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Gentle Ben’s New Chef, Jonah Gomes, Has Big Plans for the Brand

Jonah Gomes may be quiet in person, but he’s got the chops and leadership skills to keep a kitchen running smoothly. After graduating in 2002 from the Western Culinary Institute in Portland, Oregon, Gomes completed his internship the following year at Alyeska Resort in Girdwood, Alaska before taking his talents on the road to Northern California. He served as sous chef at the Jambalaya Bistro in Arcata, not far from Eureka. It was there that he met his future wife, Vanessa, while she was finishing her Master’s Degree at Humboldt State University. The couple married in 2007, then moved to Tucson in 2008 to be closer to Vanessa’s family while they started a family of their own. Most recently, Gomes served as the chef at Casino del Sol’s Festa Buffet. Here’s what he had to say about his new role at Gentle Ben’s.

What is the most exciting part about your new title as chef at Gentle Ben’s?

I’m really excited to get into doing the stuff on the side—the in-house banquets and off-site events. I want to get the name of the restaurant out into the community a bit more. I know the name’s already out—people know to come here for great burgers and sandwiches—but I’m looking forward to kind of developing that reputation outside of the actual Gentle Ben’s location.

What’s your favorite thing on the menu right now and why?

Definitely the Rueben. I like everything about it. Every ingredient on that sandwich is delicious—the Rueben meats are actually made in-house and the bread is fresh and sourced locally from Sunrise Bakery. You can’t go wrong with the Rueben.

What kind of beer do you tend to gravitate toward?

I like all beer, but of the Barrio brews served at Gentle Ben’s, my favorite is the Mocha Java Stout.

And what would you pair it with?

Stouts tend to pair perfectly with desserts; ice cream, chocolate. For that reason, the Mocha Java Stout goes amazingly with the Pazookie.

As chef, what are you bringing to the table for Gentle Ben’s that will be unique to your expertise?

Well, I’m really looking forward to getting out into the community and helping to expand our reputation beyond it being seen as more-or-less a ‘college spot.’ The menu here is fairly set—I may try to improve on or optimize a few things here and there, but most everything on the menu is already where it needs to be. That’s why I’m excited to get a little bit creative on the banquet side of things, and to take that aspect of Gentle Ben’s in a new direction.

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