Chef Arthur Gonzalez, who began his ascent in the culinary world as a dishwasher at Seal Beach’s Spaghettini before eventually establishing such local favorite restaurants as Roe Seafood in Belmont Shore and Panxa Cocina in Belmont Heights, died Monday following a heart attack on May 7 and two subsequent surgeries in his new hometown of Castle Rock, Colorado. He was 47.
Locally, Gonzalez, who grew up in Cerritos, worked at McKenna’s on the Bay, the forerunner to Boathouse on the Bay in Alamitos Landing. His big breakthrough came when he and his longtime girlfriend Vanessa Auclair, operations manager for Roe and Panxa, debuted Roe Fish Market in 2012. In 2014, the couple opened his highly regarded Panxa Cocina on Broadway and Termino Avenue, showcasing his talents at New Mexican and modern Southwestern cuisine.
“He’d been in Colorado for a while now, opening his new restaurant (called Tribe, in Castle Rock, outside Denver),” said his friend and colleague Chef Paul Buchanan, chef and owner of Primal Alchemy. “He worked hard, and I think he had one day off each week when he and Vanessa and their dog would go up into the mountains and camp.”
Restaurateur Luis Navarro, who owns two Lola’s Mexican Cuisine restaurants as well as Portuguese Bend and the Social List in Long Beach, said he always enjoyed competing with Gonzalez.
“We were close,” said Navarro, “We were both kind of at the forefront of the food movement in Long Beach. We’d talk a lot and bounce ideas off one another. Sometimes we got into some heated arguments, but it was always positive. He was solid; always willing to help when you needed new ideas. Our competition was intense, but like an NBA game, we’d compete hard, but then sit back and enjoy a cigar and a glass of whiskey.”
Navarro recalled having a meeting a year and a half ago with a half-dozen chefs, a group that included Gonzalez and Filipino Chef Janice Dig Cabaysa who ran the Corner Stoop pop-up before she died last year at 39. “We got together to talk about the health hazards of being a chef, the toll it takes on physical and mental health dangers that come with the job. And now, a year and a half later two of the six who were at that table are dead.”