Interview with Atlanta Rising Star Chef Spencer Gomez

February 2018

Caroline Hatchett: Why did you start cooking professionally? 
Spencer Gomez:
By circumstance. I started working in restaurants at 14 in my hometown. I loved the restaurant but didn’t like being out front, so I washed dishes and did light prep. After high school, it was natural for me to work in kitchens, and I slowly built a passion for the camaraderie. After five years or so, I stopped cooking for a while and worked on water pipeline in Colorado. I did that for a few years and hated it. 

CH: How did you get to Georgia? 
My wife had a photography business and wanted to go back to school. She enrolled in a masters program at the University of Georgia in Athens. I worked for Matthew Palmerlee at the Branded Butcher and did the most growing with him for sure. My wife began working on movie sets in Atlanta, and moving to the city was more logical and meant more opportunity for me. Joey Ward was looking for a sous chef at Gunshow, and I started immediately. 

CH: What’s your biggest challenge?
Size. Tuesday is butchery day, so we have an extra person and have to get it all done. It’s driven our preservation and charcuterie programs. It’s also the day we cure and get a little help from the staff at [Restaurant] Eugene. 

CH: What attracted you to Holeman & Finch? 
I was working with Linton [Hopkins] to branch out, and the whole farm-to-table thing has become something everyone talks about. I really wanted to see how we can actually be sustainable. If you’re using parsley and chives and garlic in winter, then you’re not. It’s been a crazy thing to figure out. The answer for us was not to write menus. Instead, we started programs with farmers. On Saturdays at noon or 1pm, the driveway fills with pick-up trucks who come to us after the farmers market. We help them out with the things they don’t sell. If all they have is carrots, we preserve them. We’re committed to it, and we have to constantly bend and do what we have to do to make that a reality.

CH: How are you involved in the local culinary community? 
Our newest effort is a chefs series. In Athens, every quarter, we did dinners at someone else’s restaurant and the proceeds go to the house chefs. We’re trying to bring something like that to Atlanta. We’re using Holeman and Finch as host house now. We’ve brought in Zeb Stevenson, Trey Rayburn, Terry Koval. Brian Backster from Husk. Early Winter Jeremy Fox. From there, we want to get it to catch on. It’s about the community and teamwork. 

CH: What's your five-year plan?
My wife and I would really like to open a restaurant. We’ve got a long-term plan of opening a restaurant, and then a bakery. My wife is in coffee as a regional manager at Revelator. We’d hope to use bakery as a source for the restaurants, and also be self-sustaining with an outlet for her coffee.