

“For example, right here in Healdsburg, people don’t know much about our cultures. Well, I think I’m the only Colombian here. I have never met another Colombian here. I think there’s one more person, but I’m not sure,” Salazar said.

As successful immigrants to the United States, they both said success comes from focusing on what you want, “not what people think,” Gonzalez said. “It’s mostly what I’ve done all my life and it’s the same with Cami. We try to do what we love, which is cooking, and we just focus on how which we spend our day doing.

Salazar said she misses her country so much, but also chases her dreams. They have also created their own support system within their work.

“We have the full support of the restaurant. We’re away from our family, but we have this other family that really loves to take care of us every day and they’ve always been there for us,” Gonzalez said.

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