Humble Bistro’s Chef and Co-Owner Stays Humble

Jorge Gomez focuses on the guest experience

by Alli Cripe  

Jorge Gomez’s love for food started in Sonora, Mexico. His mother, grandmother and extended family found joy in the kitchen preparing food, whether it was preparing tamales or making chocolate from scratch. Love existed in the kitchen and, when he was seven years old, he knew this was his calling.

At 17, he started his culinary adventure by attending the Culinary Institute of Mexico in Puebla.

“I wanted to expand my flavor profiles and become a professional about cooking,” says Gomez. “But everything about it started with love in Mexico.”

Gomez had received a full scholarship for medical school but turned it down to follow his passion, a difficult decision to make at the time. In 1999 and 2000, Mexico hadn’t yet developed a restaurant scene. Gomez worried about turning his passion into a profession. “I told my mom I wasn’t sure I should continue, but she saw that I loved it. She said, ‘Why don’t you finish school and see?’”

Four years flew by, and Gomez landed an internship in Spain where he experienced the teamwork, the fast-paced line work, the tedious work of cutting vegetables. “It was more to me than just cooking — I experienced culture. I knew I had to pursue this.”

Gomez worked in executive chef roles and at L’Olivier, a renowned French restaurant in Mexico City. Soon after, he traveled to Spain to work as a pastry chef at Hostal de La Gavina. He returned to Mexico to open a French restaurant but moved soon after to Phoenix to be closer to his sister. When he started working in Tempe, he didn’t even own a car. He rode his bicycle and the bus to work to pay off his student loans within an amazing one year’s time.

Among the concepts he joined in the Valley was Genuine Concepts, which focused on New American Cuisine — a mix of different cultures and food with a lot of focus on his beloved Mexico. He opened multiple concepts and ventured into restaurant operations to gain business experience.  While operating Postino, he received an offer to be in Food Network show “Guy’s Grocery Games – Summer Cook-Off,” and won in two out of three appearances.

Eventually, with the help of a business partner and with many other concepts under his belt, he got involved with Humble Pie in 2018 and was able to open six locations! But … “We had designed a new menu and then, the pandemic happened.”

In one year, all six locations closed due to the transition of fewer people visiting restaurants. “It was blow after blow,” recalls Gomez. “The hardest things I’d experienced in my culinary career. But it also taught me that I could start over.”

The day after they closed the last location on Tatum, they were driving through the nearby shopping district of High Street. “We had always loved this spot where La Boca used to be but there was always a restaurant there.” That fateful day, there was a “for rent” sign. They called that same day and Humble Bistro began.

“Everything changed with Humble concepts,” says Gomez. “When we started Humble Bistro, we had learned from things with the concept of Humble Pie that needed fine tuning and, most importantly, to create experiences for guests.”

The guests and Humble Bistro just clicked. The area of High Street combined with the ambience and European bistro décor, crafted cocktails and a global selection of wine hit the spot.

Humble Bistro serves elevated dishes that guests can recognize, and Gomez’s goal is to take them back to the kitchen he grew up in where his culinary passion began.

“My mother makes an amazing pork in a sauce using Coca Cola and my sister makes the Mexican wedding cookies. I was assigned with lasagna since 13.” Gomez brought the same lasagna he’s been cooking for 39 years to the menu to help the guests experience love, family and nostalgia. One guest in particular loves it so immensely that she taught Gomez a lesson in customer service. “You have to approach the tables and get to know your guests,” says Gomez. “We are not there to serve but to bring an experience.”

However, Humble Bistro makes only 12 lasagnas a night. One night a woman came in alone and devoured her pasta, but it turned out that wasn’t what she really wanted. She came to the restaurant every day for three days in a row, only to find each time that it was out of lasagna. Her next visit was for brunch; she arrived at 11 a.m. sharp and a surprised Gomez witnessed his server storming into the kitchen, crying hysterically.

“I said, ‘What’s going on? We just opened.’ My server said, ‘This lady is screaming at me because we don’t serve lasagna on the brunch menu.’ So, I walked up to her and calmly said, ‘Hi, how are you?’”

The furious customer explained that she’d been coming to the restaurant and every time, it was out of the only dish she wanted — lasagna.

“I told her, ‘Here’s what I’ll do. I’ll personally cook this for you, but you have to be gracious. It’s going to take 45 minutes and it’ll be incredible — but be kind to my server.’”

She ended up tipping her server $50 for a $21 bill. The experience of food, he finds, turns out to be important.

“Guests think they come to Humble Bistro to be served food, but that’s not it at all,” says Gomez. “We are here to give them an experience that they can remember.”

Did You Know: Humble Bistro’s pasta and pizza are cooked in-house. The sourdough for the pizza crust is made with a process that takes up to three days to perfect!

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