This spring, seven new micro-restaurants will debut in Avanti Food & Beverage. This self proclaimed “restaurant incubator” will give these seven eateries the opportunity to test out each concept to the general public for a duration of 1-2 years — after which new concepts will rotate in. So far five of these restaurants have been announced with two more still under-wraps (view the list here). The majority of those participating are already successfully operating in Denver including projects from Pinche tacos, Quiero Arepas, Bistro Barbès and more. However there’s one concept that is completely new to our city’s scene and so far it’s the one we are particularly excited for…

Chef Marco Gonzalez, Avanti, Bixo Bites

Chef Marco Gonzalez. Photo by Roman Tafoya

Bixo, an eatery focused on Mediterranean tapas, comes from the heart and soul of Chef Marco Gonzalez. Gonzalez was born in Mexico City but has spent the last 15 years working in Michelin-star rated restaurants in Spain, France and Italy. He is also a classically trained chef with an education from the prestigious L’institut Paul Bocuse in Lyon, France. But what makes Gonzalez and Bixo distinctly exciting is not necessarily this pedigree. Rather, along with his extensive work in haute cuisine, Gonzalez also draws a lot of his inspiration from his native home of Mexico. With a dedication to creative expression, Gonzalez is promising his patrons an “organoleptic journey” at Bixo. His menu is set to feature adventurous dishes made with exotic ingredients but executed with modern techniques.  303 Magazine decided to catch up with Gonzalez to get the scoop on this exciting new project. Read on to learn more about Gonzalez and what he has in store for Avanti:

303: How did you find out about Avanti?

MG: Through my wife actually. We loved The Source and she mentioned that something similar was going to open up…The first time I reached out to them I didn’t hear back. But then we gave it a second shot and met with Patrick [co-founder of Avanti] and it went really well.

303: Tell me about your concept, Bixo. 

MG: Well the name Bixo is from how Catalan people always would say, “Hey hand me that bixo.” It actually means bug but people sometime use it as “bite” or “tapas.”

303: What will your menu be like?

MG: We will focus on small bites because we want to go out there with ingredients stuff like foie gras and fresh truffles… You’ll get a tasting and you’ll be sampling, at a decent price, of things you can’t normally have because they are very expensive.

Avanti, Avanti Denver, Denver Restaurant food court

Photo courtesy of Avanti

303: What is your inspiration for the cuisine?

MG: It’ll come from my [culinary] roots in the Mediterranean working in Spain. Living there you get that sense of culinary culture and I am trying to bring it back here. Also my seven years in Cancun also gave me a lot of knowledge of unknown ingredients…  We don’t even know about them here.

303: Can you give me an example of what you’ll be serving?

 MG: When I did my demo for the guys from Avanti, I asked them, “Do you eat everything?” and I literally served them crickets. They are from Oaxaca and they are roasted and they taste like tea, red tea. It was seared tuna fish with a crust of crickets but they were like “wow.” There’s so much you don’t think of when you think of Mexican cuisine. Most people are like, wow, mole and that’s it… actually I am working on a mole foie gras dish that I think is going to be pretty good.

303: You’ll be doing more adventures dishes?

MG: Yes and everything we do will be done in a very modern way…We will be using the modern techniques of molecular cuisine but not going crazy over it. It won’t be the dominating aspect.

“All my professional life I have been limited everywhere I go…This literally allows me to go out there and do the weirdest things I can think of…within reason.”

Avanti, Bixo bites, Bixo

Gonzalez on the roof of Avanti. Photo by Roman Tafoya

303: What type of experience do you want people to have at Bixo?

MG: It’s supposed to be an organoleptic trip. You can spend the amount of money you spend at a fancy restaurant and try eight or nine dishes here. And not even a fancy restaurant because we are budgeted to keep it inexpensive… You can come here and spend the same amount and have many dishes, many flavors and have your mind blown.

303: How often will you change the menu?

MG: It’ll be seasonal. It’ll be based on what nature gives you…but not necessarily always Colorado. One of my mentors, Thomas Keller, I like how he sources around the states and worldwide. He mainly talked about his farmers. He would talk about how he would source butter from a woman who has three cows and it is the best butter in the world.. I really want to do that. It’ll be hard. But I am working on that now.

“It doesn’t take a big chef to make a great meal…Nature speaks for itself. You just have to treat it nicely.”

303: That’ll definitely create a story.

MG: It has been a trend. In France they’ll tell you the origin. They are not showing off what they can do but the ingredients themselves…It doesn’t take a big chef to make a great meal. If you have the farmers and the products you just have to treat them gently put them together and you are good.

303: That’s a great philosophy 

Avanti, Avanti Denver, Denver Restaurant food court

Photo courtesy of Avanti

MG: Absolutely. Nature speaks for itself. You just have to treat it nicely.

303: What are your plans for after Avanti?

MG: I have a 15 month lease… with a two year option. We just want to break even with what we invest and then as soon as we know it is working then we are definitely looking for a brick-and-mortar.

303: Do you think Avanti is allowing you to take a risk?

MG: Honestly all my professional life I have been limited everywhere I go. People are always saying take it easy and I have limited myself even owning my own restaurant with an interpersonal fight between the chef and the administrator… So this literally allows me to go out there and do the weirdest things I can think of… within reason… I treasure being able to go out there and not limit myself.