213 Newark Ave.
Rene Gonzalez has the best title ever: Founder, Creative Director, and Chief Bambino Chef. All those handles apply to her position at Bambino Chef, the business she founded in 2008.
In some ways, her journey to Jersey City is typical. She and her husband, both working in finance and living in Manhattan, wanted to find more space and less chaos in which to raise three children.
But Rene’s story is unique in that she is a native of Azerbaijan. A multicultural bent and a taste for food, fun, and the flavors of the world found their way into her life’s work.
In finance, she says, “I did my work diligently, but I wasn’t passionate about it. I’d cooked since I was a little girl and made everything from scratch.”
She and her husband—who still commutes to Manhattan for his finance gig—drove all over Hudson County looking for the perfect place to live and work. When she saw Jersey City, she says, “I loved it, and I told my husband we should be here. He felt the same way.”
And the rest is history.
“My whole thing is creative and healthy cooking with children,” she says. “I wanted to create a space for kids to come and cook and make all the mess they want, using different ingredients, learning about other cultures, and bonding over food.”
The experience, of course, is more than just making fantastic things like cupcakes, brownies, quesadillas, salads, sushi, fajitas, falafel, and Mexican cake with pumpkin seeds. Through cooking, Rene says, children “gain confidence, sharpen communication skills, and get better at math and science.”
Kids between the ages of 3 and 13 participate. The little ones take mini bambino classes. “They make simple versions but still make amazing things,” Rene says.
Rene’s instructors are local. “Small business is the heart of the economy, and I try to outsource locally,” she says. “I love working with the teachers.”
The kids also learn the value of community service, making sandwiches for local shelters and helping to deliver them.
Rene always asks the kids what they want to be when they grow up. “I’m so curious,” she says. “They’re full of ideas and so passionate. So many say they want to be chefs, and they understand how tough it is to be a chef. It’s not the easiest industry.”
Many of them watch cooking shows. So does Rene, revealing that she’s partial to Nigella Lawson. “She brings love and a nurturing feeling to the kitchen,” Rene says.
Sound familiar? That philosophy is the heart and soul of Bambino Chef. “I always want our children to come to our kitchen and feel loved,” Rene says. “It’s so important to feel appreciated and special.”