chef-name: Gabino Sotelino

Gabino Sotelino was born in Vigo, in northwest Spain, to a Basque mother and a Galician father. At age nine, his family enrolled him in the San Francisco el Grande seminary in Madrid. His religious vocation lasted until he was 12, when he decided to leave and became a bellhop at the Hotel Ritz. After making enough detours through its kitchen, 2 years later, at age 14, he landed a cooking job, and a star was born. From the Ritz, he moved to other top hotel kitchens throughout Europe, eventually joining Hilton International Hotels, as part of a team opening hotels from Hong Kong to Istanbul and the Canary Islands to Montréal, where he spent a year and a half working at the Montréal Exposition.

In 1974, he received a call from the four-star Le Perroquet restaurant in Chicago to take over as Executive Chef. In 1977, he met Richard Melman, CEO of “Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises”, who recruited Chef Gabino for the Pump Room in Chicago’s Ambassador Hotel. Sotelino turned it into one of the finest restaurants in the Midwest, in a short time.

The partnership flourished, and soon they opened Restaurant Ambria in 1980. Great Chefs Television showed up in 1984 to tape Chef Sotelino for their PBS Great Chefs of Chicago series, and he prepared two appetizers, Mousse of Wild Mushrooms with Langoustines & Caviar, and Cigarettes of Smoke Salmon with Beluga Caviar. He also prepared an entrée Breast of Mallard Roti and a dessert for the series, Poached Pear Stuffed with Ice Cream.

It was a time in life where foodies laughed at the thought that there was even one Great Chef in the City of Chicago, let alone 13 Great Chefs. That was proven wrong in 1985 when the front page of the Chicago Sun Times newspaper featured “Chicago’s Bakers Dozen”, the 13 chefs highlighted on the Great Chefs of Chicago series, including Chef Gabino Sotelino, that aired on WTTW TV/11 the night before.

Great Chefs returned to Chicago in the late 90’s to tape Chef Gabino Sotelino one more time, with his new executive chef of Ambria, Takashi Yagihashi, preparing a Smoked Sturgeon entrée for their Great Chefs of America series (episode #152).

Later Chef Gabino opened new concept restaurants Café Ba-Ba-Reeba, and Mon Ami Gabi, in Chicago, then in Las Vegas, in the Paris Hotel; and Café Ba-Ba-Reeba in the Las Vegas Fashion Show Mall.

He has received dozens of accolades including the Medalla al Merito Nacional of Spain from the King of Spain.