My Top 5: The Classic’s Chef Maria Gonzalez

Photo: Julie Soefer

Our My Top 5 series highlights a Houstonian who is shaping the culture of the city and making an out-sized impact on its character. In turn, each shares their own favorite things to do in Houston when not hard at work. This week, with Dining Out for Life happening on Thursday, April 25, 2019, we’re very pleased to feature Maria Gonzalez, executive chef of The Classic. Her restaurant is one of 30 restaurants participating in this annual fundraising event for AIDS Foundation Houston.

In anticipation of this year’s Dining Out For Life, we’re also featuring My Top 5 entries from founder of B.B. Lemon and B&B Butchers Benjamin Berg and owner & founder of Beans Cafe Celia Moore.

My Top 5 Things to Do in Houston

by Maria Gonzalez

  1. Wandering Viet Hoa — I really like to get inspiration from this amazing, really huge Eastern supermarket. Along with the endless source of hard-to-find ingredients, Galangal root or Gochujang chili paste, it’s a great source of vegan ideas and vegan ingredients, like vegan fish sauce. Definitely worth the trip.
  2. Dog Parks — I just got a dog and its a German Shepard puppy. So cute. Not only is it a whole new experience discovering all of Houston’s great dog parks like Buffalo Bayou Park‘s Johnny Steele Dog Park, there’s a great culture around dog walking and doggy ownership, that’s so fun.
  3. Fitness Classes — I love Revolution Studio for spin and Orange Theory’s science-backed high-intensity interval training that give me a great blend of cardio and strength training. As a chef and being around food 24/7, I have to get that workout in. 
  4. Izakaya-Wa and Pho Binh You have to give it to Izakaya-Wa as a Houston original for Japanese drinks, sushi rolls, rice dishes, and lots of great skewers. It’s a really fun place for groups. Another Houston original, Pho Binh is really special because of their authentic ‘Pho Bac’ taste because it seems to be really close to the original Pho that began in Hanoi, North Vietnam.
  5. Finding Great Spots to Take Photos — My son studying graphic design and photography, so we’re always working on developing those skillsets. We go and hang out at Market Square Park, Sesquicentennial Park, Rice Village, Houston Arboretum & Nature Center and Arthur Storey Park, all great places to take photos.

About Maria Gonzalez

Maria Gonzalez started her culinary journey working at the age of 15 at a local butcher shop in Alief, Texas. Her family’s love of food inspired her from day one, as her grandma and great grandma taught her traditional dishes utilizing only her hands and taste to create recipes from scratch. Graduating from The Art Institute of Houston’s Culinary program, Maria worked at Saba Blue Water Café with Chef Dylan Murray and then went to Aries, working her way up before returning to be executive chef at Saba Blue Water Café where she was nominated as best new chef 2004. She then worked at The Houstonian and The Manor House. From there she re-connected with Chef Murray and found her current success with Benjy’s group of restaurants, working to design and launch The Classic’s menu. Her restaurant is one of 30 restaurants participating in the annual Dining Out for Life fundraising event for AIDS Foundation Houston happening on Thursday, April 25, 2019.