Growing up in a Portuguese household, self-taught Goncalves was surrounded by people that were aspassionate about food as they were about family. Summer vacations in Europe exposed him to a world of different cuisines, cultures and the importance of using fresh, high-quality ingredients.
He began his culinary career in the restaurant of a family friend who offered him a job in Westchester. Through working every front-of-house position from busboy to manager, Goncalves learned to value hospitality as much as cuisine.
During this time, his father, was working on a restaurant project when the owner suddenly backed out of the lease, presenting an opportunity for Goncalves to jump to an owner’s position, which he eagerly took. With the help of his family, at age 26, he opened Trotters Tavern, a restaurant with pub food fare. As in his past, his responsibilities extended beyond mere ownership and included working the floor and booking DJs and rock bands.
Looking for a way to transition from nightlife to fine dining, Goncalves decided while on a family vacation in Sorrento, Italy, to open a restaurant serving Mediterranean food with Portuguese influences. With his family's support, eight months later Trotters dropped "Tavern" from its name and began serving a new, more refined menu.After a steady run of unsuccessful chefs in the kitchen, Goncalves decided to take matters into his own hands and got behind the line. Never having cooked professionally, he put together a menu of approachable dishes and enlisted the help of his grandmother Gloria and his father. Together, they taught him basic techniques and it wasn’t long before he was immersed and passionate about furthering his culinary knowledge. Goncalves began pouring over cookbooks, working with other Chefs and experimenting with unusual ingredients to challenge himself and his staff to attain perfection.
Through Goncalves’ hard work and determination, coupled with a dedicated staff, the menu at Trotters evolved to showcase more challenging Mediterranean dishes. The restaurant went on to receive rave reviews from Crain’s New York Business and The New York Times. Goncalves’real coup came in November 2004, when Esquire magazine named him“A Chef to Keep an Eye On.
”The success of Trotters afforded him the opportunity to open Peniche, a restaurant dedicated to the cuisine of his heritage, while at 42 he’ll have the chance to build on his original concept. At both restaurants, Goncalves is looking forward to translating his passion for food to diners using hand-selected ingredients and thoughtfully executed menus.