Gabriel Cheung started as the new executive chef at West on Centre last February, and patrons have been raving about the quality of the West Roxbury restaurant’s dishes since his arrival.
Before coming to West on Centre, Cheung worked as the Executive Chef and General Manager of the Paramount in Beacon Hill, a restaurant that he still oversees.
Patch sat down with the new chef to learn a little more about the man behind the apron.
Patch: Where are you from?
Cheung: I grew up in Monmouth County, New Jersey, right by the shore. My parents came over from Cuba when they were 14 and 18. So we’re first generation. I have some Chinese and Cuban in me so I love all Asian and Cuban cuisine and I get to fuse it all together.
Patch: When did you start working for the Eat Drink Laugh Restaurant Group?
Cheung: I started with the company eight years ago with The Paramount restaurant in Beacon Hill. It’s a famous breakfast place so I knew it needed the work for dinner, just to clean it up, make it seasonal and make it fresh. It’s a great location there and has a great audience. I started there as just a chef and then I took over as General Manager and I still oversee the place. I also worked at 21st Amendment and The Blarney Stone (also owned by Joe and Eleanor Greene) and helped out with The Paramount South Boston when it opened.
Patch: What changes did you bring to West on Centre?
Cheung: Before I arrived, the dinner menu was a little stale. What I did was got my own function chef down stairs, Dan Mathews and he takes care of all the events downstairs, which keeps getting bigger every year. So I put the attention there and I take care of the food coming out of the window upstairs. I made the menu smaller. We do everything from scratch in the house. We take a lot of pride on simple items that people overlook like mashed potatoes, the house cut French fries and all the green vegetables. Every dish is custom made. We may take just a little bit longer getting it to you, but when you get it, you know we cut it that day, you know the fish came in that day, you know we butchered it that day.
Patch: What do you consider the best dish here at West on Centre?
Cheung: The teriyaki salmon is my favorite. It’s pan roasted Atlantic salmon. We get it from Foley’s Fish. We put a big sear on it after we season it, and then we toss it with some stir fry vegetables, some teriyaki sauce, some lo-mien and then we throw some roasted macadamia nuts and scallions with it. I’ve been cooking it for nine years and it’s something I took from my old chef.
Patch: Where did you get your passion for food?
Cheung: I was about 16 or 17, just getting a job in a pizzeria in my home state of New Jersey and then a buddy on mine was a line cook down in the Jersey Shore in Point Pleasant Beach and I started helping out. I became a grill cook through the ranks pretty quickly and I saw the line guys having a great time and going out for beers after work. It’s a great camaraderie in the kitchen. After seeing that, it really lit the fire. I enrolled in Johnson & Wales University in Providence and it started from there.
Patch: What do you like best about West on Centre and the customers of West Roxbury?
Cheung: The great thing is they demand quality and
they’ve been yearning me for a while.
Gabriel Cheung can be found at West on Centre, 1732 Centre Street, West Roxbury.