Gene, Gino, and Giannina Gonzalez: It’s in the Genes!

As Chef Gene Gonzalez continues to make his mark in the food industry, his children, Gino and Giannina, have found their own places in the culinary world and at the dinner table.

This story appeared in the Modern Parenting Mother’s Day and Father’s Day May 2024 issue.

The cameo of Café Ysabel in the Netflix series Replacing Chef Chico and the many students graduating from The Center for Asian Culinary Studies are testaments to the success that Chef Eugene “Gene” Gonzalez has built for himself. Although the hours in the kitchen were long and the road to success was arduous, he reveals they were worth forgoing his promotion as a banking officer after working in the banking industry for three years.

“I decided [to make the switch] after cooking some meals for friends and then watching a movie — Who’s Killing The Great Chefs of Europe?” he recalls, serving a fresh cup of Café Ysabel’s brewed coffee along with a freshly grilled ensaymada from the restaurant’s menu. 

“Once the restaurant was able to stand on its own, I also put up the school [Center for Asian Culinary Studies] where both [my children] Gino and Giannina studied and graduated.”

Carving their own paths

Gino originally planned on getting into luxury goods, but all that changed after one fateful interview. “[The interviewer] asked me where I would see myself five years from back then. Once I told her [that I imagined myself in the kitchen], she cut the interview short. She also said that she would be harsh but that I’ll thank her later.”

Gino eventually became a chef who took over the consultation group that Gene entrusted him with. There were concepts for new restaurants originally, Gene shares. “But the travel back and forth between offices made me realize that the consultation group would grow faster when Gino took over.”

With Gino handling the bigger accounts, Gene refocused his efforts on Café Ysabel, while Giannina, who was regularly exposed to cooking and took cooking classes growing up, began finding her own niche in the culinary industry.

“I took classes and worked as a food stylist in the United States before going freelance,” Giannina reveals. “But I’ve always loved animals. I tried to become a veterinarian, but I couldn’t handle what they were doing.”

However, she found another way to marry both her love for animals and cooking: making wholesome meals for furbabies. “We had a pet dog who needed homecooked meals because he was in his prime. And so, I found my niche in making food for sick pets!”

Gene, Gino, and Giannina Gonzalez
From L to R: Chef Gene Gonzalez with his children, Giannina and Gino

All for the love of food

If food were a love language, then it’s certainly one that the Gonzalez family showed the most. When Café Ysabel and the food consultancy took a blow during the pandemic, Gene fondly remembers banding together to help Gino pivot his career. What first started as a side business eventually thrived, with Chef Gino’s Kitchen becoming a go-to for ready-to-eat, frozen gourmet meals.

However, that side business came with an interesting caveat — one that Gene knows comes with being a parent and a chef. Lucia, Gino’s eldest daughter, was gradually developing a “sophisticated” palate. “All of a sudden, she wants Maine lobster tails and good-quality steak,” Gino shares, earning a laugh from both his father and his sister. “When classes became face-to-face again, that [lobster tail] was her request for baon.”

It is a development Gino gladly welcomes especially since it was initially challenging to get Lucia to enjoy good and healthy food. “Being a chef, I tried to make all those vegetable purees extra yummy for her,” he confides, with the likes of pancit canton, canned mushroom soup, and hotdogs as her favorites.

“Thankfully, it was just a phase — something that I learned with my second daughter, Alexa, now,” Gino remarks. “She eats all that junk, but forcing them to eat healthy just makes things harder. I just know she’ll grow out of it eventually. Her sister definitely did!”

Picky eating is widespread!

Picky eating, however, is not a phase exclusive to parents. Even Giannina, who often fosters dogs and cats, reveals that some animals can reject food when they associate it with an uncomfortable experience. That’s why starting them on fresh food early helps, she reveals. “They’ll need it, especially when they get older.”

Luckily, Gene doesn’t mind, so long as the dogs are trained to keep their mess away from the kitchen. After all, both Gene and Gino began redirecting their efforts to “opening restaurants for other people” while maintaining Café Ysabel. “It’s an allied effort,” Gene explains. “When individuals and companies get into the food business, it’s thrilling to see them finally put up their restaurant and have a good time.”

Although the diners they serve are different, Gene, Gino, and Giannina share the same goal: finding flavors that will always be welcome on a family’s table. After all, if food ties their family together, it could be the same for others, too.

To read the full article, grab a copy of Modern Parenting’s special Mother’s Day and Father’s Day 2024 Print Edition—available on Download the e-magazine from Readly or Press Reader for more exclusive features and stories.


Photographer KIM SANTOS of KLIQ, INC.


Shoot Coordination ANTHONY MENDOZA

Shot on Location CAFÉ YSABEL

More about parents who thrive in the kitchen?

Chef Gene Gonzalez: How Cooking Brings Family Together

Elevating a Classic: Nina Daza-Puyat Transforms a Fast Food Staple into a Gourmet Meal

Marvin Agustin Opens Up About Cooking Up a Legacy

Shop for Modern Parenting's print issues through these platforms.
Download this month's Modern Parenting magazine digital copy from:
Subscribe via [email protected]