Named after 2012 Rising Star Sustainability Chef Michael Sohocki’s grandmother, Restaurant Gwendolyn carries more than a little bit of her heritage. An Oklahoma pig farmer who grew up during the Great Depression, Gwendolyn taught Sohocki how to “eat gristle off of chicken bones,” says the chef. “She drove a farm tractor and could throw hay bails all day on a cup of coffee.” An eccentric, strong mentor for Sohocki, someone as comfortable in the grit of the farm as in the heat of the kitchen, Gwendolyn would prove a pivotal influence in the young chef’s culinary life.
Not that Sohocki knew he would end up behind the burners. His career has taken him all over the country and world, both in and out of the restaurant industry (although to this day, Sohocki credits mentor Chef Marcel Althauser of Restaurant Marcel’s—his first kitchen job—for teaching him “the lion’s share” of what he knows.) Sohocki went from waiting tables in Corpus Christi to running center sauté in San Francisco, eventually quitting the business altogether in 2004 for a sojourn in Japan (where he taught English for Apple Communications, eventually opened a cooking school, and picked up his beloved Glestain knife). The traveler came back to San Antonio in 2007, where he moved from chef of The Cove to the cold line at Chef Andrew Weissman’s Le Rêve and various stations at Il Sogno.
It was only in 2010, when Le Rêve closed and young Sohocki took over the lease, that he was able to put into action the early lessons his grandmother taught him. “Grandma was the last of an era shaped by limitations. She exemplified a kind of simple strength, that durable old-school ‘make do’ attitude that I want to uphold in the way we do things [at Restaurant Gwendolyn],” says Sohocki. “Grandma did good,” he says. With a local, seasonal, old school, handmade credo, we’re pretty sure Restaurant Gwendolyn will too.