“Use great ingredients, put on your favorite music, cook from the heart and make it with love,” says Armando Gonzalez, the executive chef at Libertad.
Armando Gonzalez has an inspiring and mysterious life story to tell our readers. He has been a chef for more than ten years and spent ten years working his way up to that status. Dining at his and his partner’s restaurant may not only be a great experience of trying delicious and elaborate “dishes that speak Nuevo Latino, fare that reflects the eclectic culinary mosaic of the Latin landscape.” It may also be an experience of being inspired and strengthened by the owners’ courage and the power of their beliefs. Even the name of the restaurant contains a deep sense of freedom, which to them has a personal meaning based on their own life experience.
“I have experience in many cuisines, including Italian, French, Japanese, Mexican and American. I picked up this experience through my many years of working in the industry,” Gonzalez said. “The inspiration behind wanting to mix and match dishes of all sorts is to create our own culinary path. We want to join cultural influences without fear and come up with something beautiful. This is the same way we should approach life in general,” he said of their culinary approach.
When Armando first met his business partner, Marcos, while working as a chef in a restaurant in Wicker Park, he immediately became friends with him. The partnership and the idea for their own restaurant were born then. “I wanted to stop working for somebody else, and my partner wanted to break away from the family business,” he recalled.
Soon they opened their own restaurant in Skokie. The partners called it Libertad, a passionate and meaningful name which describes a new path for life and a victory over all the challenges they had to go through. “We chose [the name] Libertad, because it means freedom,” Armando said. “We wanted [to] be free and work for ourselves. We wanted freedom to create our own ideas and represent ourselves without borders or boundaries. We wanted to create food for everyone regardless of race, color, religion or economic status.”
Behind the desire for freedom lies the very challenging story of Armando Gonzalez’s life. The name of the restaurant, Libertad, hides many years of difficulties that few of us would be able to face.
“In 1994, I arrived at O’Hare with 4 quarters in my pocket,” he recalled. “I had crossed the border and all other obstacles to get to Chicago. I knocked on many doors looking for opportunities. Even though I didn’t get them, I never stopped believing in myself. I kept a positive outlook, continued working hard and never stopped believing in myself.”
Today, Armando says he is very happy to live in the United States. He describes it as an opportunity to realize one of his greatest dreams. “I am extremely proud to be born and raised in Oaxaca, Mexico,” he said. “I wouldn’t change my race or roots for anything, but I am very grateful to the United States for giving me the opportunity to reach one of my goals.”
Armando’s future plans are to continue evolving and making people happy until he cannot do so any longer. That is what he and his partner Marcos do at Libertad, located at 7931 Lincoln Ave, Skokie, Illinois.
For our readers, Armando suggests not watching a lot of cooking shows that do not feature a real pre-story. He insists you must believe in yourself, look for the best opportunity for self-expression, work hard and dedicate yourself to this beautiful craft.